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Marketers are often at the mercy of continually changing environments: We rely heavily on external platforms (Facebook, Google, and the like) to accomplish our strategies; those platforms, however, change at lightning speed, shifting the rules with little or no notice.

Think back to "Mobilegeddon," back in 2015. Digital marketing teams everywhere were scrambling to make their websites responsive before Google would begin penalizing their sites in search rankings.

No wonder Agile Marketing has become so popular among marketing teams everywhere.

Agile doesn't assume a static environment: It assumes factors will change; so, rather than planning a big project in a concrete sequence, Agile helps marketers plan a bit of work, execute it in a short time frame, and evaluate the results.

That process allows marketers to account for the inevitable volatility and uncertainty in day-to-day marketing operations.

Implementing Agile might sound like a tall order—especially if you're not sure where to start.

But don't worry. This article outlines five easy steps to going Agile with your marketing projects.

Step 1: Start With Goal-Setting

Goals are set at the beginning of each sprint—a two or three week work period during which your team accomplishes the goals defined for it.

Aggressive timelines mean that team members are forced to work within constraints. Constraints keep activities within the project's scope and help everyone embrace the theory of "done is better than perfect."

A true Agile Marketing goal should mirror something called a user story.

To illustrate: here's an example of an Agile goal user story at CoSchedule: "As a [CoSchedule audience member], I want to [learn how to manage my marketing projects] so I can [accomplish more in less time]."

That approach is a shift away from focusing on what tasks you're completing and toward what you're getting done for your audience. Marketing teams often mistake activity for results; but the change in mindset brought about by a user story helps your target audience, customer, etc. be at the center of all that you do as a marketer.

Step 2: Daily Standups and Communication

Daily standups are meetings that take place first thing in the morning, every morning. Bring your team together for about 15 minutes and have each team member answer three questions:

  1. What did you work on yesterday?
  2. What are you working on today?
  3. What roadblocks did you encounter?

These meetings keep everyone connected to the sprint goal; they spark the right conversations; and they break down silos that often form during projects.

The daily standup is an important tool for marketers, especially when 86% of employees and executives cite ineffective communication as a main contributor to project failures.

Good collaboration contributes to the success of a project—but also to the morale of your organization. Companies and organizations that communicate effectively are 4.5 times more likely to retain the best employees.

It's not surprising. Providing employees a platform to address roadblocks allows them to enlist the help of others when encountering trouble—rather than spinning their wheels in frustration for days.

As the saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work.

Step 3: Embrace the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) Approach

Generally, people's instinct is to build something one piece at a time until it's perfect. The problem with that approach is that it can't be launched until all the pieces are in place.

The beauty of Agile Marketing is that you aim to have a functioning item that's ready to ship at the end of every phase.

Assume, for example, that you want to implement a marketing automation strategy. If you were to launch the strategy when all the possible automation journeys were done, it could take a year before it was ready to ship.

You'd need a welcome email journey, a reminder series, birthday offers, abandoned-cart journeys, onboarding emails—the options are endless. There'd also likely be quite a few issues and bugs with each of those email flows.

And that's the problem: When you wait to launch everything at once, you miss the opportunity to learn, test, and improve with each iteration.

Step 4: The Self-Organizing Team

Agile teams have a clear KPI and should have the freedom to accomplish it. Managers in an Agile environment must trust their team to decide for themselves how best to reach that goal.

Remember, the user story doesn't spell out exactly how the goal will be accomplished. Each team member is in total control of how they will reach their KPI. In this way, every team member knows if they're performing well and how their work is contributing to the wider goals of the organization.

That is in stark contrast to traditional marketing project management, wherein the marketing manager owns the problem, the solution, and the results. In that traditional approach, team members are responsible only for checking off their individual tasks.

If this part of Agile sounds scary, keep in mind that turning your team members into cogs who simply execute tactics with a head-down approach underutilizes their talent. They are smart—after all, you hired them for a reason. When you give them end-to-end ownership, you give them room to grow and thrive.

Fully 83% of employees presented with opportunities to conquer new challenges and goals say they're more likely to stay with the organization. When you motivate employees and present them with opportunities, they work harder to achieve those goals.

Step 5: Wrapping Up With a Retro

At the end of every sprint, Agile Marketers should hold a retro meeting. To begin, three questions are asked:

  1. What went well?
  2. What went poorly?
  3. What can we improve?

The retro meeting serves as a way to highlight the wins and find what aspects can (and should) be repeated. It also explores the mistakes and things that can be improved for the next round of iterations.

Agile teams assume there will be mistakes. What's most important is the process of learning from those mistakes. With Agile, learning is prioritized over perfection.

The reality is, innovation entails failure. The learning that results from those failures allows the team to hone their tactics to get better results the next time around.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Garrett Moon

Garrett Moon is the CEO and a co-founder of marketing calendar provider CoSchedule.

LinkedIn: Garrett Moon

Twitter: @garrett_moon