The Transition to Agile Marketing: Be prepared!

By Jodie Byass


Before you decide to implement an Agile Marketing process, it’s important to assess the benefit to your organisation of adopting Agile Marketing and your readiness for it — both from the point of view of your team and your organisation.


But a lot of upfront work is involved in making the transition to being an agile marketing team. It’s important to do your homework first — like any organisational change it will take some time to get it right. Don’t underestimate the change required.

Here are some issues to consider as you prepare the ground to make the shift to Agile Marketing:


1. Why Agile Marketing? Identify the benefits

As a leadership team, you may have decided to transition to a more agile process in marketing, based on the current market and the benefits you have heard about from others.

But the marketing leader, the company executive and your marketing team all need to be clear on why you’re adopting Agile Marketing. What benefit is your organisation likely to derive from being more agile? Are you looking to shorten lead times, eliminate wasted work, increase productivity or become a more data-driven marketing organisation? Is it because you want your campaigns to be more responsive to market changes? Are you looking to improve team collaboration?

Be clear on your reasons for adopting Agile Marketing processes.

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2. Assess your industry

Are you in an industry that is being disrupted or one that is not subject to great change? Be realistic about the level of change in your sector. Do new competitors crop up regularly? How high are the barriers to entry? Are you in an industry that doesn’t change much?

Don’t forget to take a good hard look at your own company. How much appetite for change is there internally?

Then assess how agile you need to be to get maximum benefit for effort.

If you’re in the infrastructure business, for example, where everything else runs on a waterfall process, there may not be big benefits in developing an agile process for the briefing, research and development of campaigns compared with the effort required. You probably have time to do lots of up-front research before your launch campaign, and the competitive landscape may not change much in that time.

But once you launch, you may see benefits in adopting a more agile approach to creative and media optimisation. For example, you should still benefit from testing different creative executions from launch, and fine-tuning your message and media placement as your campaign plays out.


3. Ensure you have the data

There is little point adopting an Agile Marketing process if you don’t have access to data on a timely basis. A key objective of Agile Marketing methodologies is to allow your team to assess, respond and iterate quickly based on results.

To do that, you need to know what you want to achieve and how to measure it, which means you need access to data.

Monthly reports from your corporate data team are not going to cut it — particularly if your agile marketing team is running weekly sprints. Someone on your team would need to monitor it daily or weekly to identify the impact of any iterations your team makes so that you can respond.

In a perfect world, you’ll set up near real-time dashboards so your entire marketing team can see and track your key success metrics daily — possibly even more often when it comes to optimising social media, or other digital launches.


4. Know your Scrum from your Kanban

Agile principles are very different from traditional ‘waterfall’ ways of working, and Agile Marketing is quite different from Agile as it applies to software development — the industry for which it was originally developed.

So it’s important to know your theory and understand the core Agile Marketing principles, different frameworks and the purpose of the key elements of each process. This need for education extends to the marketing leader, the marketing team and the company executive — your Agile Marketing team will touch many of the other areas of the business and so requires a level of understanding in those areas in order to facilitate more agile interactions with other teams.

This research can be done through self-guided readings or, in order to ensure the team are all on the same page, it may be best to undertake an Agile Marketing training course.

This training is normally one to two days intensive where a trainer will cover the different Agile Marketing methodologies, the steps involved in each and run you through a simulation of one methodology (usually Scrum).

Undertaking the training will help you with a later step in your journey; choosing the Agile framework that suits you.


5. Communicate early, repeatedly and often

Agile is all the buzz these days, but your team members will want to know why they should invest time to make the change. Is it a company-wide initiative? Will it start with a pilot? What might your first Agile iteration look like? Can they volunteer to be on the team? How will an Agile rollout affect them? What is the longer-term implementation plan or timeframe?

Whatever your reasons for adopting Agile Marketing, they need to be well-communicated and well-understood by your team because you’ll need their buy-in to make it work.

But remember: just like your marketing, your process is iterative and likely to change over time. So it’s important to look back and assess how you went, and allow your team to provide feedback and adjust the process as necessary. It’s important that the team feels empowered to speak up and voice any concerns.


6. Be realistic

The change from a ‘waterfall’ way of working to Agile is a big step and will be more of a shift for some staff than for others. The process is much more bottom-up, rather than top-down, like you would experience in a traditional ‘waterfall’ process, so the transition is quite a change for management and team members alike.

Adopting Agile Marketing requires change management. It’s important to ensure the team gets on board with the change and that those driving the transition keep communicating.

Agile teams tend to be more cross-functional than your traditional marketing team and require a high level of self-organisation. Therefore, as you mature through the process towards becoming more ‘agile’, your team structure and the skills of the team members may need to change.

This can be a hard discussion to have as some of your team may have performed their current role for an extended period of time and not immediately be receptive to being asked to re-adjust or re-skill. This is something that you can assess as you mature through the Agile journey, but while you can implement Agile Marketing with your existing team, ultimately it may require new team members.

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