In a world where people decide to abandon a web page after three seconds and consumers expect lightning-fast service delivery, spending eight weeks testing an email is unacceptable. Marrying linear marketing methods like the waterfall approach, is a recipe for disaster. There’s a high probability that your marketing plan will be dead upon arrival. Why? Because linear marketing methods are rigid and time consuming when it comes to delivering projects.
If you want to survive today’s complex marketing landscape, you need agile marketing. Agile, in the marketing context, requires using data and analytics to continuously source promising opportunities or solutions to problems in real time, deploying tests quickly, evaluating the results, and rapidly iterating.
Agile marketing has six key guiding principles:
Agile marketing reduces marketing costs, improves productivity and provides end products that consumers actually want. 93% of marketers who adopt agile marketing have improved their speed to market ideas, products, or campaigns. Similarly, marketing departments that consider themselves agile are 3x more likely to significantly grow market share.
Smart companies use agile marketing to increase speed, quality, flexibility, and effectiveness. For instance, Google launches, evaluates, and kills 10 projects each year because it allows frequent check-ins and chances to tweak their approach for a more effective strategy. Amazon uses agile to conduct continuous testing of different versions of its website to see what performs better and why. While statistics validate agile marketing’s ability to deliver, to reap the benefits of agile marketing, you need the right framework.
The Skinny On Scrum
With many frameworks to choose from, scrum continues to be the most common agile methodology. The 11th Annual State of Agile Report states that 58% of organizations use scrum for agile marketing.
Scrum is an Agile framework based on the idea that quick, concentrated sprints make teams more flexible than top-down approaches like Waterfall.
Within the context of Scrum, marketers break down tasks in a project into small tasks that can be accomplished within specified timeframes (I’ll circle back to this further down). Now that we’ve defined what agile marketing and scrum are, let’s see how you can make your marketing more agile.
Build An Agile Team
To succeed in agile marketing right, you need a Scrum team made up of a Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Team Members. But as scrum has its roots in the software industry, you can’t use the method straight out of the box. You’ve got to make some modifications. First up, the Scrum Master:
Scrum Master: The Scrum Master runs meetings, advocates/moderates for the team, removes barriers, and ensures all team members follow the process. In agile marketing, the Marketing Owner can also be the Scrum Master.
Product Owner: The Product Owner is the leader of the team responsible for managing the marketing backlog, representing stakeholders, and making the call about whether to accept new work during a sprint. This position can be filled by a CMO, director, or manager.
Team Members: According to the Scrum Guide, a team consists of three to nine organized and cross-functional professionals who are responsible for executing the work at hand. You’ll need team members who have specific specializations, but enough knowledge to accomplish a variety of tasks in other areas if needed. In a marketing context, you’re looking at a Digital Marketing Manager, CRO Manager, PPC Specialist, etc.
Below is an example sprint backlog and the required tasks:
With a few minor adjustments, the scrum structure applies well to agile marketing teams. Just be mindful of your team’s unique makeup and overall personality. Now you’ve got your scrum team, I’ll take you through the steps that will help you and your team nail agile marketing.
A sprint is a short uninterrupted work cycle during which the agile marketing team must complete a task. This structure should produce quick wins or limit lost time if an idea isn’t effective. As agile marketing promotes data driven decisions, within each sprint, the scrum team uses data to identify opportunities within the customer journey.
For example, in a two-week long sprint where a scrum team dives analyzes their data in preparation for a round of experiments on a website, “send audit findings” could be a sprint goal. The next sprint might be to “send test variation wireframes.” Marketing sprints are usually about 2-6 weeks depending on the objectives, and when one sprint finishes, another sprint starts.
Quick Tip: Set aside 10%-20% of your time for unforeseen projects
Hold Sprint Plan Meetings
During the sprint planning, the entire team and stakeholders agree on which projects and tasks to add to the sprint, prioritize stories, and estimate the amount of time and effort it will take to complete the project. Whether online or on a white board, create a system where you keep track of where each task falls in the process, whether it’s “to do,” “in progress,” or “completed.”
Observe Daily Scrums
Instead of long, often unproductive meetings, a day in the life of an agile marketing team includes a 15 minute scrum. During this daily meeting, (held standing up) each team member answers three key questions:
- What did I do yesterday to help the team reach the Sprint Goal?
- What will I do today to help the team reach the Sprint Goal?
- Do I see any roadblocks ahead that will interfere with my ability to meet the Sprint Goal?
These short meetings reinforce accountability and keeps everyone involved and aware of their progress.
Quick Tip: Have your stand-ups in a room where your sprint planning board is, so that as tasks are reported as finished, you can move the task into the ‘completed’ category.
See How Far You’ve Come With Sprint Review
No matter the outcome, sprints end with a Sprint Review, where teams present their achievements. The Scrum Master reviews the test findings and make decisions on how to scale the tests that yield promising results, adapt feedback, and kill off those that aren’t working.
Find Out What’s Working With Sprint Retrospective
During the Sprint Retrospective, the entire team meets with stakeholders to review goals and deliverables. The aim of this meeting is to find out what went well, what needs improvement, and incorporate lessons learned into the next sprint.
Quick Tip: Make sure everyone is on the same page with what happened and why, and then document findings to inform future sprints and marketing efforts.
Agile marketing may seem a bit complex and overwhelming. Once you start implementing the process, however, the results may speak for themselves.
Below are few things to keep in mind when implementing agile marketing:
- Decide with your executive team how agile you need to be to maximize the return on effort. And get buy-in from the right people.
- Have an agile champion or coach who can advise you as you begin the new process
- Develop an agile roadmap that replaces your long-term marketing plan with top-level goals
- There is no plug-and play formula for agile methodology. Adopt your actions according to your situation.
- Continuous improvement is the hallmark of any good agile team, so expect to constantly make adjustments.
Ready To Embrace Agility?
Regardless of our opinions of Darwin, the man got one thing right: nature will always favor the agile. You can continue playing catch up or adopt a flexible marketing strategy to drive growth for your business.