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Sprint to the Scrum with Agility: A Crash Course in Agile Marketing as it Sprung from Agile Development

Posted by drew on March 23, 2014, 6 p.m.

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The agile manifesto was put together by a group of developers in 2001. Since then, it has become widely accepted as a guide for software development. The Agile methodology is all about reacting to change and being able to respond to situations and needs as they arise. Instead of establishing a large rigid plan to be followed, agile developers create products that features that are ready to launch quickly. Agile development is based on the values:
  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan
While agile marketing has elaborated on those values and bases itself on the following:
  • Responding to change over following a plan
  • Rapid iterations over Big-Bang campaigns
  • Testing and data over opinions and conventions
  • Numerous small experiments over a few large bets
  • Individuals and interactions over target markets
  • Collaboration over silos and hierarchy
What do these things mean? How was agile marketing inspired by agile development? To understand that, let’s discuss traditional marketing tactics.
 
Traditionally, marketing involved “the plan,” a gigantic strategy that was supposed to ensure consistency across channels and drive progress from project to project. After sitting down to develop the plan, various marketers would go and act on it, producing content, doing SEO, PR and any other activity the company needed. The plan was not to be changed; the plan was not to be questioned. The plan was sacrosanct and should be followed.
 
But here’s the problem: enormous plans like this often outlive their usefulness. The marketing landscape evolves faster than your bloated strategy. This is not to mention that these plans are often made by people who are easily swayed by the latest marketing convention and trend, even if that trend might not help a company reach its audience.
 
The agile marketing values were designed specifically to combat issues like these:
 

Responding to change over following a plan

Having a strategy is a good thing. Agile marketers aren’t trying to say you shouldn’t have an idea of where you are headed. But thinking of your plan as forever unchanging and the answer to all your woes will only lead to you astray. Agile marketing (along with other agile processes) s divided into sprints, or periods of time in which goals are set, worked on, and accomplished. A typical marketing sprint is 4 weeks. For some marketers, this will seem far too short (“But SEO can take months to show progress!”) and that’s true, but the sprints are more about accomplishing goals in action, and less about accomplishing performance goals.

Rapid iterations over Big-Bang Campaigns

By working in small, rapid segments, marketers can perform numerous experiments to track the success of their efforts. By not committing immediately to big campaigns, anything that isn’t working can easily and quickly be disposed of, changed, and improved.

Testing and Data over Opinions and Conventions

While the sprints are focused on accomplishing tasks, there is always testing happening as well. This testing allows marketers to respond to successes and failures quickly, refining the marketing goals, and producing quicker progress. This value guards against following current marketing trends that may or may not work for your company.

Numerous Small Experiments Over a Few Large Bets

Large marketing bets involve commitment and a certain level of foresight: you want to know what is going to happen before it happens. But that’s not always possible, which is why agile marketing emphasizes a different approach. To increase the predictability of your overall success, your marketing efforts should include many small efforts and the tracking needed to test each of these efforts finely.

Individuals and Interactions over Target Markets

Target markets aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They at least provide you with some sense of your audience. The problem is often that they are too broad. A company may think their target customer is men from 18-25, but that is not nearly specific enough to actually write effective content and copy for them. Agile marketers are encouraged to write user stories that imagine specific users and the tasks they would want to accomplish in the buying cycle. This could be something like easily comparing product information, finding and navigating a website, or understanding the benefits of a service. By thinking of individuals and their needs, the user stories enable marketers to write more useful content and copy.

Collaboration over Silos and Hierarchy

Silos are sections of an organization that are purposefully segmented and isolated. Often, this is done in the name of maintaining hierarchy or improving focus. Rather than have multiple teams or individuals working on separate projects, agile marketing encourages those working on different projects to collaborate and share information. This flattens social hierarchies, encourages new ideas from all parts of the marketing team, and fosters learning from others.


There is a lot more to learn about agile marketing, and agile development, so if you are interested, check out this guide to agile marketing or just give us a call and we’ll talk about your marketing strategy.