Is “agile marketing” on your to-do list for the coming year? If not, it’s time to get up to speed: According to a 2016 survey by Workfront and MarketingProfs, 41 percent of marketers either already use or plan to use an agile approach over the next few years.
Workfront defines agile marketing as “a tactical marketing approach in which teams identify and focus their collective efforts on high value projects, complete those projects cooperatively, measure their impact and then continuously and incrementally improve the results over time.” It’s a process designed to enable rapid iteration, testing, and learning and the ability to change course quickly. In an agile marketing framework, decisions are based on data and results, not opinions and conventions.
Adopting agile principles and practices in your marketing “capitalizes on value that has been proven through the software delivery industry and that closely aligns with needs of marketers,” adds Roy Huhta, chief product officer at digital media and marketing agency West Cary Group. “Building an agile foundation of practice ensures that you are continuously maximizing and optimizing the marketing investment.”
Here are a few more reasons to consider an agile marketing approach in the coming year:
1. An easier time keeping up with the market.
It certainly would be nice if the market and our competitors moved on a quarterly planning cycle, but of course, this isn’t how it works -- and marketers know it. In fact, in a recent agile marketing survey by project management software provider Wrike, 26 percent of marketers said keeping up with changing market dynamics and competitors is one of their biggest challenges.
Companies who adopt an agile marketing approach find that it allows them to adapt and move faster. With agile marketing, the planning horizon is shortened to weeks rather than months or years. Instead of building rigid plans that are hard to change, agile marketers develop flexible road maps of projects and tests. Projects get broken down into smaller tasks and prioritized by the team. Teams have frequent (often daily) meetings to reprioritize work as market conditions change or new learnings are achieved.
“The appeal of agile marketing is the ability to readjust, refocus and recalculate the direction of our marketing strategy at a pace much more like real-time, as opposed to having a traditional 6-month or annual review of what worked and what didn’t,” says Ken Wincko, senior vice president of marketing at Cision and PR Newswire. “We’re changing our strategy on a weekly basis based on our analytics to enhance our content and channel performance.”
Jason Weamer, founder of digital agency Visual Identity Group, likes that agile marketing reduces the risk of making just a few big bets.
“The ability to test and iterate reduces the need for heavy investments into a single idea or campaign where all your eggs are placed into a single basket -- instead, you’re placing them in many smaller baskets, and learning valuable lessons along the way,” says Weamer.
2. Have a better scope and prioritization of work.
By breaking down projects into smaller tasks, and meeting frequently to evaluate what’s working and what’s changed, an agile marketing team can make trade-offs and reprioritize their work based on new information. This approach also makes it less challenging to manage urgent work requests; these simply become part of the regular prioritization process instead of a fire drill.
“Being agile in marketing helps us to better plan and prioritize. It also helps to sync the most recent information between team members, while identifying the obstacles before they become major problems,” says Olga Noha, head of marketing at CRM software provider bpm’online. “The team understands the priorities and a scope of work that’s been planned and evaluated for the entire week, which helps them to be more focused and efficient.”
Communication and project scoping also become easier in an environment where work is mapped out and reviewed as a team.
“The agile method helps improve two very distinct communication challenges nearly every marketing organization has: we don’t share our priorities clearly, and we don’t estimate how much time it takes to work on specific task well,” says Mozilla CMO Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, author of "Growing Up Fast: How New Agile Practices Can Move Marketing And Innovation Past The Old Business Stalemates." “Being a discipline rooted in product and engineering, the agile system is built to make it easier to share priorities among teams and stakeholders, as well as help train marketers how to estimate the time needed to complete each project.”
3. Your team will be happier.
According to a report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, an agile software development approach can increase employee satisfaction by 20 percent or more; agile marketing is no different. In fact, Wrike’s study found that heavy agile marketing adopters are significantly more satisfied with how work is managed on their marketing team than non-agile adopters.
Agile marketing doesn’t just improve work management and make it more collaborative -- it also sets up many opportunities for regular “wins.”
“Employees receive the gratification of getting their work out quickly and seeing it in action, versus long projects that continually creep in scope and drag on,” says Weamer.
Want to learn more? Here are some great agile marketing resources to help you get started.