Agile marketing: three main reasons why traditional marketing fails

Agile Marketing: Zoe Merchant, Founder of Bright Innovation, explores the three main reasons why marketing fails

Over the last few years it would be no exaggeration to say that digitalisation has revolutionised business. One of the biggest changes has been the speed with which new products and services (and even companies) can now be designed, built and launched. The problem is that marketing has failed to keep up. Although digital channels have opened up new ways to reach customers; and the ability to service, analyse and use data has made marketing smarter; all too often planning and implementation cycles (especially in the B2B sector) remain slow and cumbersome.

A 2013 report by Forrester Research stated, “The traditional annual planning routine is ripe for extinction, as 69% of our B2B marketing leaders say that conditions change too quickly to keep plans current.” These are the three main reasons why marketing fails:

Slow and inflexible marketing lifecycles

The business environment is changing faster than at any time in modern history. What might work at the onset of marketing planning may be out of date by the end. Service lifecycles are also more rapid and many companies often struggle to keep up with this.

Reactive not proactive

The decision as to which ideas are going to be taken forward is made right at the start of the campaign. But it is usually made based on past experience and/or theory. Go-to-market strategy can often be reactive (responding to previous feedback and inputs) rather than proactive (based on an understanding of the most profitable commercial offerings the market wants to consume at that very moment). There is rarely any research or testing involved.

Limited input from the people that matter

Key stakeholders within a business have limited input into the planning cycle, and often only at the outset. As priorities and go-to-market opportunities evolve or change, there is little continual alignment or chance to steer its development.

As a result marketing ends up becoming disconnected from business needs. As a business’s cycles speed up, marketing gets left behind, and fails to provide what the market is expecting. When marketing planning happens in a vacuum and input only happens at the start, valuable insight is missing from other parts of the business.

The problems do not start and end with planning. The issue of long development cycles, rapidly changing marketplaces, and lack of flexibility has an impact across the whole marketing lifecycle. As both businesses and customers become more demanding – marketing has to evolve.

Enter Minimum Viable Marketing (MVM)

Minimum Viable Marketing is loosely based on Minimum Viable Product – the product development methodology expounded by Eric Riese, which came out of the agile movement.

Simply put; it is the idea of building a minimal viable product and testing it on a live audience to prove concept and guide development. This approach allows ideas to be turned quickly into very basic products, which are then swiftly tested in the most appropriate way.

Feedback is then taken and used to decide whether or not the idea works. Development can then quickly move to the next stage. Underperformance or failure is dropped or adjusted and new ideas are added and further developed.

For each iteration, the process begins again - so that at every stage the idea is being tested and the direction is shifted accordingly. The benefits include:

  • Minimising risk: Initial ideas can be tested quickly and easily, so each can be explored on its merits, with little risk to the business
  • Easily stay on track: Testing ensures that campaigns are in line with what your audience is after
  • Invest small: You don’t need to worry if ideas fail as the investment in them has been small
  • Explore many ideas: A far broader range of ideas can be explored at any one time
  • Collaborate better: Improved engagement with stakeholders (both internal and external) throughout the process
  • Make evidence-based decisions: Decisions are made based on actual data rather than theory

It is not hard to understand how this can be applied to marketing. The explosion in channels, and the number of different tools that exist to take advantage of them, can be almost paralysing. As the pressure grows on marketers to provide demonstrable and quantifiable benefits to the decisions they make, there is a constant fear of getting it wrong.

The Minimum Viable approach enables you to create and test multiple ideas and tactics to identify quickly if something is likely to give you the right results or not. This not only means you have some data to back up your decisions, but it also gives you confidence that the decisions you make are the right ones.