Move Over, Developers, Agile is for Marketing Now

Mika Hutton

Why We Adopted Agile Methodology and Why You Should Too

Let’s face it. The quarterly or, god forbid, yearly planning that marketing departments have done for decades is a terrible model. It starts with an all-knowing CMO (don’t get us started on that), typing up a high-level magic plan to rebrand, reposition, go to market and generate a bajillion leads to exponentially grow the company. This is usually done in a complete vacuum and doesn’t involve the product team, operations department, and especially not the sales team they are supposed to be supporting and passing leads to. While plans, goals, KPIs, and objectives are good, they are not good when they are created just to create them. They are especially not good when they are created without any room for adaptability or evolution as things change along the way.

Redesigning Logos, Agile

So what’s a better way to plan, execute and be a rockstar marketing team?

Just like software development, every digital marketing project consists of many tasks… soooo many tasks. Some are big, some are small, but all are important. Unless your team is made of superhumans, this means that you need a system of project management, and some way of organizing tasks and fostering collaboration among team members. Arguably the best method for managing marketing projects is by following the Agile philosophy.

 

What is Agile?

In 2001, seventeen software developers published the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Despite picking the most snoozy title ever, their approach was actually pretty impressive. Their push to move away from rigidly controlled and obnoxiously micromanaged development plans, and to move toward a more… well… agile style of work marked a change in the way developers worked and thought. In the manifesto, they listed four core values:  

  • Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools
  • Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to Change over following a plan
  • Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation

So why the hell are we talking about software development on a marketing blog? Because stealing smart ideas from other industries is easier than reinventing those ideas, of course! While some of the methodology and vocabulary change for use in marketing, the general philosophy and benefits stay much the same. With Agile planning, we are able to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time, give our clients exactly what they need, and easily foster collaboration amongst our team.

 

What Does Agile Implementation Look Like for a Marketing Team?

Just as there are many different flavors of Agile planning in the development world, there are many different implementations that work for marketing as well, some better than others. Let’s take a look at how CleverFunnel implements Agile methodology:

Swedish Fish Oreo?

Just because you CAN make a new flavor doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

Individuals and Interactions

First, CleverFunnel works in two-week sprints, which should sound very familiar to Agile developers. This means that at the beginning of each sprint, we lay out what needs to be accomplished for each client. Maybe one client needs to know what personas they should be targeting, and another needs to know which landing page variant they should use. Each client has a defined goal at the end of the sprint, and everyone on the team knows how to get there. It doesn’t matter who does each task or how, because everyone knows where we need to be on the last day of sprint. This means that it’s easy to manage day-to-day tasks, since we are all working towards a common goal and we can easily communicate with one another, knowing that everyone’s on the same page.

 

Customer Collaboration

Likewise, we report to the client at the end of each sprint. This means that they get new information every two weeks, meaning they see value very early in the process. While it may be more traditional to wait for sales to roll in before reporting on the success of a marketing venture, we can come to our clients, very early in the process, and show them how we’ve established their strongest personas, and let them know what to expect in the next sprint.

 

Responding to Change

This also means that if a client’s needs change, we’re easily able to respond. Rather than being held to a rigidly fixed project plan, we can adapt to what needs to happen. Take, for example, a client who was preparing to launch a new product. Most of our efforts for them were taking the form of launch preparation: determining personas and drivers that worked well for the new product while gathering images and creative material to which their target audiences respond. Midway through these efforts, however, the client attended a large industry show, well suited to demonstrating one of their existing product lines. Because we weren’t held to a rigid long-term project plan, we were easily able to pivot to event marketing for a couple of sprints, and to help their presence at the show make the biggest impact possible.

 

Working Software

This is where the vocabulary changes a bit. While Agile traditionally focuses on producing functional software with just enough documentation to get by, we focus, instead, on producing leads for our sales teams. Rather than delivering one massive marketing campaign, we instead deliver functional groundwork with every sprint. At the conclusion of sprint one in a Growth Marketing campaign, for example, clients would have documentation on their prime personas. After sprint four, they’d have tested and data-based landing pages.

 

Is it Worth Making the Switch?

When it comes down to it, adoption of an Agile framework for marketing project management is an expression of your team’s values and the way you want to work. Do you value adaptability, open communication, and working towards an easily expressed common goal? Do your clients value quick results, frequent communication, and increased flexibility? Maybe not. Traditional marketing agencies that have lots of staff, each with defined roles, may prefer a more rigid structure with vastly different timelines for deliverables, but for growth-stage companies and for growth marketers, the choice should be an easy one. Agile provides just enough structure to hold your team accountable while providing the flexibility to pivot when needed and to accommodate changes in the business and marketing environment.

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