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On June 11 in San Francisco, a group of marketers will gather for the first time to discuss the discipline of agile marketing. Their aim is to learn, share, and define the physics of agile marketing.

I queried the agile marketing community about why agile is imperative to marketing today, and what best-practices those agile marketing professionals can share with other marketers who are thinking of starting their own sprints and scrums.

Four Reasons for Agile Marketing

Tablets, smartphones, e-readers, email, content marketing... the list of devices and channels available to customers goes on. Media is getting more fragmented by the minute, and the pace is only picking up.

Faced with all of the changes in marketing over the last few years, marketers need to get serious about marketing processes. Some companies and marketers are handling the pace of change via agile marketing.

Marketing with agility is derived from the agile software development movement: Product marketers and marketers who worked closely with developers who used agile started to apply the practice to their own work and campaigns.

So, why should all marketers implement agile marketing? Practicing agile marketers offer the following four reasons.

1. Speed

  • "Time is the scarcest commodity. By shortening the cycle times, we can effectively create more time. You also get faster results and have the option to adjust faster if something is working very well or not very well." —Dan Marks, chief marketing officer, First Tennessee Bank
  • "We are operating in an increasing social and real-time environment where things are happening faster and traditional approaches to marketing planning just can't keep up." —Frank Days, vice-president of marketing, Correlsense
  • "Agile methodologies in marketing are increasingly important as the Web-paced world creates challenges and opportunities that require an organization to respond in real time." —Kirsten Knipp, senior director, marketing, SolarWinds
  • "Agile marketing processes are important because marketing is operating in the most fluid, fast-changing environment in its history. Social marketing opportunities come and go quickly, competition in dynamic advertising markets can change overnight, marketing platforms such as Google and Facebook are constantly evolving, SaaS-based tools we use have frequent updates with new features, and our own organizations are often tweaking products/services at a greatly accelerated clock speed. More importantly, our prospects and customers have now come to expect our marketing to be quick to react across these channels and experiences. Agile marketing isn't just a nice to have; it's the only way an organization has a prayer of executing at the speed the market demands." —Scott Brinker, president and chief technology officer, ion interactive inc.

2. Priority

  • "Marketing teams are no strangers to being asked to do more with less, and this year will be no exception. Clear focus and a solid understanding of the scope of work remains important, yet confining it to a specific time frame and engaging in real-time reprioritization allows teams to ensure that the most important work gets done first." —Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, chief marketing officer, Mindjet

3. Engagement

  • "Engagement is an important aspect of agile marketing, and there are two critical audiences: executives within your company, where marketing must be aligned with the overall business goals, and customers/prospects, where marketing must be engaged in a vibrant, two-way conversation, listening and telling stories. Agile marketing encourages alignment with the business goals through the mechanism of the Sprint planning session, whose goal is to get that alignment and plan the activities to deliver on the organization's goals. Agile marketing also encourages engagement with customers/prospects by measuring the results of that engagement, and adjusting in every sprint to maximize the impact of that engagement." —Jim Ewel, principal, Agile Marketing

4. Relevancy

  • "The beauty of agile is the transparency and prioritization that enables teams to shift and modify in ways that don't negatively impact bigger programs. In a world where marketers may need to spin up a new campaign in days after a competitor is purchased or a major innovation comes to light, working on months-long programs is too limiting. Agile is one of the few methodologies that breaks things into manageable chunks that can be shifted to enable [meeting] a new need." —Kirsten Knipp, senior director, marketing, SolarWinds
  • "Back in 1993, Al Ries and Jack Trout could write in their classic, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, that 'marketing effects take place over an extended length of time' (Law 11). That's no longer true. If you're Greyhound bus lines, and Alec Baldwin disses your company in his explanation for his boorish behavior on an airplane, you have to respond within 24 hours. If you're United Airlines, you can't wait a week to respond to a viral video entitled 'United Breaks Guitars.' And it's not just reputation management. If you're a marketer at Pinterest, you're riding a rocket, and you can't plan out your marketing efforts six months in advance; you have to market with real-time speed." —Jim Ewel, principal, Agile Marketing
  • "Many aspects of detailed annual marketing plans and interlock meetings become outdated by the end of the first quarter. As the software development industry learned, agile project management provides the flexibility and transparency that are essential to keep a team aligned and effective." —Frank Days, vice-president of marketing, Correlsense
  • "Because relevancy has a shorter and shorter window, when you stick to creating one very large campaign, your ability to seize current opportunities diminishes. By the time your campaign rolls out the door, the problem you're trying to solve could be long gone. With AM, rather than being bogged down in the production of one campaign, you're able to produce, deploy, and analyze much faster and keep up with current trends/problems/headaches." —Travis Arnold, director of marketing, Sendouts

