Agile Marketing

How Marketing Is Going Agile, & You Can Too

The explosion of digital technologies has transformed marketing. Buyers are now spread across several channels and devices, making it a challenge to reach them everywhere. The explosion of data has also given marketers a wealth of new information about their customers. Furthermore, your audience is always just a click away from your competitors.

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It’s enough to make your head spin.

In this fast-paced digital marketing landscape, the yearly marketing plan is not enough. And in addition to the traditional planning approaches like market segmentation and competitive analysis, marketing teams need a more responsive approach.

Agile marketing is the solution.

With its origins in Agile software development, Agile marketing emphasizes a more iterative, flexible approach to executing campaigns.

According to the Agile marketing manifesto, the key values that underpin this methodology are:

  1. Validated learning over opinions and conventions
  2. Customer focused collaboration over silos and hierarchy
  3. Adaptive and iterative campaigns over long-term campaigns
  4. The process of customer discovery over static prediction
  5. Flexible over rigid planning
  6. Responding to change over following a plan
  7. Many small experiments over a few large bets

Marketing teams are starting to adopt these values.

In a recent survey, 37% of marketing teams reported using Agile methods to manage their work.

Teams that switched reported that they were:

  • Able to change gears more quickly
  • Had better visibility into project status
  • Produced higher quality work

Even more impressive, 61% of respondents said they plan to implement some form of Agile the next year. At Hive, we are always evaluating the most effective ways for teams to work so we decided to try agile marketing for ourselves.

Here are four tactics you can use to get started:

1. Work in sprints

Sprints are key to running an Agile team.

Instead of setting goals by quarter or year, you break them down into smaller projects that run from one to four weeks.

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How long your sprints are depends on your team’s preferences and the nature of your work. Longer sprints are harder to plan, but easier to implement. Shorter sprints keep the team more focused but can be more stressful.

To start a sprint:

Create a list of all the tasks your team wants to accomplish. Make sure your tasks are all a manageable size. The Navigating Cancer marketing team faced this challenge when they first started implementing Agile. Here’s what they said:

One mistake we made, in the beginning, was making tasks too general. These general tasks would often involve many steps and would seem stagnant because they would remain “in progress” for days. It was the difference between updating the website (a large project with many steps) and updating the copy on the homepage (an actionable item that can be completely relatively quickly). We found it was easier to show what we were accomplishing by breaking down these large in smaller milestones. After making this adjustment, working in Agile was much more efficient.

Estimate how long each will take. Be realistic about timing, but know that you may over/underestimate in the first few sprints.

Prioritizes the list of tasks and select the highest priority to be included in the sprint. Think about what’s going to have the highest impact on your customers and business. Weigh that against the time and resources it would cost.

Divide the tasks among the team and get sprinting.

How do you manage a sprint?

It depends on your team’s individual needs. It can be done on a simple board with post-it notes, a spreadsheet, or on a project management tool.

2. Write User Stories

Agile marketing requires constant focus on the needs of the customer. User stories are a great way to ensure your team keeps that focus. You can use them as part of a marketing strategy to give your brand a personal touch and engage more people.

User stories involve writing the tasks you want to accomplish from the customers perspective.

So instead of saying:

Update competitor comparison page

You say:

As the evaluator, I want to see within 10 seconds what makes your product different than competitors so I can decide whether or not you belong on my list of options.

See the difference?

In the second one, you’re focused on the outcome for the customer. It also gives you criteria for testing the success. In this case, you can share the new page with users and create a quick survey to test how well they absorbed the information and get customer data to use throughout the user story process. This customer data can also be converted to high-quality data using data augmentation to better reflect your real-world customers and the scenarios they operate in.

To create effective users stories, you need to develop a set of personas for the various people involved in buying your product. Depending on what you are selling, you could need just one or many (learn more about creating personas here).

Once you know who you’re selling to and what they want to achieve, you can write users stories for them.

They should be written in the form:

As a [role], I want to [task], so that I can [goal or benefit]

This will ensure everything you do is clearly aligned with the needs of your customer.

3. Daily Standup

Planning is an important part of Agile, but no matter how carefully you plan obstacles will come up. That’s why it’s key to have brief, regular check-ins during the sprint.

One popular way to do this is with a stand-up meeting. It’s when the key team members gather together (literally standing up) for 15 minutes every day at the same time. Each person goes around and says:

  • What did they do yesterday,
  • What they will do today, and
  • Any obstacles they are encountering or help they need.

These quick meetings have a twofold importance: they keep people accountable and help to identify problems sooner. It also helps promote team unity.

With just an investment of 15 minutes of your day, you are keeping the team focused and ensuring their success.

4. Sprint Retrospective

Agile emphasizes the importance of continual improvement. A team can only gain the benefits of being Agile if they are willing to constantly identify and execute on ways to improve the process.

A sprint retrospective does just that. It is a meeting where the team discusses frankly how the sprint went and identifies improvements for the next iteration.

The key to the success of these meetings is honesty.

Unless everyone is truthful about the problems they are facing, it is impossible to improve.

If your team runs in a more hierarchical structure, it may be more difficult to get the subordinate employees to speak up. So the meeting needs to be set up in a way to encourage everyone’s feedback. For example, everyone could anonymously submit feedback before the meeting.

Data is another critical aspect of these meetings.

It’s important to develop meaningful metrics to measure the success of the sprint. These metrics ultimately need to directly translate to the overall success of the business. What you choose will depend on the specific circumstances of your business.

Some metrics you could consider:

  • Cycle velocity (the average time it takes for a task to get completed)
  • Bug/fix measures (how often we are fixing stuff that’s released)
  • Estimate scope vs Actual time spent
  • Cost per aquisition
  • Paid vs earned media
  • Number of website conversions
  • Website traffic

Agile is the future of marketing. It’s by far the best method to respond to this rapidly changing digital marketing landscape. These tactics are some great ways to get started.

But they are many other ways your team can employ Agile.

What has your team’s experience with Agile been?