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Strategy

From Smart to SCRUM: Creating Alignment In Your Marketing Department

The larger your marketing department grows, the more likely it is to become disjointed and misaligned. Here’s what to do to keep everyone on the same page

Matt Duczeminski
December 01 2018

Earlier this year, we talked about the importance of aligning your marketing and sales teams to enhance the overall customer experience. What we didn’t discuss is that disconnects can also occur within your marketing team.

With many different people on your marketing team working on a number of different tasks, it’s unlikely everyone will remain on the same page at all times. As the team’s manager, you want to ensure that team members:

  • Keep the overall goal of your campaigns in mind at all times
  • Understand how their efforts – and their teammates’ efforts – serve to help the team reach this overarching goal
  • Have multiple opportunities to communicate and collaborate as they work toward accomplishing this overarching goal

Unfortunately, when such a disconnect occurs, your team is much less capable of producing an effective marketing campaign. In this article, we’re going to talk about how you can ensure alignment throughout your marketing department as you work toward the creation of your next campaign and onwards. Let’s take a look at how to make all of this happen.

Focus on the Overarching Goal

Every marketing campaign or initiative should have one major goal. This goal may be to generate more leads, increase sales numbers, enhance engagement, or retain more customers moving forward. At the very least, you want team members to constantly keep the generalized goal in mind as they work on their assigned tasks.

But in order to truly maintain alignment, you want each team member to have a more granular idea of how to reach the overarching goal.

This is where SMART goals come in.

Source

Let’s allow HubSpot to explain what a SMART marketing campaign goal looks like – this one pertaining to lead generation via a new landing page:

  • Specific: I want our landing pages to generate more leads by switching from a one column form to a two-column form
  • Measurable: A 30% increase is our goal
  • Attainable: When we A/B tested our traditional one column form vs. a two-column form on our highest traffic landing pages, we discovered that two column forms convert 27% better than our traditional one column forms, at a 99% significance level
  • Relevant: If we generate more content leads, sales can close more customers
  • Time-Bound: One year from now

After ensuring your team understands each aspect of the overall goal, confirm they can answer the all-important question:

How will attaining this goal lead to growth for the company?

The purpose of going so in-depth is threefold:

For one thing, it allows each employee to understand the importance of their role as it pertains to the team’s overall goal.

Secondly, it will allow each person to understand the importance of everyone else’s duties – as well as how their efforts can help their teammates accomplish their assigned tasks. As we’ll discuss a little later, this can increase cooperation and collaboration among team members (and also minimize instances of “placing the blame,” as everyone ultimately becomes responsible for the success of the team as a whole).

Lastly, keeping everyone focused on the campaign’s main goal addresses the notion that individual accomplishments and efforts are only meaningful if they further the progress of the entire team.

Going back to the example from HubSpot, let’s say your social media specialist managed to increase your company’s Twitter following by 10%, but this didn’t lead to a significant increase in visitors to your landing page, nor did it cause more people to sign up for your mailing list. While an increase in your Twitter following isn’t a bad thing, your social media specialist didn’t help the team reach the overall campaign goal.

In contrast, if your social media specialist increased your Twitter following by 5%, and every single one of these new followers signed up for your mailing list, then they would have done their part.

The takeaway here, is that the most important aspect of creating alignment among your marketing team is to keep everyone focused on reaching the overarching goal for your current campaign.

Develop Individual SMART Goals

Once your marketing team knows and understands the goal for a campaign, take the time to define each individual’s goals moving forward.

As each person specializes in a certain area, encourage them to take ownership of setting individual goals and explaining how reaching it contributes to the entire team’s success.

Going back to our social media manager example, their SMART goal might look something like this:

  • Specific: Increase our Twitter following by targeting accounts of individuals who follow our top three competitors
  • Measurable: Increase our Twitter following by at least X%
  • Attainable: X% of our followers also follow our top three competitors, so targeting others who follow these accounts will allow us to engage with more – and more qualified – leads
  • Relevant: By increasing our Twitter follower count, we can increase our brand’s visibility, and generate more click-throughs to our landing page
  • Time-Based: One year from now

In contrast, if your social media manager believed their job was to “increase the company’s Twitter following,” their focus would be on the quantity of followers they generated – not the quality of these new leads. In other words, they’d be putting too much focus on a vanity metric than on a metric that actually matters.

In addition to helping individual team players define their own SMART goals, they must understand everyone else’s SMART goals, as well. This will set your team up to move forward in a more cohesive manner – which we’ll dive deeper into in the following section.

The Scrum Approach to Marketing

So far, we’ve mainly talked about how to create alignment amongst your marketing team as you set out on a brand new campaign. Of course, it’s also essential that you maintain this alignment throughout the campaign – and beyond.

While it’s certainly possible to do this in a less-structured, “on-the-fly” manner, we’d suggest taking a page from the software development industry and adopt the Scrum approach.

What is Scrum Marketing, and Why Is It Beneficial?

According to Scrum.org, Scrum is “a framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.”

