Agile is more than a buzzword.
It’s a commitment to disrupt the status quo.
It’s acknowledging that the person with the highest paycheck doesn’t necessarily know all the right answers.
Agile marketing is a process where a team of trained and skilled individuals works together on small experiments that are implemented quickly, tested, and adapted or changed to better fit the customer’s needs.
Being an agile team has become a buzzword of sorts. You hear people say they’re an agile team, but when you probe further, often times you’ll see that they haven’t fully committed to the agile planning and process. They use slow procedures or require approvals from separate departments with their own timelines or unreachable individuals.
Those time consuming procedures are exactly what agile marketing disrupts.
Being an agile team requires a framework that works best for the individuals on the team, which is probably why CoSchedule and AgileSherpas found that 54% of agile marketing teams say they use a hybrid approach to their agile framework.
These teams are taking the pieces of the agile framework that works best for them and adapting the process for their own use and growth, and that is precisely what the agile framework is all about.
In this piece, we’re going to dive deep into agile marketing with key insights from Olga Mykhoparkina, the CMO of Chanty, an AI-powered team chat. The team at Chanty uses an agile framework for all of their daily tasks and projects.
We’ll learn what is agile marketing? How do you build a team to follow it? And what are the greatest benefits in making the switch from following an agile framework as compared to a traditional marketing framework.
What is Agile Marketing?
“Agile” as a term and process was born in the software development world. It’s a way for developers to go from idea to execution with very little time in between.
Olga defines agile marketing as “the process where a team of marketers works quickly, collaborates together, focuses on smaller goals over larger bets and continuously improves their work based on the feedback they get.”
The agile framework was born in a time of creating without a concept of what the final possibilities were, and without a clue of what potential problems they would face during the building phase.
Because developers had no idea what kind of future or problems were possible in the early days of the internet, they needed a planning management system that gave them freedom to adapt and change quickly.
At the time, the standard project management style was the waterfall project management approach, which required long-term planning and detailed execution, with each step building upon the last.
Agile marketing came out of a need for a project management system that would allow team members to stay focused on quick wins, while learning as much as they could and creating as quickly as possible.
The agile process worked so well for developers that marketers began to adapt the framework to their needs, and to see amazing results as the benefit.
So, what’s the between agile marketing and traditional marketing?
Agile Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing
There many kinds of differences between an agile marketing team and a traditional marketing team. In their annual report, State of Agile Marketing Report, AgileSherpas defined the two terms as:
- Traditional: we plan our work in advance using a lot of detail and try to stick as closely as possible to that plan.
- Agile: we use at least some part of an Agile marketing approach to manage our work, such as daily standups, a backlog, Sprints, kanban board, etc. We have plans, but they’re flexible and change often.
Agile marketing teams live by a manifesto, rather than a set of rules or a detailed plan like traditional marketers.
The “Agile Marketing Manifesto” has seven core values that each person on the team needs to strive for.
- 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 versus rigid planning
- Responding to change over following a plan
- Many small experiments over a few large bets
Every project and daily task is executed with those seven core values in mind. It’s what allows the agile marketing team to change gears so quickly.
A traditional marketers process is much different. They will usually do market research in the early phases of the company/growth, then create plans months in advance for specific campaigns geared to a specific audience.
Then they create content like- ads, videos, ebooks, blog posts, white papers, and case studies, plan conferences, events, and webinars. Spending thousands of dollars and sometimes months on a campaign. When the campaign is over, they can measure their efforts.
I’ve helped on marketing campaigns that had so many moving parts and pieces the entire campaign took 12 months to launch.
It was a huge endeavor for the marketing team and like most traditional marketing endeavors it did just fine.
The 2nd Annual State of Agile Marketing Report found that to be a very typical response of most traditional marketers. In fact, 27% reported that their marketing efforts were “OK” and that’s why they haven’t switched to an agile framework yet.
Buy why should marketers settle for “fine” and “ok” results when an agile marketing team has 44% better visibility into project statuses, and 40% can identify roadblocks and problems sooner than a traditional team?
We should all want to do better than fine and ok, so I spoke the Olga, the CMO at Chanty, to learn all about how their team has perfected their agile team framework so that they operate like a well oiled machine.