Advanced Agile Marketing Tips From Seven Experts

The practice of agile marketing is still new, and it has dependencies different from those of agile development. Though developers are dependent only on themselves to complete projects, marketers often have to depend on vendors, agencies, and developers to complete a project.

The SprintZero: The Physics of Agile Marketing meeting has several core goals, including defining agile marketing's principles and sharing and learning from one another. Seven agile marketing experts will share their insights on how the practice of agile marketing works. Join us in San Francisco to learn more. But, for now, here are tips from seven experts.

  1. Frank Days, VP of marketing, Correlsense: "Build a really basic annual marketing plan (no more than one page) containing your high-level themes and metrics for the year. Then build more detailed plans on a monthly basis (i.e., a sprint plan), and meet at least three times a week to review your planned actions for the month (i.e., scrum meetings). Finally, focus meetings on what you are doing now, not what you did last week or are going to do next week."
  2. Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, CMO, Mindjet: "My mantra is 'Don't be afraid to fail; just don't fail the same way twice,' which allows for flexibility, helps prevent analysis paralysis, and offers the ability to double-down on efforts that have proven effective without the fear of failing. I'm a big fan of using collaboration tools to enhance the process, which allows teams to capture the group's best thinking and turn it into action."
  3. Travis Arnold, director of marketing, Sendouts: "Don't be scared to cut the fat. When you start an agile marketing process, it can be difficult to cut programs that you've used in the past. Just because your AdWords campaign was relevant two months ago doesn't necessarily mean it is today. Instead, determine what success means ahead of time, and then analyze after a week or two. If it passes muster, keep it around, and possibly increase intensity if it doesn't kill it, and test something new. You want to stay flexible and base your decisions on actual tests so you can allocate resources to programs that lead to demand."
  4. Kirsten Knipp, senior director of marketing, SolarWinds: "This tip/technique is not new, but it is crucial. Don't manage agile via email... Implementing and living within more robust collaboration and content-sharing tools is key to success. Whether that's via a wiki or a formal collaboration tool, the only way that agile works is when there is true visibility into a program and an understanding of status, plus what can be shifted and moved. An agile response to a market shift that breaks other programs or stops them in their tracks isn't very useful. Sharing information freely enough so that smart, rapid decisions can be made is critical to any agile marketing team."
  5. Dan Marks, CMO, First Tennessee Bank: "Sometimes, mixing up the team or assignments can yield new insights about how to make progress against your goals. It also helps develop your team."
  6. Jim Ewel, principal, Agile Marketing: "It's hardly new, but it's new to me; I've recently started using a Kanban board to manage agile marketing in my clients. We either use a physical board (a whiteboard) or we use a tool like Trello. Either works. Kanban is perfect for agile, as it allows everyone in the daily scrum to see what's up, what's being worked on, and what's completed."
  7. Scott Brinker, president and CTO, ion interactive inc.: "Learn from the unit testing and performance metrics that developers have put in place in their agile practices. It's important for agile marketers to be able to not only experiment quickly but [also] have clarity about which experiments are succeeding and be attuned to any unexpected side effects. Think of it as 'refactoring marketing.'"

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Cass is a digital marketer, blogger, author, and co-host of the agile marketing podcast. He is volunteer co-chair of SprintZero: The Physics of Agile Marketing, the first gathering of agile marketers to take place: June 11, in San Francisco, at the Mindjet offices.