Agile has long been a project management system used by software development companies, used to help the companies respond to the rapid and constant change of tech. But more and more, agile has been adopted and adapted by non-tech businesses for the exact same reasons—to keep their businesses responsive, adaptive, fast, and dynamic. It only makes sense for a field like marketing to grab hold of a system that can help marketers more nimbly respond to changing customer needs, marketing methods, and marketing platforms.
If you want to build an agile marketing team, keep reading. In this article, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know about what agile marketing is, how to build the right agile marketing team, and why you should.
What Is Agile Marketing and How to Use It to Make Your Marketing Better:
What Is Agile Marketing?
Agile marketing is a marketing strategy in which teams work collaboratively to complete projects within short, finite periods of time known as sprints. Agile marketing helps teams respond to changes as they come up rather than staidly following a plan regardless of what happens. This allows marketing plans to be “in the moment” by focusing on:
- Testing and evidence instead of assumptions
- Several small experiments in place of siloed guesses
- Collaboration as opposed to hierarchy
There are a few terms that come along with agile marketing that you might not be familiar with. They are:
Sprints are the time allowed a team for completion of a project or aspect of the marketing plan. These range in duration from 1–6 weeks for most marketing teams. Larger projects might be grouped into more than one sprint to ensure that it can be easily managed.
Stand-ups are short daily meetings with the entire marketing team to briefly go over what was accomplished the previous day as well as the plans each team member has for their current day. This ensures that any issues or problems are addressed immediately so projects are completed on time. Some marketing teams use virtual stand-ups instead of in-person meetings to keep disruptions to a minimum.
Project Progress Tracker
The point of agile marketing is to make sure that projects get completed on time, so having a project management tool like Trello, Asana, ActiveCollab or others is important for tracking. You can even go low-tech and use a whiteboard and Post-its.
Differences Between Traditional and Agile Marketing
It’s important to note that switching from traditional marketing systems to an agile marketing system doesn’t mean that you throw out your marketing strategy. You’ll be following your marketing strategy as you always would, but the way you handle the work that you do within your marketing strategy will change.
There are 4 key differences between traditional and agile marketing:
Agile Marketing Is Fast-Paced
With agile marketing, you can split large projects into shorter sprints. During those 2–6 week sprints, your marketing team will meet to discuss what they’ve done and what they’re planning to accomplish. This keeps everyone informed about the project and better able to respond to any challenges that arise.
Agile Marketing Is Rapidly Iterative
Agile marketing makes it a lot easier to make changes to content you’ve already created in order to address the needs of your customers or website visitors. This can help you boost the performance of content that may be high-quality but that is missing the mark in terms of engagement and conversions.
There are also other steps you can take on the front end to create content that’s more engaging. When you’re making the effort during the content creation process it makes it a lot easier to optimize your content further later on.
Agile Marketing Is Collaborative
Agile marketing teams work collaboratively toward achieving a common goal. This means that each member of the marketing team is involved in the successful completion of the project, removing the siloed approach that can produce barriers to completing a project when there are delays with getting approval or assigning tasks.
Agile Marketing Is Driven by Testing and Analytics
Agile marketing is evidence-based. Agile marketing teams are driving by testing the content that they produce and evaluating the results to make the content even better, faster. Due to the fast-paced nature of agile marketing, these teams can conduct tests quickly, evaluate the results, and implement changes in a short period of time.
Benefits of Agile Marketing
Due to its fast-paced, collaborative nature, agile marketing has several far-reaching benefits for your business that can increase productivity, boost conversions, and generate more sales. Here are the 3 biggest benefits we’ve seen with agile marketing:
Agile teams are much more agile and able to change course than traditional teams. This is largely due to the collaborative effort where each team member is actively engaged in the process. These teams also seem to have a higher threshold for experimentation and are likely to produce more innovative ideas.
Agile marketing is much better at adapting to changing market conditions and customer expectations than traditional marketing.
Agile teams are better equipped to analyze results and make improvements that are aligned with your business goals.
5 Steps to Agile Marketing
Agile marketing works through constant evaluation and optimization, making it easily adaptable for any business. You create the agile marketing system that works for your company and build a repeatable framework. While your business needs are unique, moving to an agile marketing system involves a 5-step process that any business can use. In this section, we’ll walk you through the 5 steps you should follow to build your agile marketing system.
Step 1: Get the Agile Marketing Framework Right
While there are numerous frameworks that can be used for agile marketing, there are 2 common frameworks that stand out: Scrum and Kanban.
Scrum’s focus is on recurring incremental delivery through short sprints of focused work. Each sprint is created by the marketing team that decides how much they want to take on from the team’s backlog (a prioritized to-do list). Then, the team commits to completing that work within the sprint.
This framework relies on direction from several defined roles:
Scrum Master (or Agile Lead): This role’s sole purpose is to make the team successful by removing obstacles. They schedule and run the daily standups, track and remove obstacles, maintain the marketing backlog, as well as organizing and leading the sprint planning sessions, sprint review, and sprint retrospective. They’re also tasked with making sure the team follows the Scrum rules as the team has laid them out.
