With the increased digitalization of business, the importance of marketing teams continues to grow. Companies struggle to cut through the noise (particularly online) as new entrants push for attention. New platforms become important places to engage audiences, and emerging technologies enable new ways to research, analyze, and market.
The marketer’s list of responsibilities is ever increasing, but budgets and teams aren’t necessarily keeping pace. New requests come from all corners, and deliverables are growing in terms of volume, sophistication, and speed of delivery.
This is when marketing teams in mid-size B2B organizations start thinking exactly like software developers. They need to be working together on a very complex project and still sustained creativity to the highest standard. This is how agile marketing was born.
Let’s first see from where this all came from and what was there before Agile. A long time ago if you came from the software development market, you might have heard of something called the waterfall methodology.
Related: What is Marketing Automation?
What is the Waterfall Methodology?
Much like construction and manufacturing workflows, the waterfall methodology is a sequential design process. This means that as each of the eight stages (conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, implementation, and maintenance) are completed, the developers move on to the next step.
As this process is sequential, once a step has been completed, developers can’t go back to a previous step – not without scratching the whole project and starting from the beginning. There’s no room for change or error, so a project outcome and an extensive plan must be set in the beginning and then followed carefully.
What is Agile Marketing?
Agile marketing came about as a “solution” to the disadvantages of the waterfall methodology. Instead of a sequential design process, the Agile methodology follows an incremental approach. Developers start off with a simplistic project design, and then begin to work on small modules. The work on these modules is done in weekly or monthly sprints, and at the end of each sprint, project priorities are evaluated and tests are run. These sprints allow for bugs to be discovered, and customer feedback to be incorporated into the design before the next sprint is run.
This process, with its lack of initial design and steps, is often criticized for its collaborative nature that focuses on principles rather than process. In the generic sense, “agile” means “nimble.” Agile with a capital 'A' refers to a methodology invented by software developers. The concept of Agile marketing may seem foreign if you’ve never seen it in action, but it’s easy to understand.
Here’s how it works. For starters, your marketing team agrees on a list of priorities. Based on those priorities, you decide which tasks – including content marketing tasks – are most important. The team agrees to focus on those tasks that it can expect to accomplish during the next “sprint” (typically somewhere between one week and one month) – and it puts all other tasks on hold (on the “backlog”).
A sprint is a set period during which team members aim to complete a set amount of high-priority work that’s connected to a long-term plan. Teams work through one sprint after another, reassessing priorities each time.
When someone brings you a new request during a sprint, you may stop and address it only if it’s more important than what you’ve committed to. Otherwise, you assign it to a future sprint and return to your priorities.
An Agile approach enables you to become more effective without working more. You may get more done – or you may not. The point is that you’re more likely to get the right things done.
The second question is what kind of agile marketing are you using or planning to use?
- Scrumban — team members pull work from a backlog; daily scrum meetings if needed; visualized the workflow; limits on WIP; less emphasis on defined sprints (can include continuous releases).
- Scrum — regular, defined sprints; work is planned in advance; daily scrum meetings (or "standups"); retrospectives for improvement; no new work added during sprints.
- Kanban — team members pull work from a backlog; limit Work-in-Progress (WIP); continuous releases; visualize the workflow.
- Lean — eliminate non value-added work or steps; optimize the "system" for work; deliver as fast as possible.
But let’s be honest. Why do we really need to start looking to Agile in our process?
Better division of work between team members:
- Can identify roadblocks, problems, or schedule issues faster
- More visibility to the overall project status
- Improved teamwork and morale
- Improved quality of work
- Faster time to get things released
- Better team alignment on priorities
At Flawless Inbound, we are a fully Inbound Marketing agency focused on Content Marketing for B2B organizations in Canada and the US. We have moved away from creating a full one year plan to 90 days, and now we are implementing the scrum method for Agile marketing. We run our weekly Sprint meeting from 10:00 to 11:30 am. We feel that our teams are now more coherent, connected and we can focus and pivot much better and faster to be able to achieve our clients’ requirement on shorter cycles.
Tip of the month: Focus on Business Results
There’s a shift in marketing. It’s not about soft metrics like brand equity or market share. It’s not about how many people said your ads looked great or how many people you said hi to at your latest trade show. Today people expect marketing to deliver leads, marketing-qualified leads, sales-qualified leads and sales opportunities.
When you apply this thinking to your teams, it changes their approach as well. Agile marketing gives them the rituals and structure to make better, more informed decisions so they impact your business results. If tactics don’t generate leads, stop doing them or do them differently. Campaigns don’t run for set time periods anymore. Campaigns get adjusted weekly until they perform or get scrapped.