If you’re not actively marketing all the time, you’re letting the parade pass you by. To take advantage of ever-present, ever-changing opportunities, your team can use agile techniques to help with marketing.
Analysis paralysis: It’s a catchy word combination and a real issue that affects marketers the world over. In most organizations, marketers are deliberators and analysts. We mull over problems, analyze plans from all angles, and consider every possible outcome before we implement a campaign. We break down a campaign into multiple components and theorize about how each should perform and how much every minute or click will cost, all while analyzing results we don’t yet have, only to end up scrapping our plan and starting over. It can be a lengthy and painful process.
And, in these fast-moving times, it’s killing us. Consider the enormous amount of information that moves around the Internet in just one day, according to a recent article from The Social Skinny:
- Enough information is consumed to fill 168 million DVDs.
- 294 billion emails are sent.
- 2 million blog posts are written (enough posts to fill TIME magazine for 770 million years).
- 532 million statuses are updated.
- 250 million photos are uploaded.
- 864,000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.
- More than 35 million apps are downloaded.
It’s easy to see that if you’re not actively marketing all the time, you’re letting the parade pass you by. To take advantage of ever-present, ever-changing opportunities, your team needs to be more flexible and responsive to both fluctuating customer and market needs. To get there, you’ll need to set in motion a workable model that works out the kinks as you go.
I know, I know. The very idea strikes fear into the hearts of most of us. I used to be right there with you, but there is a better way. It’s agile.
Agile, the Antithesis of Analysis Paralysis
The developer community, faced with similar challenges, figured out a new way to overcome laborious project planning and ensuing lengthy development cycles a decade or so ago. Today, developers and marketers alike are reaping the benefits of agile methods that advocate sprints over marathon launches. For marketers, this approach addresses many traditional pitfalls while introducing new challenges.
For instance, while agile marketing emphasizes speed and iterative improvement, a more traditional approach focuses on lengthy planning cycles intended to deliver the perfect campaign from the start. The old-school, process-heavy, analysis-reliant methods that marketers cut their teeth on have their place—providing a fundamental framework for marketing—but today they can no longer have our time. With the ubiquity of the internet and the ease and speed in which we can gather and disseminate information, the pace of business has exploded. Marketers today need to move faster than the competition and must do more with less. By implementing an agile methodology, marketing can create more focused activity, take advantage of rapidly changing market conditions, get quicker feedback on successes (and failures), and achieve incremental successes based on that feedback.
Yet, marketers should take a “look before you leap” approach before jumping into agile. Depending on the size of your organization and your current marketing methods, there are a variety of challenges to consider, such as team structure and the ability to adopt and adapt to new processes. Some of these challenges are simple to overcome up front, while others may take more effort throughout the transition. Addressing possible issues at the outset alleviates frustration and increases the likelihood of success for both the organization and individual team members.
To keep you on the right path, consider the following “hot spots” to watch out for when introducing agile marketing into your organization.
1. To get off on the right foot, emphasize the cultural shift.
Agile isn't just about following a process. It also requires a mindset that supports a new culture around agile values. That’s where many organizations fail. Agile’s principles are human-centric; everyone must be on board and available for it to work. It can quite literally take a village to orchestrate a successful marketing campaign. To be successful, you must find, assemble and nurture a team that is committed to agile’s iterative practices and can handle the pace of change and exposure to risk, failure and the unknown.
The trick here is to consider how an agile shift impacts every personality on the team. Some may fare far better than others, so when building your marketing team, look outside of the usual suspects to identify budding talent or the best fit. For example, “Frank” was great at planning and executing on eighteen-month launch cycles, where he could assemble detailed plans and reflect on each element of the launch. In the end, though, his work style didn’t complement the multitasking and quick decision making required for a three-week sprints. In my experience, people with an agency background have an advantage over those who have only worked in house, because of the pace of change at agencies.
2. Use a platform to get everyone on the same page.
Not surprisingly, marketers gravitate toward communication and collaboration over process and tools, but there is a happy medium. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that today’s technologically advanced processes and tools are the foundation for growth. They facilitate team, department and organizational collaboration, and are crucial for keeping marketing efforts tethered to overall business goals, especially in light of today’s increasingly dispersed teams.
Collaboration tools, such as websites, intranets, social networks, and document repositories that allow teams to pool their efforts, are important because they integrate the team’s efforts around their marketing activities. They provide structure so that creatives can take a more methodical, focused look at strategies and tactics, and they ensure that the entire team is aligned and putting its effort behind the most business-relevant goals. As a result, every team member is on the same page, regardless of role, location, or project stage.
Ideally, the platform should encourage team members to introduce ad hoc tasks and then operationalize them over time. Specifically, the ability to record tasks, ideas, and other pertinent information in a centralized location is key. This shared space, like the Mindjet map below that we use for tracking our own sprints, ensures that all the information is transparent and up to date, so that the team can move forward and deliver the most value.
Figure 1. Here’s an example of agile marketing sprints laid out in an intuitive information map so members can track and execute on the entire project.
3. Improve through transparency.
Speaking of transparency, there’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.” As applied to agile practices, following this proverb will help you become more transparent, and this transparency allows you to iterate for better effectiveness and team involvement. Both are big benefits that also amp up your department’s morale. As we all know that good communication reinforces desired behaviors, leading to a team’s success.
But, don’t stop there. Involve the team in the process from beginning to end by conducting daily stand-ups. Additionally, step back to perform an objective analysis before recommitting for the next sprint. Not only does this increase retention and eliminate surprises, but it also alerts team members to possible deadline misses, giving them more time to take corrective action, better vision to see opportunities and upcoming deadlines, and increased performance and more consistent success.
If you take these simple steps, you’ll be off and running. With a little preparation—priming yourself and your team for a series of sprints toward the finish—you’ll ensure that everyone is on board and can adjust and thrive through change and transition, which leads to faster and better results. After all, the iterative nature of agile marketing is a process of continual improvement, and who can’t get on board with that?