Agile marketing is a hot topic these days, and for a good reason. In terms of speed, relevance of messaging, and innovation, agile marketing teams outperform traditional marketing teams and, even more important, CMOs using this approach say their revenue and profit increase. For it to work, however, CMOs need to show clear goals and communicate them to their business and teams.
The first time you enter a room full of self-proclaimed “Agilists,” you are likely to experience a feeling of isolation. When agile marketers talk about their projects, they exude an almost unreal air of productivity and pride, using unfamiliar terminology to describe the approach and its principles.
Those who haven’t tried it may be forgiven for thinking: “Sprints? I’ve been sprinting to the agency for years. What else is new?” or “Fail fast? No thank you, we’ve had failures before and they were very expensive.” or “Burn down chart? We’ve been burning resources for years. Can we stop that?”
On the one hand, you’re wondering why agile tribe members are so enthusiastic about it, while on the other hand, you might want a piece of the action too, but without really knowing why and how it’s good for business. You’re not the only one.
Yet they still seem a bit hesitant to go all-in and jump on board, so what is stopping them?
Self-Organising Teams? That Sounds Risky
Agile terminology IS different, but it’s also straightforward and to the point. Once you dig around and can talk the talk, it’s time to walk the walk. And this is where it gets tricky.
In general, business leaders love the benefits of business agility but are still hesitant to implement one of its key principles, that of fully trusting employees and giving them the environment to self-organise and get the job done. That feels more like losing control instead of gaining control and prompts many practitioners to wonder: “The customer has taken over the brand. Are employees taking over the organisation?”
Management has a legitimate reason for being sceptical—most marketing teams are not yet equipped to self-organise.
Marketing departments remain predominantly task driven in many cases, rather than value driven. Performing as many operational tasks as possible seems to be more important than the ability to prioritise objectives based on contribution to the bigger goal. This stems from years of marketer conditioning to deliver the WHAT, without being properly informed about the WHY.
Actually, most marketers have a hard time explaining what the bigger goals are and how their work feeds into the broader company strategy.
- 87% of employees indicate “they could have better accomplished their individual objectives if they had been provided with a clear understanding of the organisation’s plan.”
- 43% of CMOs say that the inability to align department strategies & priorities was a hurdle to success.
As senior marketers, if you want your teams to be agile and self-organise, you’d better be crystal clear about the goals you want to achieve and share with them the business context.
Show How You Grow
Imagine that your teams are not task driven but value driven, that they enthusiastically execute the strategy, are fully engaged, and show better results. It sounds like a dream, but it starts with just two relatively simple steps as I’ll explain:
- be clear about your goals, using the Definition-of-Success;
- show how sub-goals feed into company success, using the Growth Map.
1. The Definition-Of-Success
In agile marketing, the question is not only “Did we deliver the marketing content?” At the end of the day, you will want to know “Did we change customer behaviour?” Therefore, in marketing, a Definition-of-Done should always be accompanied by a Definition-of-Success.
Over the years, we developed and tested an easy format for defining marketing success. It is a combination of the “user story” and additional information about scope and metrics. It is a foolproof format to describe marketing goals. And it looks like this:
Create as many of these Definition-of-Success cards as you want. Write down big dreams, tactical manoeuvres, and any customer journey bottleneck you want to fix. If you do not know all definition attributes yet, no worries. Fill out what you know now and deal with the gaps later. It’s an iterative exercise.
Once you are done, it is time to arrange your Definition-of-Success cards and make a coherent Growth Map.
2. The Growth Map
Start organising your success definitions by picking the BIG dream first. Then decide how you want to achieve this by linking sub-goals to it. You need to translate the strategic themes into epic stories, before agile marketing teams can start to self-organise the sprints.
The Growth Map resembles a mind map. It shows everybody involved WHY certain goals need to be achieved to grow the business. It fuels teams to become self-organised by understanding the business purpose behind their marketing tasks. It ensures your task-driven organisation becomes a value-driven one.
To verify if your Growth Map is logically consistent, you can perform the following check.
Take one card and look at the “So I Can” part. If you ask WHY this <benefit> is important, you should be able to answer it by looking at its parent goal. If this card is not contributing to the connected parent goal…
1. The card is in the wrong place. Put it somewhere else.
2. The card is not vital to achieving any of the bigger goals. Remove this orphan goal from the map.
With every step your Growth Map becomes more valuable.
Now It’s Your Turn
Breaking down goals into sub-goals, and stacking up objectives is an interesting exercise. Doing it with the entire team will result in invaluable discussions. The initial discussion can be painful at times, because when you start to visualise success, it becomes apparent when and where resources have been wasted in the past. But as soon as you start seeing the new opportunities, the flow kicks in. Normally, this happens within the first hour.
Becoming an agile CMO means empowering your team. Share the vision, share the goals, and share the success. Scale what works. Kill what doesn’t. Don’t show your management colleagues how resources are burned, but start showing how success is grown.
Sharing the Definition-of-Success and the Growth Map with management shows how sprint success contributes to company success.
Before you know it, you are the person in the room with the “agile” smile on your face and other people will want a piece of what you’re having.