Allow me to take you back to another time, a distant era. Capri pants were cool. WiFi was practically unheard of. Backstreet was back. (Alright!)
I’m talking, of course, about the late 1990s. A new millennium was just on the horizon. The technology was entering our lives at a rapid pace. And in the background, something dramatic was happening: software development was in crisis. And the movement that came out of that crisis changed the way we work today.
A brief history of Agile
The Agile methodology was born in 2001 as a result of frustration with traditional project management workflows. Traditional workflows were largely expansions of methods created around work on an assembly line. One step directly followed another. And if changes needed to be made or if errors were made, you likely had to stop everything to fix it.
But software development didn’t — and still doesn’t — work like that. Under traditional methods, many software development projects came in over budget and long after their deadlines.
To correct this issue, a group of software developers came together to create the Agile Manifesto. This manifesto described a project management philosophy that emphasized customer satisfaction, quick adaptation to changes over following rigid workflows, and high levels of collaboration.
Fast forward to today, and you’ve likely heard the word “agile” thrown around casually in the workplace. Many industries have adopted some form of an agile workflow. Marketing is just one of those industries.
But what does “agile marketing” actually mean? And how can you apply its concepts to your business without getting bogged down weird project management terminology like Scrum and kanban?
Keep reading for an overview of agile marketing, its benefits, and how you can start using it in your business.
What is agile marketing?
Agile marketing is way of undertaking marketing projects that emphasizes the following:
- Working collaboratively in shorter bursts, often called “sprints,” to complete campaigns
- Making changes to plans based on feedback and data
- Testing new ideas by running small experiments
In traditional marketing, you might come up with a concept for a huge campaign. You’ll create smaller projects within that campaign, assign roles, and work on it for months. After your campaign has run for a while, you’ll be able to see whether it’s worked or not. If it does, that’s great for your company. But if it doesn’t, you’ve wasted hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on a project that didn’t work.
Using agile marketing mindsets, you can still come up with your idea for a huge campaign. However, you’ll break that campaign down into smaller deliverables you’ll test along the way. If something isn’t working, you can —and should — change your plans to adapt to the results you’re seeing.
What are the benefits of being agile?
In short, when used correctly, far fewer hours and dollars go to waste under an agile marketing workflow. But let’s discuss some of the other benefits of running an agile marketing team.
Increase in speed
Agile teams typically work in two-week sprints. That means they’re identifying important projects, working on them, and then deciding if their efforts are paying off every two weeks.
During these sprints, agile teams are encouraged to hold short (typically 15 minutes) daily meetings called stand-ups. These meetings are designed to accomplish a few things:
- Discuss what everyone is currently working on
- Identify obstacles to team and individual work
- Hold each other accountable for their work on a daily basis
By breaking campaigns down into these shorter sprints, teams can work more quickly to deliver finished products. And by holding a daily check-in meeting, team members are encouraged to collaborate when they run into obstacles and hold each other accountable for the things they say they’ll get done.
Working in sprints also means you can respond more quickly to changes as they occur. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can — or should — start newsjacking around every current event or diving into every campaign without a plan.
What it does mean is that, when something isn’t working, you can adjust or make changes or simply…stop doing it. Agile workflows allow you to shift your plans without feeling like you’ve wasted months on a project or like you’ll have to start over again from scratch to make one tiny adjustment.
Sprints and stand-ups also encourage your team to consistently check in on their progress. With these consistent check-ins, you’ll better understand what’s going on in a project and what you need to do every day to finish it.
By working more quickly in a more focused way, responding to changes as they occur, you’ll see more profits. That could come from getting more projects done more quickly, with room to take on more work. It could also come from less time spent on campaigns that took forever and just didn’t work out in the end.
What do you need to be agile?
I’ve leaned pretty heavily on sprints and stand-ups as tools that encourage agility. However, being agile is about more than holding daily meetings and implementing two-week deadlines.
Ultimately, agile marketing is a mindset. Tools like sprints and stand-ups help. But you need more than those two buzzwords to actually be an agile marketer or run an agile team. Below are a few of the things that can help you on your agile journey.
Before you upend all of your processes, you should understand why you want to be agile. Does your team keep running over budget or deadlines? Do you spend too much time planning and not enough time accomplishing tasks? Are you looking for a methodology that emphasizes adapting to change in uncertain times?
Especially if you run a team or need to get managers on board with your idea, you’ll need a good explanation for changing up your workflow.
After you’ve established your “why,” you’ll need to come up with some concrete goals. How will you know if you’ve succeeded at being agile? How will you measure the differences between your previous workflow and your more agile process?
Before getting started with agile marketing, try writing out SMART goals to really understand what you ultimately hope to accomplish.
Agile marketing relies on data-based decisions. So you need to understand where you can pull reliable data from.
Reports from tools like Google Analytics or Adwords will become your best friends. If you use other marketing tools or software, you’ll also want to take a look at their reporting capabilities.
Using marketing automation technology will help you work more quickly and pull and aggregate the data you’ll need to make decisions.
Project management software can also help you organize your projects and workflows, identify bottlenecks, and communicate more transparently with your team.
Cross-functionality or high levels of cooperation
Speaking of teams, agile works best when you assemble a team of broadly skilled individuals. This could mean hiring marketers with many skills instead of specialists. Or it could mean developing a good relationship with other teams in your organization so you can work collaboratively to get things done.
Finally, contrary to popular belief, agile marketing is not just “marketing without a plan.” Instead, it’s marketing that focuses on short-term plans to accomplish long-term goals.
The easiest way to build this plan is to create a “backlog” of marketing projects. A backlog is essentially a combination of projects that need to get done and your wishlist of projects you want to take on. Once you have your backlog, you can start prioritizing what you need to do now and what can wait until later.
Work with a partner who can help
On the surface, agile marketing sounds simple: work quickly and collaboratively, adapt to changes, and use data to make decisions. But actually implementing agile processes in your marketing team can be difficult.
Fortunately, we’ve assembled a group of marketers who can help you level up your agility. Schedule your free consultation call with Capital Consulting to see how we can help you level up your agile marketing capabilities.