Product Owner (Marketing Owner): This role acts as a liaison between the marketing team and stakeholders who aren’t part of the team. They’re essentially the team’s spokesperson with sales (if your sales and marketing teams are separate), executives and C-levels, the product development team, and more to make sure that marketing is doing what they should be doing when. They will also work to protect the team from interruptions.
Team Members: There’s very little, if any, hierarchy in an agile marketing team. Everyone works together to achieve the team’s goals.
The Scrum agile marketing framework also includes a few different meetings:
Sprint Planning: Agile sprint planning helps your marketing team break larger projects into smaller pieces that can be completed efficiently in a set amount of time.
Daily Standup: Daily standups are how teams share what they’re working on and what obstacles they’re meeting. Standups are short meetings (15 minutes, max) that typically involve each team member answering these 3 questions:
- What did you accomplish yesterday?
- What are your goals for today?
- What’s holding you back?
Then, the team works together to address and eliminate the obstacles.
Sprint Retrospective: The sprint retrospective is a meeting held at the end of a sprint to review three things:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go well?
- How can we improve?
These meetings last from 30 minutes to an hour and give the team the chance to review their performance honestly, voice feedback, and self-reflect.
Sprint Review: In the sprint review, the team shares information from its retrospective with those who are outside of the team.
While scrum focuses on incremental delivery, the Kanban framework is all about flow. The purpose is to build a system that consistently delivers value to the customers through focus and visibility. At its core, Kanban relies on tracking 3 basic things:
You’ve probably seen a few Kanban boards in your lifetime. The board is intended to show what the team is working on so the team can decide if time is being spent on the right things.
Image Source: https://www.kanbanchi.com/what-is-kanban-system
Similar to the Scrum framework, Kanban requires teams to focus by limiting the number of things team members will work. This is done through WIP (Work in Progress) limits. These limits are the absolute max of how many items can be included in a stage of work. For example, limiting the number of items in the “Doing” column of the team’s Kanban board to 5 items. This forces teams to take on only those requests that align with the team’s goals.
While Kanban doesn’t have the same meeting structure found in the Scrum framework, we strongly encourage you to hold daily stand-ups as well as consistent retrospectives.
Of course, there’s more to Kanban than the board and WIP limits, but this is an excellent place to start.
Step 2: Creating Your Agile Marketing Team
Not every agile marketing team is going to look the same. Roles vary between Scrum and Kanban frameworks and across industries or departments. We’ve already covered the basic roles you’re like to see with agile marketing teams, so in this section, we’re going to take a closer look at the characteristics you’ll want to look for and keep in mind when building your agile marketing team.
Agile teams must be easily adaptable to new situations and feedback. Your marketing team will be involved in everything from lead generation and nurturing to customer experience, so it’s important that they can move within those skills with minimal disruption.
Agile teams will not survive without curiosity. Agile marketing teams are not only always asking “what if” but “what’s the data tell us” and then using that information to improve content and better engage with their audience.
3. T-Shaped or Cross-Functional
Agile team members are cross-functional and T-shaped. This means that the team members are able to understand most aspects of a marketing project while having extensive expertise and experience in a specific area. Cross-functional teams, in particular, have a broad skill set that can be put to use on several aspects of most projects.
Agile teams aren’t content with a “follow the leader” approach to completing projects. They want to be involved in sprint planning and prioritizing projects in the marketing backlog. Agile teams take ownership of projects and are always coming up with innovative ways to get results.
Agile teams are oriented toward group success rather than individual efforts. This may seem to run counter to the entrepreneurial spirit valued in agile teams, but they really complement each other quite well.
You shouldn’t expect every member of your agile marketing team to have all of these characteristics. However, the more of these characteristics embodied by your agile marketing team, the better it will be able to meet the needs of your business.
Step 3: Start Small
One of the biggest mistakes marketing teams make when moving to an agile marketing framework is trying to do too much all at once. You don’t need to immediately adopt every single aspect of agile marketing right off the bat. In fact, doing so may backfire due to the “all or nothing” nature of such approaches.
Start by choosing an area you want to improve and then expand gradually from there. Where you begin should be a small task with a finite beginning and end. Try out different agile methodologies to find the one that best fits your business and team. It’s easiest to start with the Scrum framework because it tends to be more structured and, as a result, more user-friendly.
Step 4: Ask for Support
It’s important to remember that your marketing team isn’t the first one to switch to an agile marketing system. Seek out an agile marketing practitioner who can help you understand the process and move your team toward the agile marketing framework that’s right for you—and who can help you implement it.
Agile marketing practitioners are well-versed in agile marketing and have likely helped several other marketing teams through the process. They can set you up for success and help you avoid the mistakes that other teams have made when moving to an agile marketing framework.
Step 5: Measure and Evaluate
Agile marketing involves extensive testing and evaluation. This is a requirement for agile marketing, but the metrics that you track should be your own. Base your experiments and tests on your business’s goals and use the results of your testing to improve your content and find other ways to get better results.
Adopt Agile Marketing for 2020
Agile marketing is the best possible response to the demanding and competitive business landscape of 2020 and beyond. When you’re able to adapt to changing consumer needs by delivering the right marketing messages to the right customers at the right time, you’re in the best position to get more leads, boost conversions, and generate more sales.