An Exercise in Agility

Why Agile Marketing Methodology Can Help Your Business 

According to AgileMarketing.net, “The goals of Agile Marketing are to improve the speed, predictability, transparency, and adaptability to change of the marketing function.“

I know, I know. It’s uber-cliché to start a blog post with a quote or a definition. But I am shameless. I have no shame. So hear me out. If you want to read about agile marketing, I think you should keep reading. I will cover what it is, what it isn’t, give a couple of tips to get you started, maybe show a sample or two (but the real treats will be displayed on our Saturday blog, when the crème de la crème of agile marketing will be on full display), and I will elaborate upon the reason why you, as a fellow marketer, should take notice of this fairly new practice.

Brands will continue to push the envelope using agility and speed to try to harness the opportunities that can be associated with gaining fame for being “human” on social media and other channels.

Are you still with me? Good.

When we break down agile (marketing) from a semantics standpoint, agility is defined as the quality or state of being agile. It’s about dexterity and nimbleness.

If that’s agility, then agile marketing is taking that nimbleness and dexterity and applying it to internal processes and workflow. It’s about creating an internal framework that is:

  • Flexible
  • Adaptable
  • Empowering

It’s a framework that takes advantage of opportunities associated with adapting strategically to environments, people and content in real time. That’s what agile marketing is — adapting strategically to opportunities in real time.

But there’s more to it than just proactive reactions. What agile marketing allows for, through its methodology, are the advantages associated with minimizing internal friction and waste. If you’re a process gal or guy, this is where the magic (truly) happens.

So we defined it and have an overview of what it is. What’s next?

Let’s Talk About What Agile Marketing Is Not

It is not about being able to tweet fast or put up a billboard in front of another billboard. It’s not about being “snarky” or being in on the joke. It’s not about being funny, “punny” or quick to respond on social media.

These are all things that can be done through an agile approach. But it’s not agile marketing, per se. But for the sake of consistency and not discrediting the organizations that have implemented the agile methodology, let’s agree that tweeting fast is a tactic that can be employed (with fewer barriers), if your organization is agile.

Now That We Have That Out of the Way, Let’s Talk About What Agile Marketing Is

Agile marketing is a methodology that will allow a team to make strategic decisions in a timely manner. It’s a process that enables your team to be nimble and cut through the red tape. It allows for empowered employees to make swift decisions and to bypass the (usual) barriers to entry of the corporate internal-to-external communication process.

It is also a progressive thought process from upper-level management. You know, the HiPPOs (highest paid person in the office, or highest paid person’s opinion). Being able to relinquish a portion of control of the brand voice to a channel like social media — an amplified and volatile channel — is a rare and brave thing. Maybe not brave, but risky at least.

But we also have to be careful. Humans are, well, human, and the faster we take an idea and syndicate it, the more prone we are to mistakes. With great power comes great responsibility, and as we keep seeing, time and again, companies can really affect the perception of their brand (and voice) through messages communicated on social media channels. In fact, we wrote a blog about just this phenomenon a few weeks back. We also wrote a blog post about using a social media response plan, which might come in handy in situations of human error.

It’s quite imperative and in the interest of the HiPPOs to make sure your organization has the right people working in these sensitive positions.

The Origin

Its tactics stem from agile development and management techniques that allow (software) companies to take an iterative and organic, yet strategic and adaptable, approach to developing software and creating new products, etc. This approach uses “sprints” and “scrums” as the backbone of the methodology.

In 2001, 17 programmers gathered at a ski resort to found the “Agile Marketing Manifesto.” I know what you’re thinking, programmers and skiing? Not likely. Anyway, the manifesto highlights seven different values that are at the core of the methodology:

  • Validated learning over opinions and conventions
  • Customer-focused collaboration over silos and hierarchy
  • Adaptive and iterative campaigns over big-bang campaigns
  • The process of customer discovery over static prediction
  • Flexible vs. rigid planning
  • Responding to change over following a plan
  • Many small experiments over a few large bets

The Process

The main tenet of the process is that it has to be flexible to accommodate change. This is the cornerstone that it is based on. Without the flexibility of being able to adapt to change for the marketing climate, product changes and industry trends the approach of agile marketing can’t be successful.

