A few months ago I compiled a list of 26 wonderful agile marketing campaigns, as there are some serious wins to be had for brands that can act fast. 

But what does it take to react quickly? 

Good timing is everything in comedy, in sport, in fashion, in cooking, and in business. Wait too long and you’ve missed your moment, but there’s a very sweet spot to hit if you get it right. As Anna Wintour says:

It’s always about timing. If it’s too soon, no one understands. If it’s too late, everyone’s forgotten.

Vogue’s editor in chief could have so easily been talking about agile marketing, which requires superlative timing. How are you supposed to win the earned media game if you sit around twiddling thumbs, or don’t have the right set up to make things happen quickly?

With this in mind, I thought I’d outline the key agile marketing success factors, and to try to figure out what kind of team structure and processes need to be put in place.


Responsive marketing is still a relatively nascent area, focusing as it does on social media channels to underpin earned media wins. It requires experimentation, and that opens the door to risk.

You can minimise risk by putting this kind of structure in place, but there also needs to be an open approach to agile marketing, where people are applauded for coming up with new ideas, and nobody fears for their job if things don’t work out. An entrepreneurial ‘let’s try it’ culture needs to exist for these teams to succeed.


Agile isn’t about putting all of your eggs in one basket. Econsultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein wrote about the 70/20/10 rule of agile marketing, where he suggests that:

70% of your marketing is the planned ‘marketing as usual’ activity. 20% of your marketing should be programmatic. 10% of your marketing is purely responsive Oreo-style. For this you typically need people resource available.

Make it so!


To make the most of the real-time marketing opportunity you need a closely-knit, multi-discipline team, primarily comprising of content, design and tech people. These folks will make things happen for you. Give them the right tools and empower them.


Not long-term planning, but rapid response planning. You have to plan for news hooks, and to know what kind of things you should react to. Seasonal or major scheduled events are relatively easy to plan for, but how will you deal with the things that materialise out of the blue?

Radars / triggers

Have you established a listening station? Are you properly tuned in? Do you know what you’re looking for? It is ultra-important to listen, if you want to be able to quickly react. 


What’s the process, when you spot some major breaking news that you can sensibly use as a jumping off point, or when one of your competitors baits you via Twitter? Who alerts who? Who does what? How can you get from A to B in the shortest possible time?

Think about the processes involved in an online newsroom, where every second counts.


This is all about topics and tone. Guidelines and rules must be in place. People need to know what they should and shouldn’t say, in order to be able to say the right things quickly. Dumbass moves such as hashtag hijacking do not equate to best practice in the real-time marketing world. 

Brainstorming & creativity

Once you have a target, you need to engage the left brains of your most creative people, but in a structured way. For example, you can create your own shortcuts. I’ve done this for our writers by compiling the 34 blog post templates that we regularly use, and which work well for our brand. You could do something similar for agile marketing content formats.


What are they? What does 'good' look like? I think short-term metrics are most important for agile campaigns (and ‘campaign’ might be too strong a word, for an ad hoc tweet), such as retweets, or retweet velocity.

A broader view can be taken after the campaign is done and dusted, where you can measure things like engagement and sentiment. And for the longer term you must be happy to correlate agile marketing wins with sales spikes, as you cannot accurately measure the effect of social or earned media on business performance


What are your organisations goals? How can an agile marketing team support them? It is essential for responsive marketers to engage audiences in the right way. Focusing purely on ‘going viral’ is madness, unless there’s a strategic reason for doing so.

Marketing exists for one reason only, and if your sales and profits and brand metrics are all in decline then I doubt that your CEO will be too impressed that you trended on Twitter last month. Laser-guided marketing is the only form of marketing worth bothering with. 

No doubt I’ll have missed some things out from the above list, so be sure to let me know in the comments area below. I’d also love to hear from any brands that are figuring out how to structure an agile marketing team, or have already done so (email chris@).

Finally, be sure to join us at Punch, we’re running in conjunction with Creative Review and Design Week, and which is part of our inaugural Festival Of Marketing (8-10 October, London).

Chris Lake

Published 2 September, 2013 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (5)

Steven Wilson-Beales

Steven Wilson-Beales, Content Strategist at Consultant

Thanks for the feature Chris. By 'Agile' do you just mean 'rapid response'? Where do you see the application of Agile theory here when it comes to marketing?

almost 5 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Steven - Yes, I mean 'agile' in the true sense of the word, but the nature of the beast means that parallels with agile development cannot always be made.

There is a lot of crossover, such as collaborating as a team on a single goal over fixed (short) period of time, but it's hard to iterate a tweet (as per the Oreo example above - you get one chance to get it right).

I guess I think of an agile marketing team as a kind of SWAT team, with the ability to react very quickly, a top level of expertise, and a blend of the right skills.

As far as agile theory goes, I'm no expert, but the idea of being able to miss deadlines is not really going to work for an agile marketer, who may have a very finite window of opportunity to react.

almost 5 years ago

Angus Phillipson

Angus Phillipson, Director at Byte9


not sure you should be spreading the mis-conception that agile is about missing deadlines!

If you were to say that it was about continually re-appraising priorities and remaining flexible to deliver the items that are always valued highest in very controlled delivery environment then you would be closer to the truth ;)

the removal of traditional project management constraints and labelling this new thing 'agile' will inevitably lead to the types of 'agile' shambles that inexperienced teams encounter though...

If you are going to promote this on econsultany you should really get someone on-board who can help understand what SCRUM for example) actually means, and how it can be applied to disciplines like marketing..

It would be to the great benefit of the digital (marketing) industry at large....


almost 5 years ago



Agile marketing cannot be separated from marketing automation. The bigger the company, the more complex their marketing and digital reach, and it is vital that the CRM, CMS, social media and all other marketing automation can all respond rapidly. Tamar, Insightera

almost 5 years ago


Akshita Ramamurthy, Writer at Self

This was a very informative read. Agile marketing is certainly an exciting new prospect. If organizations do master it, it will make all the difference in the way they function and transform their efficiency. I was reading about in another post a while back http://bit.ly/1foFIIz Thought it was worth sharing

over 4 years ago

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