Agile marketing is a term which comes up often, but marketers often have different ideas of what it means.

We spoke with dozens of marketers recently to get a clearer picture of what agile marketing is and their views on the emerging practice.

Google Trends shows us that the search term 'agile marketing' has increased in popularity over the past few years.

 

...and there are many blog posts and books which hail agile marketing as the next big thing for our profession.

But what exactly is 'agile marketing'?  And how useful is it to marketers, in practice?

To find out, Econsultancy recently held roundtable discussions at our fifth annual Digital Cream Sydney.  

There, client-side marketers from across the industry discussed trends, best practices, and the issues they are currently facing. 

The roundtables were moderated by subject matter experts from the industry. Participants brought their own experiences, questions, and challenges to the table for open discussion.

Here are the highlights from the discussion at the Agile Marketing table.

What is agile marketing?

Before discussing marketers views on agile marketing, it is useful to define what is meant by the term.

From Wikipedia:

Agile Marketing is an organizational effectiveness strategy that drives growth through focusing team efforts on those that deliver value to the end-customer.

This emerging practice in marketing applies key principles of agile software development to increase speed, quality, flexibility, and effectiveness of a marketing department.

This is helpful as it tells us where the term came from (software development) and that the focus of agile marketing is coordinating team efforts to deliver value to the business.

Michelle Accardi-Petersen in her book Agile Marketing builds on that definition by discussing how agile marketing is used in practice:

Throughout the agile marketing process, there should be a constant priority on business values, and meeting what the market, the business, and customers demand.

Agile marketers follow a process of plan, iterate, fail, and succeed to keep them in line with these demands, ensuring successful projects/programs/campaigns.

So from these two definitions we can see that agile marketing is a process which helps teams deliver continuous value to the business through an iterative process.

But what do marketers think?

At our recent event in Sydney, we asked marketers to describe agile marketing as they see it and also tell us about how their organisations have adopted it.

Agile vocabulary

Participants on the day generally agreed with the above definitions, but added some of their own terms to describe agile marketing: 

  • Nimble
  • Responsive
  • Data-driven
  • Customer-focused
  • Flexible
  • Fail fast

 Delegates also discussed the vocabulary which is particular to the agile methodology, such as: 

  • Stand-up meetings: Self-describing, but agile because they are intended to make meetings uncomfortable and, as a result, short.
  • Sprints: Sprints are duration of time given to a particular task. The word connotates 'fast' which indicates that tasks should be small and done quickly.
  • MVP or Minimum Viable Product: This is the end result of a sprint, according to attendees. The idea is to have something (campaign, design improvement, or even product) done to the minimum requirements so that it is ready to launch. 

Agile tools

Participants then identified a number of tools which support agile marketing, such as: 

  • Project management tools: Jira, Asana.
  • Group collaboration tools: Slack, Trello, Facebook for Work.
  • Group file management: Google Docs, Smartsheet.

Agile culture

Finally, attendees discussed how agile marketing is working, in practice, at their organisations.

One participant mentioned that its agile marketing team uses physical project walls instead of software to collaborate.  

They felt doing so was essential to build awareness and accountability.

Another attendee said that to prove its methods to the business, agile marketers should 'say yes' to challenging tasks.  

This ensures that agile teams get permission to bring campaigns and products to market quickly and demonstrate results.

And finally, another advised that agile marketers should 'ask forgiveness, not permission'.  

That is, it is more important to get to market, get the results and report results than it is to get buy-in for everything the team wants to try.

All decisions, though, should be supported by data.

Agile challenges

Attendees also pointed out that agile marketing faces a number of challenges.

First off, the company culture must be ready to be agile.  

Not having the right people who are open to change and willing to champion agile was a problem when trying to get started.

Additionally, people who have worked for the company for a long time will be afraid of experimenting in the way that agile marketing requires.  

This results in conflict between those who are agile and those, particularly in management, are fine with the status quo.

Finally, most companies are not organised to support a key component of agile marketing; continuous testing.  

That is, there is not the collaboration between departments to make iterative changes.  

Instead, most companies use a 'hand-off' or waterfall method of project management between departments.

Overall, though, marketers felt that it was their duty to prove to the business that being in the market is better than not, even when you fail, and so agile marketing should continue to rise in popularity.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the marketers who participated on the day and especially our Agile Marketing table moderator, Adriel Cahir, Digital Marketing Manager from Simply Energy.

We hope to see you all at future Sydney Econsultancy events!

Jeff Rajeck

Published 10 October, 2016 by Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck is the APAC Research Analyst for Econsultancy . You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.  

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Comments (5)

Mike Cushing

Mike Cushing, Associate Director of Marketing at 352 Inc

My agency has been working in agile for about two years now, both in development and client marketing services. The benefits and impact of agile on web development are pretty obvious, but I think many marketers struggle to align the typical campaign mentality with the nimbleness of agile marketing – rather than big campaigns, you need to focus on small bets and learning quickly.

Our client teams adopted a flavor of agile marketing – traction marketing – that has really begun to deliver results. Since our teams typically work across 2-3 clients at a time, a traction mindset has solved a few of the challenges that agile poses for teams with multiple responsibilities. Place small bets, test like crazy and when you learn which tactics work, just pour on the gas.

almost 2 years ago

Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck, Research Analyst at EconsultancySmall Business

Sounds great - thanks for sharing.

Let us know if there are any resources marketers can use to get started with that.

almost 2 years ago

Logan Estop-Hall

Logan Estop-Hall, CEO at Rebel Hack Studios

We've bee agile from day, helping us scale and solve problems for some of London's brightest startups and most innovative corporations pushing new products to market. It's fast and furious, but getting our feedback loop to as close to zero as possible helps us iterate fast, and drive growth from the top to the bottom of the funnel.

almost 2 years ago

Logan Estop-Hall

Logan Estop-Hall, CEO at Rebel Hack Studios

We’ve been agile from day, helping us scale and solve problems for some of London’s brightest up and coming startups and most innovative corporations pushing new products to market. It’s fast and furious, but getting our feedback loop as close to zero as we can helps us move quickly and ‘learn in the right direction’ for our customers.

almost 2 years ago

Pat Kilgore

Pat Kilgore, Marketing Director at Hive9

As a marketer, one of the best externalities I've found with "taking the plunge" to agile (beyond the fast-paced environment) is that by focusing on business outcomes, we're seldom asked to work on projects whose value may be in question. This is music to a data-driven marketer's ears.

The tools listed are a great start, but connecting the dots from plan to result is still pretty difficult. Full disclosure, I work for a software company that spun out of a B2B Demand Gen agency to tackle this very divide. We've found that tying what marketing is spending to revenue is the actionable change required to drive agile methods forward.

For anyone interested, we're called Hive9.

over 1 year ago

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