Agile Marketing, which focuses on being quick, nimble, and responsive to change, seems made for the present moment.
Agile Marketing was around before COVID-19, of course, but its popularity is growing, and it's easy to see why: When plans are turned upside down by a black swan event, marketers are naturally drawn to an iterative approach that lets them change course quickly.
The shift to digital channels is another reason for the Agile Marketing trend. A recent Twilio report called the pandemic the "digital accelerant of the decade," noting that COVID-19 sped up digital transformation worldwide by the equivalent of six years. More marketers are using Agile methods, and still more plan to adopt them, citing Agile Marketing's ability to help them manage change, increase productivity, and align more closely with other business units.
It all makes sense in a disrupted economy. But if you take a step back, it's clear that Agile practices have been gaining ground because Agile Marketing is an effective approach for the modern economy—before, during, and after the pandemic.
Agile marketers are more satisfied with their jobs (74%) than marketers who take a traditional approach (58%) or those who use an ad hoc strategy (34%), according to a recent State of Agile Marketing Report by AgileSherpas. The sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a project is part of it, but perhaps the higher rate of satisfaction also comes from using an approach that fits the times.
Agile is becoming a dominant marketing strategy, but most practitioners say their approach and processes are "still maturing," the State of Agile Marketing Report found. If you're ready for your own Agile approach to mature, here are some tips that can help.
1. Structure your team for the Agile Marketing sprint
True to its software development roots, Agile Marketing typically features small, cross-functional teams (eight or fewer) engaged in time-limited projects that are organized around the "sprint" concept for speed.
A team is led by a scrum master who sets the pace and ensures accountability for deliverables. The team might contain a graphic designer, copywriter, SEO expert, and media buyer, depending on the objective; it can include others, as needed (e.g., someone from Legal or IT).
During the sprint, which can last 1-3 weeks, all project deliverables are due and the team has brief (15-30-minute) but frequent meetings to stay on track. At Agile meetings, team members review progress, identify and make plans to address any bottlenecks, and assign new tasks to keep the momentum toward deliverables going.
The compressed timeframe keeps people focused and tends to boost morale because everyone gets a sense of accomplishment by doing their part.
2. Get comfortable with failure as a learning tool
One of the most freeing aspects of an Agile Marketing approach is that it is built for taking calculated risks. Since sprints are short and teams are small, there's not a huge investment of time or money in the Agile campaign's execution.
An Agile approach supports experimentation, which in turn drives marketing innovation.
That said, it's important to keep in mind that when experiments fail, teams have to learn from that failure so that their next venture is more successful. One of the most important outputs of a sprint—whether it's successful or not—is a list of takeaways that can be applied to the next sprint (and the ones after that).
Another crucial component of the Agile approach is the ability to shift gears when a concept isn't working out. Success must be carefully defined at the outset, agreed upon by the group, and championed by the scrum master. A post-sprint meeting should result in a report for stakeholders as well as a list of takeaways.
3. Hold a simultaneous measurement sprint
A measurement sprint—a new concept—is a related exercise that focuses on measuring work velocity instead of impact. Running concurrently with the Agile Marketing sprint, the measurement sprint can maximize Agile Marketing project success.
Analytics are essential at every stage of the Agile Marketing process. In B2B marketing, defining success in terms of revenue requires a completed sales cycle (and the ability to accurately attribute revenue to campaigns). Since the B2B sales cycle tends to be longer than that of B2C, funnel metrics are critical for sprint performance measurement.
The first step is to establish a baseline using the sales cycle, then measure progress during the term of the sprint. For example, if the team tests new offers or marketing messages during the project sprint, the measurement sprint would focus on assessing the impact in terms of how leads progress through the marketing and sales funnel.
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Successful Agile Marketing requires the ability to measure impact on both revenue and marketing performance at every stage of the funnel. As marketers step up their martech investments to support an Agile strategy, it's critical to look for solutions that measure impact using data that is credible throughout the organization, not just in the marketing department.
Marketers who find the right performance measurement tools and organize their work using an Agile approach can be more responsive to emerging marketplace trends, creating a greater sense of job satisfaction and demonstrating the value that Marketing contributes to company success.
That's a winning formula during times of change—and a key to success in a post-pandemic economy.
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