6 things to know before you adopt Agile marketing

Three experts tell Michael King how B2B marketers can harness Agile marketing to maximise their team's full potential

Before you get cracking and start instigating daily stand-up meetings, the critical thing to know about Agile marketing is that it’s a team sport. Adjusting your management structure can help your team deliver better results, and with Agile, success is mainly underpinned by self-directed teams who work closely together to create a working, tested product that will be valuable to customers. But what else is essential to know about an Agile approach before you begin?

1. Agile is an opportunity to find better ways of working

Shane Redding, digital, data and direct marketing consultant, Think Direct: An Agile approach allows marketers to rapidly test, learn, review and carry out new ways of marketing, whether this is new tech, media, products or go-to-market strategies. It can help break down organisational silos, as well as enable a more customer-centric approach by challenging conventions – and simply find out, is there a better way?

2. Teamwork brings Agile to life

Scott Stockwell, global content marketing leader, IBM Watson Internet of Things: Teamwork is pivotal – autonomous, self-directed teams bring Agile to life. Daily stand-up meetings help teams see who's working on what, and what they can do to help anyone else who's stuck with something. Sprint planning gives everyone a greater understanding of what's involved in the work, and what team members really do. Retrospectives are great ways to look back and forward, and the more honest the team is about how they’ve worked together, the better those teams will become at working together in future.

3. A scrum is not your only option

Andrea Fryrear, founder and chief content officer at Fox Content: The number of posts equating Agile marketing with a scrum is increasing at an alarming rate, and it's crucial that marketers understand this isn't the only way to be agile. A scrum has many benefits, and it might be your best bet. But don't put all your Agile eggs in one basket. Be prepared to evolve your process over time and experiment continuously as you find the methodology that suits your own situation.

4. Structures that are Agile will deliver the best results

Scott: If the company’s management structure doesn’t adopt an Agile way of working, it can cause tension. My experience here is you start off with one or two small teams but they’re still working within a quarterly reporting and budget cycle, and the way Agile encourages you to work is through self-contained, self-directed units in two week cycles. I think the management structure that works is one that understands and has some experience of working with Agile. It’s not the case that the project manager leads the team. Everybody in the team is supposed to contribute something to achieve the end goal.

5. It's not Agile if you only do it once

Andrea: One of the greatest things about Agile is that it systematises experimentation, learning, and iteration. But if we don't revisit our campaigns, content, and initiatives, we lose this benefit. Include the performance of previous marketing work in your planning or review sessions, and use the data you've collected to inform future work. If something is doing really well, expand on it. If there was a big failure, take it as a learning opportunity.

6. A learning-by-doing attitude is at its heart

Scott: Learn on the job and from others in your team, learn from others doing the job through physical and virtual meet-ups – both internally and externally – and see how other companies are running Agile. There are always opportunities to learn, but the best way is by doing – which is at the heart of Agile. Also learn how to use new tools for collaboration (such as Mural, Slack, Zoom, InVision and Box) and Agile working (such as Jira or Trello).

Andrea: A lack of knowledge and training remains the most prominent barrier to Agile’s adoption in marketing, so a simple first step is to learn all you can. There's been an explosion of content online recently which needs to be evaluated critically, because while it means well, it’s been poorly-researched. There are more workshops, webinars, and learning opportunities than ever before so send your whole team when possible, or designate one person to go out regularly, gather all the information they can, and share it with the team immediately.

An Agile marketing glossary of terms:

Retrospectives – These are meetings delivered by the Scrum Master that discuss the progress of sprints, including what went well and what could be improved.
Scrum – This is a type of Agile project management framework with many different applications. In a marketing environment, this framework is the most commonly used.
Scrum Master - This person leads Agile sprint planning meetings, retrospectives and stand-up meetings and will usually be nominated by the rest of the Agile team.
Stand-up meeting – This is a brief, usually daily meeting, which enables the team to look at what they've achieved the day before, the tasks to be completed and potential barriers that may be hindering success.
Sprint – a Sprint is a two to four-week work cycle, which will usually begin with a Sprint planning meeting to discuss the work to be achieved, and will typically end with a retrospective, in order to reflect on what worked well and where improvements can be made.

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6 things to know before you adopt Agile marketing