Sprint to Success with Agile Marketing

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Agile marketing has been enjoying a moment as 2021 gets fully underway. The methodology has been around since the early days of the internet when the principles of agile software development were applied to marketing. The impetus behind marketing adopting agile methodology is the same as it is in development applications: to maximize responsiveness and manage change. 

For those reasons, it made sense when marketers doubled down on agile methods during the pandemic. Everyone had to rework their marketing budgets and rethink their strategy last year. In agility, B2B companies, which are especially reliant on in-person events, found a method that fit the times. The agile framework’s iterative approach is forgiving of errors and typically does not require a huge investment of time or money. 

The massive increase in digital marketing also contributed to agile marketing’s rising popularity last year. As digital ad spending outpaced investment in non-digital channels for the first time ever, marketers reported that agile methods allowed them to manage change, improve productivity, and collaborate more effectively.

At the same time as digital ad spend was setting records, the pandemic accelerated digital transformation. A Twilio report estimates that Covid-19 fast-forwarded digital transformation roadmaps by about six years. There’s evidence that agile marketing was already gathering momentum, but pandemic-related factors clearly increased its velocity.

An AgileSherpas report found that agile methods are now the most popular approach in marketing, but many practitioners still don’t have mature processes in place, even though 42% of surveyed marketers called themselves “agile marketers” for the first time ever. So, if you’re still developing your agile strategy, you’re not alone. 

Keep Teams Small and Accountable

One factor that makes agile methods particularly suited to modern marketing is that the agile approach emphasizes speed. As with their software development counterparts, agile marketing teams tend to be small (eight or fewer employees) and cross-functional. A scrum master leads the team, organizing short-term projects called “sprints.” 

Your agile marketing team’s composition will depend in part on the nature of the project, but in marketing, it might include a copywriter, designer, SEO specialist, media buyer, and experts as needed for reviews, such as legal oversight. Sprints usually last from one to three weeks and are focused on specific deliverables. 

Scrum masters typically run a tight ship, holding brief but frequent meetings to review progress on assignments, identify opportunities for improvement, and hold team members accountable for deliverables. The project structure keeps marketers focused and provides a sense of accomplishment in a short timeframe, improving morale. 

Failure IS an Option in Agile Marketing

One of the most attractive aspects of agile marketing is that it encourages calculated risk-taking and tolerates failure — as long as the team learns from its mistakes. Since project timelines are compressed and teams comprise just a handful of people, there’s no large outlay of time and budget dollars like a traditional campaign. 

In agile marketing, if a campaign or message or channel doesn’t work out, you can simply move on to the next idea. This ensures that the marketing team is willing to experiment, and that’s important because trying innovative concepts is valuable, even when budgets are tight. Lessons learned are applied to the next sprint. 

It’s important to keep in mind that agile methods require carefully defining what success looks like at the outset and measuring progress along the way. Because failure is an option, it’s critical to know what constitutes success and to provide reports to all stakeholders. 

A Measurement Sprint to Define Velocity

One conundrum agile marketers face, especially in the B2B space, is how to create metrics and KPIs. It’s especially challenging in B2B because sales cycles are often weeks or even months long — far longer than the duration of an agile marketing sprint. So, agile marketers have to figure out how to assess progress before the sale. 

A separate measurement sprint that is conducted concurrently with an agile marketing sprint can solve that problem. In a measurement sprint, marketers can define velocity metrics to use when evaluating the agile project. It requires the ability to measure lead progress at every stage of the sales funnel and attribute revenue to campaigns.

With these capabilities, marketers can assess agile campaign progress in terms of movement through sales funnel stages. After a sales cycle is completed, they can use campaign attribution metrics to create a baseline for future agile projects. The idea is to build a way to measure impact in both a short-term and long-term sense. 

Agile Marketing: The Sprint to Success

One of the most interesting findings from AgileSherpas’ report is the level of marketer job satisfaction sorted by marketing method used: 74% of agile marketers reported that they’re satisfied with their jobs, whereas just 58% of traditional marketers said the same, and only 34% of marketers who use ad hoc strategies were satisfied on the job. 

In the age of instant gratification, shorter project timelines and more frequent opportunities to reflect on a job well done may partially explain why agile marketers are happier. The method’s flexibility may also be a factor when 53% of agile marketers report they are faster and more efficient in creating and executing campaigns.   

So, even though agile marketing has been around for a couple of decades, keep in mind that it’s a modern approach for today’s marketers — in keeping with the focus on data. With the right martech to support performance measurement needs (using metrics that are credible outside of marketing), you can sprint to success with agile marketing.  

Bonnie Crater is Co-Founder, President, & CEO at Full Circle Insights.