Agile Process

Scrums

A “scrum” is the blueprint for managing the project. It (usually) includes a log, assorted project tasks, goals, and other points of emphasis. In essence, it includes the details of the project. The scrum is also led by a scrum master (which anyone in their right mind would love to add to their business card). The scrum master is the project manager. Oh, and you can absolutely get certified as a Scrum Master by the Scrum Alliance. This bears repeating: You can be a certified Scrum Master by the Scrum Alliance. Coolest. Thing. Ever.

Sprint

A “sprint” is a short, measurable, detailed period of time to complete a specific task within the project. Essentially it’s a deadline for a portion of the project. Sprints can be asynchronous and simultaneous, but they can also be parallel to the completion of the project.

The sprint (and scrum) process includes a sprint review, a sprint retrospective and sprint planning. These are all symbiotic with one another, and yet they can be implemented individually.

Sprints and scrums together are devised so that there is little friction against a team’s possibility of finishing a project. If you want a visual, think of the sprints as Gail Devers and the hurdles as the barriers for the project.

The scrums are often short stand-up meetings where the details are gone over quickly and any possible obstacles are addressed. These can be daily or a few times per week, depending on the scope of the sprint or project. Usually at this time the following questions are asked:

  • What was done yesterday?
  • What will you or they do today?
  • Are there any obstacles?

This methodology empowers teams to address possible barriers in a timely fashion and figure out how to circumvent them, or what must be done to finish the specific tasks. It strips down the work and directly addresses obstacles so the solutions can be brought forth.

The Benefits

The end game is always to improve. Whether that applies to internal processes, production or management doesn’t matter. Since organizations are run by humans, we always strive to progress and improve.

The major benefits associated with the agile approach include:

  • (Increased) productivity
  • Transparency
  • Ability to adapt
  • Customer satisfaction, engagement and loyalty
  • Improved internal communication
  • Less waste
  • Awareness

So What?

How does this relate to what you are doing? Well, the methodology is (in theory) so easy to implement that we think any organization, or team, can benefit from it.

Here are a few tips that can help your team and you become more agile.

  1. Real-time information gathering
    Use an RSS reader to gather information. This is the easy part. Grab an account with Feedly, Pocket, and InstaReader. Conduct regular Twitter searches. Monitor trending topics. Follow industry leaders. Create feeds for key words that make sense for your business and industry. This will allow you to stay current with news and enable you address real-time opportunities in your daily or weekly scrums.
  2.  Empowering the scrum master
    Being agile is all about the response time and timely execution. If your company’s culture doesn’t allow for real-time syndication, you will risk losing out on opportunities. Empowering the person that “presses send” on your external communication is imperative. Note: Givingsomeone carte blanche to be your brand voice on social channels can be the equivalent of a really, really big trust fall.
  3. Meeting efficiency and communication
    Incorporate standing meetings when it’s applicable. Standing meetings are generally shorter and more focused. They are a good way to get away from “meeting fatigue.”
  4.  Have fun
    Have fun and be human in your (external) messaging. Have the guts to be informal (if your brand voice allows for it) and show that there are humans behind the brand. Most audiences respond to transparency and authenticity.

But wait, there’s more! This is where I would show you an example, or two, of companies that have been able to move fast and do extraordinary things. Surprise, we have a full blog post dedicated to some of the best agile marketing examples out there.

Time Is a Flat Circle

Thanks to technological advances and social media, the messaging of brands can be executed and syndicated in record time, and social channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have become an extension of (most) brands voice. In many cases, social channels are the only instance where brands make impressions on their customers today.

Brands will continue to push the envelope using agility and speed to try to harness the opportunities that can be associated with gaining fame for being “human” on social media and other channels.

Using agile marketing should enable brands to stay relevant and keep up with the rapid changes of the current communication landscape. In this quick-paced corporate climate, without the dexterity of an agile approach, brands run the risk of “pulling a hammy” and being left on the sidelines, watching the competition score instead.

Niclas Hulting
Inbound Channel Manager
BMDG

Photos: Twitter and AgileMarketing.net

Niclas Hulting

Niclas Hulting

Director of online content strategy who enjoys the strategic part and feels content about the other. Loves to read fantasy and industry books. Writes about social media and content strategy most of the time.

Meet Niclas Hulting