Agile software development, Agile organizations, the Agile project manager. And Agile marketing. You've seen the word grace apps and articles alike, all promising speedy execution, self-directed teamwork, or massive ROI. And you might be thinking: "This has gotta be a buzzword. When will it die down already?"
But is "Agile marketing" really just an overhyped term for what marketers have been doing all along? Or is it the effective method for managing campaigns that believers say it is?
Let's take a look at both sides.
Why Was Agile Invented in the First Place?
To better understand what Agile is and where it came from, you should know what circumstances brought the idea to fruition. Check out this video (Length: 2:07):
The Agile Manifesto of Software Development, written in 2001, brought an innovative mindset to building software. The focus was on delivering value and collaborating with customers. The entire approach was condensed into four main values:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
The reason that a bunch of developers put this together was because the software industry was in desperate need of change. The processes being used to create and release software products to customers was hobbling along, crippled by delays (some of them lasting years), wrecked budgets, and processes that were more useful for creating hardware widgets on a physical assembly line than coding software on a desktop computer.
Agile was conceived as a philosophy to drive how software is made. Agile states overarching principles that any group can create frameworks or workflows for. It was never meant to be a specific methodology or a prescribed playbook.
Fast forward to today. Agile is now no longer confined to the realms of software and IT. You'll read a mountain of online articles on marketing teams adopting Agile methods, or HR teams, construction teams, and yes, even Agile families.
Is Agile Marketing Just an Overhyped Buzzword?
One side of the argument says there is no magic bullet that will make the complexities of marketing easier. Because each company (each team of marketers, even) is unique and working on campaigns that are typically one-of-a-kind, there will be no one-size-fits-all method for making teamwork painless.
If you take a look at successful major projects that happened years before the Agile manifesto or standup meetings in Scrum teams (projects such as the Apollo 11 moon landing, or any of the effective TV campaigns on US television in the 1950s) you'll see that work progressed and was completed without buzzwords like "iterative cycles" or Kanban. Just teams meeting face-to-face to discuss creative briefs, iron out dependencies, communicate with stakeholders, and get work done the old-fashioned way.
Throughout history, marketers have simply been trying to do work that is as outstanding as possible, as quickly as possible.
Then along came Agile, which was hyped and sensationalized by the technical press and online media, and suddenly, Agile marketing is touted as the hot, new thing.
Canadian software engineer Scott Ambler once said, we don’t need repeatable processes, we need repeatable results.
The argument continues: for results-driven marketing organizations, method shouldn't be the focus. Instead, keep your eyes on the outcome. Do what needs to be done to get consistent results, whether that's Agile, Waterfall, or any of a dozen other project management methodologies.
In short, those on this side of the argument say that there are Agile drawbacks — Agile marketing is just a trendy term for what marketers have been doing for ages. It won't miraculously make complex campaigns quicker to execute.
Or is Agile the Top Strategy That Marketers Should Embrace?
The other side of the debate states that Agile marketing isn't a short-lived fad. (And it certainly didn't help that in its early days, it was being called A4M, short for "Agile for Marketing!")
Sure, it was codified only in 2001, but elements of this philosophy have been around since the 1970s, some even as far back as the 1950s.
And more importantly, the forces that led to the creation of Agile have not gone away. We still have constant change, we will always have a chaotic influx of work requests, and there will always be tight deadlines and zero bandwidth.
Those who swear by Agile marketing methods do so because of the results they get: speed of execution and innovation born from collaboration.
- Because Agile marketing is customer-focused and collaborative, it can quickly create value from its lean approach; from building and testing campaigns in iterations and constantly improving them. After all, why wait for an entire email blast to finish before you A/B test a variation of your email subject line on a small percentage of your list?
- Because Agile marketing is biased toward quick action (versus non-action), it means creating cross-functional teams. It leads toward more coordinated and informed teamwork throughout an organization, and not just within a marketing department.
- Because Agile marketing is about responding to change, it allows marketers to quickly pivot when, for example, Google updates its search algorithm (yet again!) or an international news event captures the attention of the globe.
Jonathan Colman, UX content strategist at Facebook, recorded a really good video introduction to Agile marketing that captures all its benefits (Length: 8:12):
Technically speaking, Agile marketing is the application of the Agile philosophy and values into marketing tactics in order to focus on customers and create value for them in ways that solve their pain points.
As such, it's not a buzzword for the diehard Agile enthusiasts. It's a method for squeezing success out of the sheer madness of modern marketing.
The Proof That Agile Enables Marketing Results
Where's the proof that Agile isn't just a buzzword or a fad? Well, the benefits of Agile marketing can be placed into two large buckets:
1. Agile Marketing Improves Business Execution. Productivity levels rise and velocity improves as focus on customers increases.
- 93% of CMOs who employ Agile methods state that their speed to market for ideas, campaigns, and products has improved. (Forbes, 2014)
- 80% of CMOs using Agile increase the velocity of delivered work. (CMO.com)
2. Agile Marketing Increases Employee Engagement. Team members collaborate and are more accountable to one another, resulting in better morale, employee engagement, and ultimately, job satisfaction.
- 87% of Agile CMOs have found their teams to be more productive following the transition to Agile marketing. (Forbes, 2014)
In our 2016 State of Agile Marketing report, we surveyed over 800 marketers and discovered that:
- 63% of marketers who practiced Agile were very satisfied with their work, versus 26% among non-Agile marketers.
- 79% of Agile marketers felt that their meetings were extremely valuable, vs. 46% of those who don’t practice Agile.
There are more benefits of Agile marketing examined in the Slideshare below.
How Agile Marketing Worked for Us
Here at Wrike, it may be obvious which side of the debate we weigh in on. Our very own marketing department can illustrate how effective Agile marketing is.
First, our marketing operations team implemented weekly sprints and an organized intake process via Dynamic Request Forms. Their cadence soon allowed for faster execution and testing on ad campaigns.
Then, our content marketing team transitioned to weekly sprints and daily standup meetings to align around priorities and air roadblocks. We also implemented Request Forms to deal with the large amount of incoming proofreading tasks from every corner of the company.
The result? Both teams are now better able to deal with a high influx of work and execute in a timely manner without dropping the ball. Both teams experience the type of collaborative teamwork that athletes in team sports experience.
Agile marketing methods work and do indeed produce outstanding results.
Perhaps it's time to make your marketing team fully Agile.
Time to Get Agile
If you want truly in-depth strategies for making your marketing team Agile, download the free guide, 7 Steps to Developing an Agile Marketing Team.