If you are looking to adopt the agile approach to marketing you have probably encountered tons of contradictory information. The scariest myth out there (one that is very convincingly and confidently shared and re-shared) says that agile project management means tossing planning out of the window. However, this could not be further from the truth because agile marketing calls for heavy-duty planning. In fact, agile marketing involves having a long-term plan, a mid-term plan and a short-term plan. Agile project management teams not only have a plan, but break that plan into microplane to plan for ‘the unexpected’ as well.
Another widely accepted- albeit unacceptable- myth about agile marketing is that all marketing project management must use the Scrum framework. Again, this is way off base. Scrum is one of the frameworks – or methodologies – that can be used for agile marketing project management. Kanban is another. Scrumban is a combination of the two. And there are numerous other ways to go about it in addition to these. Avoid getting bogged down by technicalities. Instead, wrap your head around the concept and its principles. Thereafter, use one of the existing frameworks if it suits your organisational environment. Alternatively, you can devise your own.
With those distressing myths out of the way, let’s find out what exactly agile marketing is.
Agile marketing is an approach – that’s the first thing that marketers need to understand; it is not a software that one uses, or a framework that compulsorily must be followed. It is simply an approach, one that is more conducive to today’s dynamic business environment.
The agile marketing approach involves being responsive to client or consumer feedback and external changes. It consciously creates room for multiple iterations and in order to do so, has to maintain optimal levels of flexibility.
Let’s start with an example of how an agile organization works: In an agile business, instead of going to a specific target segment and marketing – for example – a plant-based protein, an agile marketing approach calls for the marketing team to team up with R&D (the agile approach is typically all about demolishing silos). The teams would get data on market demand for protein and veganism trends. A sample would be put out there for feedback. Then the teams go back to the drawing board, armed with feedback. Another iteration of the first product emerges; more feedback; more iterations. The product team handles development, but the marketers see first-hand what cues consumers are responding to throughout the process. This is admittedly a seemingly longer route to the final product, but data gathered along the way lets marketers sing the right tune. Moreover, the product itself ends up better aligned with the consumer’s requirements.
What do these principles look like when applied specifically to marketing? Well, you gather data on the sentiments linked to your product category (and get a feel of sentiments in general). Then you put some messaging out there, based on your data insights, measure the response, learn, adapt and improve in subsequent iterations until you are witnessing optimal results. Optional results will need to be defined by you but in most cases, it will be either higher visibility or incremental demand.
5 must-implement principles of agile marketing
Data-informed decision making
Measure the response to and ROI from on your marketing moves to learn and improve. There will always be best practices and expert opinions to support or contradict a certain idea. And the reality is that the popular view (or the view that ultimately signs off on budgets) might not necessarily be the most market-appropriate view in a particular instance. Use data to validate ideas and make informed decisions.
This is how it’s done: Conduct tiny experiments. Make miniscule edits to your messaging or messaging style and judge the response (this is very easy to do with online marketing). You avoid the risk of running a full fledged campaign that needs to be corrected mid-way, at tremendous costs. If print or television are part of your campaign, for example, why not test the messaging and response on a less costly medium?
Tons of trial and error
Start small so that you have room to:
1: Get off the ground very quickly
2: Gather data on what succeeded and what failed
3: Try again
4: And again
Unwavering consumer focus
Did you know that the concepts of agile project management were actually born amidst an environment of widely failing software projects? In the 1990s, experts noted that software developers failed to understand the end-user and were therefore creating software that potential buyers did not find useful. The developers were also consistently unable to complete developments on time and on budget. Agile project management came along as a response to this gap. Its goal was to enable developers to create products that would respond to consumer sentiments and to help them accomplish developments on time and within the allocated budget.
How do you maintain an unwavering consumer focus? Well, you need to listen (to the data) but yiu must also remove bias or the assumption that you will create a need in the consumer to draw their attention to some need they did not know they had. We’re not recommending thinking out of the box; we’re recommending breaking out of it completely. For example, (and if you went to marketing school, it is possible that one of your professors said this to you) Coca-Cola got to where it is today competing with water, not with Pepsi. They simply responded to the consumer’s feeling of thirst.
Agile marketing will often call for frequent tweaks to your messaging (or simply the words you use) to respond to a sentiment that the data has informed you about.
High degree of flexibility
The principles of agile marketing and agile project management are older than the pandemic, for sure. However, never has flexibility been more relevant, and more essential, than it is today. You need your marketing to be able to respond to changes in the environment. That does not mean you go in without a plan. It simply means planning and accounting for potential changes. And that ties in neatly with our next principle.
|Is your marketing project management agile? |
5 steps in agile marketing project management
When you have a long-term plan, a mid-term plan and a short-term plan change becomes more digestible. That’s because it is less challenging to alter a small, short term plan than a large, long term plan. And then once the short term plan is safely back on track, you typically have breathing room to modify the mid-term and long-term plans.
You also want to avoid silos. That does not mean that you do away with the idea of teams and departments altogether. Instead, teams blend and work together, more like a football team rather than like a relay race where one department passes the baton to the next.
Now that you are far more comfortable with the idea of agile marketing, we can look at Scrum as a potential tool.
Let’s start with a pictorial representation:
As you can see your first step is to list all the tasks that are likely to be part of your project management pipeline of tasks. This is called a “backlog” List tasks in order of importance, or chronologically. Moreover, keep adding to the backlog so that it is updated for the team that undertakes the sprint.
Step two: Take the most important or most time-pressured tasks for the first sprint. The team that works hands-on pulls out a chunk for the sprint. The team size should be within 5 and 9 teammates. They decide how much they can do and nobody argues or adds on more, or jumps in with something else during the sprint. (Yes, we did say that agile embraces planning, didn’t we!). Be sure to keep some time for unplanned changes and contingencies. That’s the essence of structured flexibility.
A daily standup meeting is essential so that the team can share and evaluate how the project is going and course-correct if required. PS: This meeting CANNOT be longer than 10, or at best 15 minutes. The agenda: What we did yesterday; what’s on the cards today; what is standing in my way.
A similar meeting takes place at the end of each sprint.
Conclusion: In today’s environment, agile marketing project management is no longer an option. Brands that are unable to respond to rapidly changing consumer sentiments will lose the race. Size is often an obstacle to agility, but you can make it happen by altering processes and adopting frameworks that promote agility. Some corporations also choose to outsource projects that call for a higher degree of agility. Zero in on what is likely to work best for your organization’s climate and characteristics. Are you ready to plan to be agile?