When adapting the Scrum framework, the “product” is the customer-facing material that helps you reach your goals; in the example from above, the product would be the landing page form used to generate mailing list subscribers.

In the software development realm, the Scrum team is made up of three different entities: Scrum master, the product owner, and the development team (marketing team).

The Scrum master is more of a facilitator than a project manager; their job is to provide guidance, remove barriers, and otherwise ensure that the marketing team can do what they need to do in order to accomplish their goal. When wearing their “marketing owner hat,” their duties include ensuring the marketing team is focused on tasks that contribute toward their main goal.

The marketing team is made up of the individuals responsible for putting together the campaign. Rather than being given a title and specific duties (such as “social media specialist”), each individual is responsible for accomplishing whatever needs be done to help the team reach its main goal. We’ll get back to this in a moment.

One last thing to note in terms of the makeup of a Scrum marketing team is that there is no “team leader;” everyone is responsible for helping each other.

Source

The benefits of adapting a Scrum approach include:

  • A sharper focus on reaching important goals
  • Increased communication and collaboration
  • Ability to quickly adapt to changes/developments (both internal and external)
  • The ability to facilitate focused creativity
  • Higher productivity overall

In contrast, teams that don’t implement Scrum and opt for the more traditional linear approach typically:

  • Lack focus, and are often pulled away from the most important tasks at hand
  • Work in silos, communicating with teammates only when “passing off” a project to the next person in line
  • Can’t determine whether their efforts are actually making a difference (until it’s much too late)

As long as it’s done correctly, adopting the Scrum approach to marketing can be incredibly beneficial to your company as a whole.

The Scrum Process

The Scrum workflow includes four main “events:”

  • Sprints
  • Standup Meeting
  • Review
  • Retrospective

Let’s take a closer look at what each entails.

The Sprint

The sprint is when the marketing team gets to work.

Each sprint begins with a planning session where the marketing team works together to determine:

  • What specific “mini-goals” need to be accomplished during the sprint
  • What the team will do during this sprint to reach these mini-goals
  • How long the sprint should last (typically 2-4 weeks)
  • What proof (“artifacts”) will be produced to show progress has been made

During a sprint, the marketing team is given a sort of “organized autonomy.” During the planning stages, the team sets its goals for the sprint, as well as their process. Once these goals and processes are defined by the team, they cannot be changed until the sprint has finished.

The Daily Scrum, or Stand-Up

The daily scrum is a stand-up meeting that takes place on a daily basis at the beginning of a workday, throughout the span of a sprint.

Daily scrums should last no more than fifteen minutes and enable the marketing team to discuss/present three main pieces of information:

  • What they (the team, as well as individual team members) did the previous day to make progress toward their sprint goal
  • What they will do throughout the current day to make progress
  • Any blocks they faced the previous day, or ones they anticipate throughout the current day that could prohibit them from reaching their sprint goal

The goal of each scrum is to keep the Scrum master/marketing owner appraised of the team’s progress, as well as inform them of anything they need to do to remove barriers and continue making progress.

Sprint Review

After a sprint has concluded, all Scrum team members will come together to discuss:

  • The marketing team’s completed work
  • Any shortcomings or roadblocks the team encountered along the way
  • Potential pathways to take during the next sprint

Typically, they should last one hour for every week the sprint lasted. For example, a two-week sprint would warrant a two-hour sprint review meeting.

In addition to lasting longer than daily scrum meetings, sprint reviews are more in-depth. Rather than simply discussing whether the team met its sprint goals in a “yes or no” fashion, the entire Scrum team will go over progress made toward each aspect of the SMART goals in greater detail. If the marketing team has finalized any deliverables (e.g., a finished landing page, a completed email drip campaign, etc.), these can be presented during the sprint review.

Sprint Retrospective

The sprint retrospective is a bit more “meta” than the sprint review in that it focuses on the team’s processes, as well as each member’s ability to work in accordance with the Scrum framework.

Typically, discussion during the retrospective revolves around the team’s ability to communicate and collaborate with each other, each member’s flexibility and creativity in their problem-solving approach, and whether the team succeeded in focusing on a singular goal.

During the retrospective, the Scrum master will facilitate the discussion by asking overarching questions like:

  • What went well during the sprint?
  • What could have gone better?
  • What do we need to keep doing?
  • How can we improve our processes moving forward?

This more in-depth discussion will warrant a longer meeting time, with retrospectives typically lasting about 45 minutes for every week the sprint lasted.

This process – from sprint review to sprint retrospective – will then repeat as the team begins working on the next most important “mini-goal” that will further its progress toward the main overarching goal of the campaign.

As your team continually repeats the process, it’s important to call attention to everyone’s improvement in not only accomplishing their goals, but their ability to maintain alignment and focus throughout each sprint. The more your marketing team uses this collaborative approach to completing tasks and projects, the easier it will feel to stay aligned at all times.

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Matt Duczeminski

Matt is a professional writer specializing in helping entrepreneurs improve relationships with their customers. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Sarah, and he'd probably get a lot more work done if his cat would stop bothering him.

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