Agile Marketing: what is it; what are the benefits; links to resources.
Two weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised by the Social Media Club of Seattle (SMCSEA) panel about agile marketing. Going in I had assumed they were using “agile” as an adjective, as in “nimble”, where in fact the panel began talking about my old friend Agile, as in the highly effective team collaboration and product delivery tool from the realm of software development. Although it was news to me—in fact you could have knocked me over with a feather when they said it—it appears some folks have been applying Agile to the work of marketing departments, and these departments (or at least the panel members and their departments) love the results.
The SMCSEA panel:
- Todd Shimizu (moderator), SVP at Ant’s Eye View
- Kevin Scott, director of marketing operations and technical services at Cisco
- Jonathon Colman, internet marketing program manager at REI
- Greg Meyer, whose mission it is to deliver “Customer Wow” at Desk.com
- more about the SMCSEA Agile Marketing event here
What is Agile?
I may take some lumps for going rogue here (or is is “going rouge”—I’m never sure anymore since that spate of Sarah Palin bios came out), but here’s my own original attempt to define “agile”:
In software development, and increasingly in other fields, “Agile” is a simple set of principles that define individual team member roles, and a sequence of interactions between these roles, which enable team members to rapidly prioritize and deliver tangible results. The agile method focuses on prototyping and delivery in a series of short “sprints” of days or weeks. After each iteration the team decides whether deliveries and processes are working out as hoped, and adjusts rather than working on projects for months or years before correcting course. Agile works equally well for developing new deliverables from scratch and keeping existing products or projects updated.
You can also check out the Wikipedia definition of Agile Software Development.
The SMCSEA panel members didn’t seem to prefer one flavor of Agile over another. Instead they encouraged everyone to start reading about Agile methods and trying them out.
What are the benefits of Agile Marketing?
With Agile all projects, including big ones, are built out of a series of quick turnaround iterations. This structure provides
- immediate rewards for stakeholders (“look, here’s a simple but functional version of the deliverable”, or, “hey, we just finished the third round of enhancements”), which is a reward schedule that most people these days crave, and which promotes individual creativity and productivity;
- immediate feedback about which end-products worked and which didn’t (“oops, I guess we were wrong about that assumption”), which enables real-time course-corrections; and
- immediate feedback about where the process is failing (for example, which team members are being overwhelmed), which allows resources to be re-allocated…and expectations adjusted…in real time.
A feature that one panelist liked about Agile Marketing was that Agile’s cycles of prototyping and delivery make elaborate SOWs (“Statements of Work”: formal documents that attempt to define long-term project roles and results) unnecessary. Time that would have been spent developing and administering imperfect plans are spent on delivery and refinements instead.
One key insight from the panel, which rang especially true for me, is that the feedback marketers have been receiving via social media has undermined many of the basic assumptions of traditional marketing, which has been oriented around “demand generation” on a seasonal time scale. Marketing departments need feedback-driven, turn-on-a-dime “agility” (to coin a phrase) to engage with the what’s-happening-now tempo of social media marketing. And with Agile they can deliver other aspects of marketing with the same speed and responsiveness required by social media.
Links to Agile Marketing Resources
This is by no means a comprehensive list! But these are some good starting points for someone who wants to begin exploring Agile Marketing.
Kirsten Knipp’s overview post Get Agile: Running a Marketing Team like a Startup
A slide deck by Todd Shimizu expressing Ant’s Eye View’s point of view concerning Agile Marketing and his recap of the SMCSEA panel he moderated
Updated: Here’s Jonathon Colman‘s awesomely illustrated SlideShare deck “What Star Wars Stormtroopers Can Teach Us About Agile SEO” (mentioned during the SMCSEA panel)
…I especially like the blackboard, slide 22—”I WILL find the Droids I’m looking for”…but don’t miss the effectiveness metrics, starting with slide 25, links to Agile Marketing resources, slide 32, and the “blooper reel” slides at the end.
Please contribute your experiences with agile marketing and your favorite resources in the comments section. (For the record, promoting your own site via comments is OK with me—as long as it contributes to the discussion.)