One of the hallmarks of an agile software team is a continuous, transparent feedback loop across development and operation — a concept known as DevOps. When it comes to Agile Marketing, well you’ll want a similar collaborative culture — MarkOps — to identify and solve problems. In its simplest form this means moving away from the ‘waterfall method’ of marketing — the traditional lengthy development process that backs up most marketing campaigns — to short iterations.
This approach is extremely relevant for marketers faced with a new age of engagement in which a series of targeted short-term promotions or messages are beginning to outperform more traditional long-term “integrated campaigns”. Indeed traditional marketing has been turned on its head by increasingly disruptive technology and the connected customer. It’s not enough to plan campaigns and follow best practices anymore; as a marketer you have to be agile and (warning: cliché alert)…think in real time.
What does real time mean for the marketer? That connected customer, your customer, people just like you, is ‘always on’. You don’t have a small window in their day to try and reach them anymore, as they’re switching from screen to screen, device to device, with such limited spans for attention, it’s ore about putting the needle through the thread when those opportunities burst for their albeit fleeting moment.
But that’s the point.
As a result, marketing professionals are faced with a new age of engagement – an age in which a series of targeted short-term promotions or messages are beginning to outperform more traditional long-term “integrated campaigns”. This is an age in which the hare beats the tortoise, in which sprinting a mile is better than jogging a marathon. This is the age of agile marketing.
Like we said earlier, taking its roots from the Agile Manifesto for software development, agile marketing is a means to “create, communicate and deliver unique value to an always-changing customer in an always-changing market”. In its simplest form this means moving away from the ‘waterfall method’ of marketing — the traditional lengthy development process that backs up most marketing campaigns — to shorter iterations.
While there is still a place for long-term campaigns, the truth is that with this approach you risk being out of date before your campaign is even launched! Conversely, the objective of agile marketing is to constantly prioritize the customer through short iterations of activity which engage them in real-time. This generates incremental, but still significant results.
The need for this increasingly targeted — but ultimately shorter-term — approach has been driven by a series of recent developments within the marketing community. As social networking has grown in popularity and mobile internet technologies have improved, customers now expect to communicate with brands in real-time, and will actively avoid those that fail to deliver on this anytime, anywhere, any channel world.
I have spent some 27 years as a sales and marketing professional, and for the last 10 years I have prided myself with perfecting the “product marketing discipline,’ yet I’m here to tell you that job, that role as it’s existed no longer applies.
Our profession is one of the youngest, and yet as a discipline it’s been constantly reinvented. What made sense for the Mad Men world of the 50’s and 60’s was totally out of place in the 80’s and 90’s, and what made sense then was changed by the dotcoms.
Now today we face another fundamental change or we as marketers like to say “a paradigm shift,” of epic proportions. Marketing pros need to be ready to take more risks, although they’re risks backed up by more science than we creative folk traditionally like.
Look, this means that yes, sometimes you just have to seize the moment — carpe diem — and forsake perfection in favor of just getting the message out quickly. Customers are bombarded by an unprecedented amount of marketing messages at all times, we all are, and making your marketing efforts more agile is all about reinventing the way you work based on real customer needs at every moment, and pushing compelling, rich and relevant content out (that’s also simpler and quicker to digest).
While many marketers are still afraid of this “always-on” communication, it is the brands that embrace it that will ultimately reap the benefits early on. The king is dead so long live the king, or at least the digital disrupter – the new breed of confident agile marketer. After all, agile marketing is just another way to improve customer connections and increase your response-time when it comes to managing customer needs.
With a bit of help from agile marketing evangelist Scott Brinker we put together six key principles to get started on your agile journey:
Be focused. It is all too easy to confuse responsive agility with short-term thinking and a lack of campaign planning. Make sure you know what you are trying to achieve with each iteration.
Be adaptable. As a marketer you need to know you can’t just expect everything to be mapped out flawlessly every three months. There will always be things that come along, so diversify your plans.
Prioritize the problem. There’s no shortage of marketing problems to solve. Know your priority and throw time and energy into your biggest problem first.
Empower your team. Sometimes the biggest problem is the management barrier. Give your team the right tools and power to tear up processes, when they need to, and encourage creativity and execution in real-time.
Test relevance. Test fast, fail fast and learn fast from your data. Success is a process rather than an end product.
Bonus: Don’t Ignore the Mix! As with all the tools in a marketers’ arsenal, agile marketing is just one (increasingly important) part of a wider marketing mix. Overall, it’s about finding a balance between the long and the short term.