Agile marketing is enjoying a resurgence of popularity in the pandemic economy. Adapted from Silicon Valley product development culture, agile marketing is described by SiriusDecisions as a method where self-directed, cross-functional teams:
- Work toward a shared goal
- Deliver work outputs in regular, time-bound increments
- Collect feedback
- Monitor performance along the way to rapidly refine and iterate as needed.
It’s an especially popular approach during a downturn and other uncertainties because it allows marketing teams to try new things and shift gears quickly rather than commit to the long-term strategy as required by other methods, such as the waterfall approach. More marketers are using an agile approach today because the ability to change direction rapidly is essential right now. When trying agile for the first time, content development and marketing, demand generation, and digital marketing projects are great places to start.
Getting Started with Agile Marketing
If you’re new to agile marketing, keep in mind that it generally involves a relatively lean team — eight or fewer team members works well — and teams often comprise cross-functional roles. Agile teams are led by a scrum master who sets the tone and holds everyone accountable, and teams might include a media buyer, art director, copywriter, UI designer, SEO expert, etc.
In addition to those key players, experts from other parts of the company might weigh in on an agile campaign, including perhaps someone from legal and/or an IT representative. Agile projects are built around the “sprint” concept, with everyone focused on an initiative that is completed over a short period of time — typically one to three weeks, for example — when all of that project’s deliverables are due.
The short timeline can be a great morale booster since it gives everyone a feeling of accomplishment. During the sprint, the team typically meets for a short period of time (15-30 minutes) daily or at least weekly to review progress, identify any hold-ups and assign tasks to keep things moving along.
With Agile, Failure IS an Option
One of the things that sets an agile approach apart from waterfall and other methods is that failure is an option, so marketing teams can continuously try new approaches. True to its product development roots, an agile strategy prioritizes experimentation and calculated risks. Failure (within reason, of course!) is accepted as a learning tool that helps the team get better.
The idea is that if a new idea pays off, great — the team can invest more time and budget into that campaign type, new message or whatever concept is being tested. If it doesn’t pan out, the company doesn’t lose much since there’s not a significant amount of time invested, a few weeks at most. But that makes it critically important to get management buy-in before committing to an agile approach and also to make sure project objectives align tightly with overall company goals.
It’s also crucial to know what success looks like, and that’s where measurement comes into the picture. Scrum masters typically define the goal of each sprint and make sure that it furthers company objectives. The group agrees on what it takes to win in the sprint, and they meet to discuss how they’re doing in terms of the team’s progress toward that goal. At the end of the project, the team reviews lessons learned, creates a report for stakeholders, resets priorities and defines the next sprint.
Introducing the Measurement Sprint
Agile marketers typically set goals at the beginning of a sprint and review results at the end. With a shortened timeframe, analytics are essential to demonstrate the impact of the work. This impact can take two forms:
- Improved work productivity such as faster content development
- Improved business impact such as growth in pipeline or lead conversion rates.
A separate measurement for sprints can help you define success in terms of revenue and performance metrics and stay on track along the way. The timeframe around measurement is usually constrained by the sales cycle, which can be longer than the length of the work sprint especially in the B2B world. But regardless of whether you are on a B2B or B2C team, either type of agile marketing team can benefit from a separate measurement sprint.
The measurement sprint would run concurrently with the agile sprint, identifying a baseline over a timeline that reflects the length of the sales cycle, measuring what happens along the way as the campaign evolves (e.g., if new campaign elements are added to an initiative), closely monitoring funnel metrics, and accurately attributing revenue to campaigns.
So, there you have it: agile marketing is a great fit for uncertain times like the pandemic economy, and committing to a strategy that allows you to experiment and notch accomplishments in short order can deliver quick wins while keeping morale high. But measurement remains as essential as ever. A measurement sprint is great way to incorporate performance metrics into your agile marketing plan.