Creating an Agile Marketing Strategy
If you’ve ever worked in a big corporation, you’re well aware of traditional production models. You know how rigid and hierarchical they can be, and you know how many important features slip through the cracks as each team funnels into its silo and doesn’t speak again until the release party. You know how frustrating it is flying blind, holding your analytics to the end of the production process, hoping all the while that your efforts in the are paying off in the meantime.
But as more and more marketers are finding out, there’s a different strategy out there that has analytics, collaboration and adaptability built into its design. It’s called agile design, and it comes out of the fast-paced software production world, where firms must adjust their products constantly under the agile application development system to fit both changing client needs and a rapidly shifting tech marketplace.
So how can you go about creating a mean, lean, agile, fighting machine for all of your marketing efforts? It’s all about understanding the principles behind the model and applying them to the marketing setting.
Reduce cycle times to adapt to risk.
In more traditional production models (read: waterfall methodology), the goal behind planning was to methodically identify and mitigate any possible risk ahead of time. Once a path was picked it had to be stuck to, and when the result on the other end didn’t match a market with different demands than at the beginning of the production cycle, a whole lot of time and money was flushed down the drain.
The agile methodology acknowledges that no amount of risk can be fully eliminated in a dynamic environment. Rather, agile uses risk to power a series of mini-scientific experiments (iterative cycles) where unfinished products and features are tested either by clients or by beta users, the outcome is measured, the results are analyzed and adjustments are made. For marketers, this could mean a range of things, whether that means launching a beta campaign early and tracking analytics, or A/B testing a call to action banner on a website.
Emphasize individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
The agile method is all about empowering the individual to do what they need to do, both by giving them the right framework and by enabling collaboration. Agile marketing teams should meet once a month to break the work down into smaller chunks using what is called Sprint Planning. This is when the team can take a deep look at the big picture — all of the projects and tasks on their respective plates. Together they evaluate which tasks are urgent and which should stay on the sprint backlog. Relevant projects are then broken down into smaller tasks.
These are then tracked during a daily SCRUM — a fifteen minute morning meeting in which a product owner or SCRUM master asks their diverse team members to discuss what they did yesterday, what they’re going to do today, and whether or not they foresee any roadblocks to their work. With such frequent, transparent, and unobtrusive tracking, it’s much easier for other team members to spot inefficiencies and offer their unique expertise before small problems become big ones.
Collaborate with customers rather than dictating terms.
In the agile method, the customer is part of the team. For marketing, this could mean working with your client to roll out several different manifestations of an SEO-optimized website for A/B testing. Or it could mean fully embracing the age of the social customer, who seeks a fully customized and interactive experience.
Effective agile marketers will use CRM dashboards to produce and track content promoted on multiple social channels, as well as to respond quickly, effectively, and in company voice. Making your customers a part of the team will help create both the seamless, expert company persona so essential to establishing brand identity and industry expertise, and a strong company-customer relationship.
Be willing to throw out the plan.
The agile methodology is agile. Agile marketing teams are analytics hounds, constantly monitoring their experiments and adjusting accordingly. They treat unexpected or undesirable results not as failure but as motivation for change, whether that means a slight tweak or a complete overhaul. That’s the agile way.