4 Things We Learned About Implementing Agile Marketing
By Jodie Byass
There’s no doubt agile marketing is a hot topic in marketing circles, and it’s easy to see why. In a world that’s moving faster, agile marketing helps build nimbleness and adaptability into marketing teams so they can do things faster, control risk and take into account available data to make better decisions, and ultimately build better value for customers.
But as with lots of marketing buzzwords, there’s a big gap between using the jargon and putting it into practice. So we asked two agile marketing experts — consultant Dana Teahan from dividebyzero and Koala founder and agile marketing practitioner Dany Milham — to join Simple to share their practical insights on how marketers can become agile marketers.
Here are 4 tips to help you get started:
1. Prepare the ground for agile marketing
It’s one thing for the CEO or CMO to decide the marketing team needs to ‘be agile’ — but there are some prerequisites that need to be in place before you start.
At a minimum, you need to:
- Identify the best agile marketing framework for your organisation and your marketing team,
- Know ‘why’ you’re going agile — or what you hope to improve by going agile,
- Decide how to measure it so you can demonstrate that improvement.
There are 4 key agile marketing frameworks from which you can choose:
- LEAN: A philosophy unto itself, Lean is based on 3 key principles: a focus on the customer and what they need from your product; a focus on providing value to the customer; and addressing wastage to create ‘flow’ in your processes and systems.
- SCRUM: Scrum is designed to reengineer your organisation into self-sufficient teams that work in short cycles with a focus on value, measurement and continual improvement.
- KANBAN: In Kanban, work and the progress of that work to completion is represented visually (via a Kanban board). A core tenet is to limit work-in-progress to create ‘flow’ so teams are not spread too thin.
- SCRUMBAN: A combination of Scrum and Kanban.
Once you’ve selected a framework, according to Dana, who has helped a number of enterprise marketing teams to go agile, you should adapt the elements within it to suit the rhythm of your organisation but avoid mixing and matching the different frameworks.
“It depends on the organisation as to what which agile marketing framework will work best,” he says.
If your team is full of deeply-skilled specialists it may not lend itself to Scrum, according to Dany, as the Scrum framework relies on cross-functional teams in which team members pick up the slack if another member gets busy, and flexibility is important for getting the team’s work done.
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2. Get executive buy-in
While the benefits of achieving greater agility in marketing may sound great, agile marketing really requires executive leadership to work.
“The main reason for that is there’s huge change required,” says Dana. “Any change requires support from the top. It’s a long-term commitment. Your executive team needs to understand what agile brings, and what it looks like, and they need to be comfortable with that.”
For an agile marketing transition to succeed, you can’t have one half of your business running really quickly and the other half running really slowly.
“It can be a huge challenge where a marketing team is trying to change but around the peripherals they’re not agile — and you just have to plan for that,” Dana says.
One of the keys to getting executive buy-in, according to Dany, is to run showcases where your agile team demonstrates what they were looking to achieve, the actions they took, results and how they are seeking to improve that next time.
“Showing people the data in your own business context is a really good tool for training,” Dany says.
Another key point is that new people coming into the team may not have worked in agile before, and it’s important to ensure everyone has access to agile training and coaching as they begin to work in agile so they understand how it works.
3. Create your agile roadmap
Some people think being truly Agile is not having a plan, or now knowing what they will end up working on. But in fact, marketing teams need to establish their core objectives up front, so they know what they’re aiming to achieve, and then break those down into achievable milestones, although the actual work may evolve and change.
Other non-moveable events, such as media bookings or event sponsorship, will also need to be factored into the plan.
Here’s how Koala approaches mapping its Agile roadmap:
“We do goal-based milestones,” Dany says. “We do OKRs: Objectives and Key Results. You set an objective and then you have 3-5 key results that will prove that.
“We do it annually, and then we break it down to quarterly. Then we create monthly ‘epics’ (complex tasks), and then we break those down into weekly sprints. We do have to plan media but it’s only ever a month in advance.”
4. Run an agile marketing pilot
“Start small.” That’s Dany’s No.1 tip when it comes to agile marketing. “There’s no harm in running a pilot and seeing how it goes,” he says. “You don’t know what you don’t know.
“You can run a pilot with 2-3 people working for 1-2 weeks. Just pick something that’s really applicable to your business in which you can show an improvement, like a blog post. Define who you’re trying to target, what you want out of the pilot and how you can make the next sprint better.”
“Keep at it,” is Dana’s No.1 tip for implementing agile marketing. He says refining the process is really important.
“The key thing is the measurement and being able to demonstrate at the end of it how you went. If you fail it’s OK. Learn what did and didn’t work. Go back and start again. You don’t go agile in a month. You will eventually find the way.”
Download: Hack Agile Marketing in 8 Simple Steps