Last June, several senior-level marketing leaders convened to begin defining agile marketing in a "manifesto." Agile marketing has been rapidly evolving and gaining traction ever since.
With similarities to the beginning of the discipline of agile software development, the marketing manifesto outlines several key values and supporting tenants of the emerging practice of agile marketing. Although it shares some of the themes of agile software development, such as a focus on individual interactions, customer collaboration, and responding to change, agile marketing also has its own unique principles, including the need for more adaptive and iterative campaigns, an increase in marketing programs, and stronger alignment with business leaders and sales departments.
In the short time since its official debut, many companies have reported they are using--and benefiting from--agile marketing. Some are implementing agile across the marketing department, others are using it in select functions, and many more are just beginning on their agile journey.
Organizations adopting agile range from Fortune 500 companies, such as Cisco and REI, to leading midmarket organizations, such as K-12. Even among those that have not formally started down the agile path, marketing leaders are recognizing the fundamental need to just increase their teams’ agility.
In today’s hypercompetitive and rapidly shifting economy, companies are striving to remain at the forefront of their industries, which gives agile marketing its appeal. Agile marketing offers leaders a set of operating tools, management processes, and guidelines to build adaptability and change into their very DNA. Agile is more than a way to embrace change; it also enables marketers to deliver meaningful results.
So how does agile work? At the core of the methodology is the creation of "user stories"--individual profiles that capture specific customer needs. User stories go beyond basic demographic data and generic segmentation approaches. Customer stories allow marketers to weave a broader narrative and paint a richer picture of who the customer is, what she values, and why.
These user stories serve as a backbone and focal point of future marketing projects by ensuring that team's strategies and tactics always tie back to customer needs.
So what does execution look like? Once defined in this context, projects are placed in a backlog and are continually prioritized and executed on an accelerated timeline called a "sprint"--usually one to four weeks in length. Sprints are conducted by small cross-functional teams known as "scrum” teams--a rugby term. At this point, the cycle repeats.
The ongoing process is managed by a series of initial planning, daily status, and post-project review meetings, as well as robust KPI and marketing measurement systems, but the key to success in agile marketing is more than well-structured teams and dashboards. Cultural imperatives, including trust, transparency, and a bias toward action, are the "grease between the agile gears." These behaviors and values must exist across the marketing organization for agile to really work.
Why implement agile? What are the benefits, and how does increased agility help deliver results?
1. Revenue Growth: Because agile brings together an integrated set of processes and principles, it positions companies to produce higher quality and more effective marketing initiatives. Equipped with a deeper understanding of the customer, the input and energy of a cross-functional team, and a robust “build, test, and learn” process, Agile enables marketing to deliver on drive top-line growth. Even when implemented at the individual level, Agile’s tenants can help companies move the sales needle.
2. Cost Reduction: Because agile’s organizational structures and operating mechanics are more flexible than traditional hierarchies and waterfall planning methods, it has the potential to increase the marketing department’s workload capacity and productivity. Projects are scoped to be smaller, shorter, and more “on target,” allowing team members to experience less downtime and more cycles of professional learning. Collectively, over time, this method of operating adds up to reduced costs and the lowering of marketing’s expenses as a percentage of sales--something many marketing leaders aspire to achieve.
3. Competitive Edge: In addition, by allowing marketing to be “better, faster, and cheaper,” garner deeper insights into customer needs, and be more flexible in the face of change, agile can help the company in its efforts to establish a competitive advantage.
4. The Bottom Line: At the end of the day, marketing leaders agree that they need to think like CEOs--and CEOs are focused on increasing a company’s operating profit and competitive advantage. Because agile has the potential to increase revenue and reduce costs, it can help marketing directly contribute to the bottom line. This is particularly important for marketing leaders in companies where marketing has historically been seen as a cost center.
For more on how agile marketing is delivering results and examples of how industry-leading marketing executives are remodeling their organizations, check out “Agile Ever After” in CMG Partners' Fifth Annual CMO’s Agenda.