Six years have passed since the release of the Agile Marketing Manifesto. In this post, Stephen Marino, agencyQ’s President and Chief Strategy Officer, and Chris Coelho, Director of Digital Marketing, are stepping back to examine how Agile Marketing is holding up and what organizations should keep in mind when considering adopting an agile approach to marketing.
A Brief History
Back in 2012 the Agile Marketing Manifesto was created. The manifesto came as a reaction to the growing number of channels available for marketers to use, the inefficiency of traditional marketing frameworks, and growing expectations of clients with regards to ROI and performance. Given the success of Agile Software Development, Agile Marketing was underpinned by similar ideas:
Agile Marketing Manifesto
- Validate learning over opinions and conventions.
- Adhere to customer-focused collaboration over hierarchy and silos.
- Big Bang Campaigns are out. Iterative, Adaptive campaigns are in.
- Employ customer discovery over static prediction.
- Favor flexible instead of rigid planning.
- Embrace change instead of adhering to a plan.
- Use small trials instead of large, set campaigns.
What makes Agile Marketing an effective marketing framework?
Stephen Marino: The reason Agile Marketing can be so effective is that it places the emphasis on customer engagement, via timely and continuous delivery of messages that answer customer questions or deliver on an organization’s promises. Agile Marketing ensures that marketing helps to solve problems because it is, at its core, responsive.
Chris Coelho: What I love about Agile Marketing is the importance it places on learning. It prioritizes data-availability over unproven hypotheses. This means that we’re able to push through that upfront planning period in a manner that’s both thoughtful and accelerated. “Fastforwarding” through the upfront strategy phase allows for getting messaging out in the market more quickly, which leads to getting valuable feedback on marketing efforts more quickly.
So Does that mean Agile Marketing is less strategic than a more traditional marketing engagement?
SM: Not at all. Agile Marketing is not just about speed or going in without a plan in place. Agile Marketing actually demands a strategic vision that is tied to short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals.
Now like Chris mentioned, in a more traditional marketing environment, planning can often happen on an annual basis, can take months to develop, and the strategic underpinnings of the plan won’t be revisited until the next planning session. This prevents organizations from being truly responsive, and more importantly innovative, over the course of the year.
Instead, Agile Marketing puts you into a plan-execute-assess loop, not too different from the Agile Software Development model. By employing plan-execute-assess, marketers can continually measure the success of their campaign and assess the potential viability of upcoming tactics and strategies. So we’re still planning, we’re just planning on a recurring schedule and it does away with the notion that we have to account for every possible outcome in our upfront plan.
CC: The initial planning phase of an AM engagement is really focused on establishing measurement and optimization framework built around agreed upon goals, KPIs, and rules of engagement. So there’s team-wide agreement that when things don’t perform, we will iterate and optimize.
Why has the concept of Agile marketing continued to hold appeal for marketers?
SM: Simple. Our marketing clients’ expectations continue to rise; the array of platforms, channels, and tools available for us to use is constantly growing; and the measurement technology that we employ continues to get much more sophisticated. AM accounts for all of these elements and the regimented decisioning allows for us to move forward while improving our efforts without getting paralyzed by all the available options.
CC: Yes, what Steve said. I'd add that Agile Marketing is really an approach to your marketing process that can be applied and incorporated in a technology-agnostic & channel-agnostic fashion. And so it can also be layered over other marketing approaches. Said another way Inbound Marketing and Agile Marketing are not mutually exclusive.
Is there anyone that Agile Marketing would not be a great fit for?
CC: I think there are times where brands want to leverage big, high-impact advertising opportunities that are done as one day programs or in short bursts where there’s no real opportunity for optimization, or when the medium doesn’t allow for real-time data availability. Print media is an example. For instances like these, there’s certainly the opportunity to apply an agile process to the setup, execution and launch of the program, but the benefit of that plan-execute-assess loop Steve highlighted won’t be there.
Any parting words for folks new to Agile Marketing?
SM: I think if you or your organization are just starting to shift towards Agile Marketing you are still well ahead of the game. Don’t get discouraged. It is a massive undertaking to disrupt the way things have traditionally been done and speed bumps are to be expected. Agile Marketing is not a sprint (although there are sprints in the effort). Agile Marketing is more like a marathon and you will need someone to advocate for the Agile Marketing methodology to keep it alive in order to achieve the long-term benefits that initially attracted you to it. Agile Marketing calls for the continuous refinement and improvement of your marketing efforts. You must also seek continuous improvement for your organization’s application of Agile Marketing.
CC: Check your egos at the door. There is a real need for quick decisioning in Agile Marketing and it is not sustainable if those in charge of implementing an Agile Marketing framework have not been empowered to make decisions based on the data they’re seeing.