How to Function Like an Agile Marketing Team
Having a small team is an important part of being agile. Jeff Bezos is known for his two pizza team strategy. Meaning if a team can’t be fed with two pizzas; then the team is too big.
The Chanty team consists of 15 people, and each person has their own specific skill set and area of focus.
There is scientific evidence that supports Jeff and the Chanty’s team belief in small team size. Harvard psychologist and expert on team dynamics J. Richard Hackman pointed out, “The larger a group, the more process problems members encounter in carrying out their collective work. […] It’s managing the links between members that gets teams into trouble.”
Work closely together
An agile team must be located near one another. Some startups refer to this as the “War Room” or a “tribe room” or “pod” whatever the term, it needs to be where each person on the team has quick and immediate access to each other. There’s no need to search for empty conference rooms or schedule time in someone else’s office. Everyone you need is close by.
Have daily standups
The Chanty team has a daily standup each morning. The purpose of this quick meeting is to determine what tasks need to be accomplished that day, and who has the skill set to accomplish them.
Olga says, “as soon as we know the tasks for the day, we assign them among each other and get to completing them as soon as possible. At the end of each day, we summarize what we’ve done and find ways to improve it for the day ahead.”
Change is necessary
In order to really be successful as an agile marketing team, you have to be good with change. Change needs to be able to happen quickly.
It’s necessary for someone on the team to see that a call-to-action isn’t working, or that a social post isn’t getting traffic, or that the benefits aren’t clearly stated on a landing page, and have the ability to change those things immediately.
Olga says that at Chanty, “changing requirements are welcome. When a task needs to be changed or prioritized, it is done immediately.”
Set Very Short Term Goals
In my experience, it’s this aspect of an agile marketing team that leaves a lot of traditional marketers shaking their heads. The assumption is that agile marketers aren’t making plans, and only do what they want to do for that day, but that isn’t the case.
An agile marketing team has very clear goals and an action plan to achieve them, the difference is that the goals can be finished, and measured quickly.
It’s not constantly pivoting a process or positioning, it’s experimenting to find what works best, and once it’s found it can be focused on.
The Founder of AgileMarketing.net, Jim Ewel, defines this process as the 70-20-10 rule.
He says, “the idea behind the 70:20:10 rule is that we spend 70% of our budget and 50% of our time on the things that we know that work. We do it broadly across all our audiences.
We then spend 20% of our budget and 25% of our time modifying the things that we know that work and trying to improve them. And the last 10% of our budget and 25% of our time, we spend on wild ideas, things where we fully expect that only about 2 or 3 out of 10 ideas is really going to work, and we focus those things on those creative, wild ideas that are going to be the future 70% and 20%.”
When you divide your time like this, and are continuously adapting pieces of your marketing to be improved upon- your plan grows like a snowball.
The momentum of the plan builds, and before long, you’re creating the perfect materials for just the right audience.
Trust your team
This is a huge part of the agile team success. You have to trust that the people on your team are skilled in their area and capable of making judgements about the process. If you doubt your teammates, or have to double check every decision made, or approve every idea before execution, the agile framework won’t work.
The Chanty team builds projects around motivated individuals, and give everyone the room and the tools they need to get the job done, and then trusts them with the process.
What Are The Benefits to Agile Marketing?
When 400+ agile marketing teams were surveyed by CoSchedule and AgileSherpas 61% said that the greatest benefit to being an agile team was their “ability to change gears quickly and effectively based on feedback.”
The marketing team at Chanty falls in line with the statistics with Olga saying, “I can say that the biggest benefit of this approach is that you can quickly change priorities.”
With markets and trends shifting quickly, and in an era where customers expect a personalized experience, agile teams have the advantage of responding quickly to their customers and meeting their needs based on feedback. If a team can balance the short term sprints with long term higher objectives that meet business demands, it’s obvious why this framework is growing in popularity among marketing teams.
- Agile marketing is a framework that is based on creating quickly, measuring results, iteriating, and then goes back to creating quickly.
- If you want to make the switch to an agile marketing team, you need to have amazing team members, that you trust to do the work.
- Don’t be afraid to piece together your own system of agile marketing. Many teams are using a hybrid approach and seeing great success.
- Start the day with a short meeting, or Standup, and then get to work on achieving the tasks for the day.
- Staying focused on short term tasks and long-term business objectives simultaneously makes for a powerhouse agile marketing team.