Marketing New Year’s Resolution: Adopt an Agile Marketing Approach in 2021
In 2020, we saw sweeping changes disrupt marketing teams to the core. Campaigns that were months in the making had to be scrapped for parts. Many traditional ways of conducting business and interacting with customers became impossible. While some brands were able to pivot and implement new practices to stay afloat, others, sadly, were not.
A common gripe among marketing teams during the pandemic was, “I wish we were more agile before this started.” That’s because agile marketing is built around adaptability. It’s a marketing approach that allows for change and mitigates risk. Agile marketing has been around for a while, but many teams didn’t adopt it simply because what they were doing was working, and they expected it to continue that way. But as we learned in 2020, nothing is predictable. That’s why in 2021 you need an agile marketing approach to stay competitive and continue to innovate.
In this article, we’ll cover:
What is Agile Marketing?
Implementing Agile Marketing
The Benefits of Agile Marketing
What is Agile Marketing?
Agile marketing means using data and analytics to continuously source promising opportunities or solutions to problems in real time, deploying tests quickly, evaluating the results, and rapidly iterating.
Similar to agile software teams, agile marketing teams use sprints (short, finite periods of intensive work) to complete those projects cooperatively. After each sprint, they measure the impact of the projects and then continuously and incrementally improve the results over time.
The definition of agile marketing is hard to pin down, but the core values of agile marketing paint a clearer picture of how it works in practice.
Responding to Change over Following a Plan
This is not to say agile marketing requires no planning whatsoever. But rather following a plan that is usually one page that specifies priorities for a shorter period of time, usually one quarter. Then, readjusting every 2-4 weeks based on what was accomplished and learned. This differs from the traditional approach - annual marketing plans with long-term commitments to deliver specific programs and campaigns on a set timeline. The point is to integrate the learnings of past projects into future strategies as quickly as possible instead of locking yourself into a rigid plan that’s only revisited, at most, once or twice a year.
Rapid iterations over Big Bang campaigns
Agile marketing eschews lengthy and cumbersome marketing campaigns in exchange for frequent and smaller elements that are iterated upon. This mitigates the risk that a campaign will fail because you’re constantly learning what’s working and what is not. Each element is revisited frequently, which allows agile marketers to adjust on the fly.
Individuals and interactions over one size fits all
Of all the agile marketing values, this is the one that is top of mind for many marketers. That’s because it focuses on personalization, a hot trend in recent years. agile marketers provide individualized buying experiences, and typically invest in some sort of technology to do so successfully. Tactfully handling data is vital for implementing an “Individuals and Interactions” strategy.
Testing and data over opinions
This value is near and dear to Cohley. That’s because we’re built on the fact that content based on testing and data always outperforms content based on opinion or “gut-feel” in the long run. Opinion-based debates over what to do and how to do it waste time, agile marketing eliminates that. Data is seen as the holy truth above all else and it guides project conception, forecasting, and iteration.
Numerous small experiments over a few large bets
Without small experimentation, there is no agile marketing. It’s a non-negotiable that must be included in every project. Deciding what to test is extremely important. When deciding what to test, consider the following:
Impact− Does this address an important business problem?
Scale − Does this affect a large portion of the audience?
Feasibility − Can we execute this test? How difficult is it to implement?
Measurable − Can we accurately measure and determine, with statistical significance if this worked?
Collaboration over silos and hierarchy
Marketing teams are most commonly organized by skills such as PR, advertising, social media, etc. Agile marketing focuses on the customer experience at all times. To do so, every team must be aligned to deliver consistent messaging and user experience along the buyer’s journey. You’ll typically see agile marketing organizations that are organized by fully autonomous “squads” or “tribes.” Because speed is the name of the game in agile marketing, having end-to-end capabilities in each team is a must.
Implementing Agile Marketing
Agile marketing can come in many shapes and sizes. However, it will always include the following elements in some fashion:
Sprints are periods of work that typically last 1-2 weeks. Highest priority tasks are selected from a marketing backlog. If the tasks are larger, they should be split up into multiple sprints At the end of each sprint, teams measure the impact of the projects and then continuously and incrementally improve the results over time. Setting very clear goals for each sprint will help determine if the sprint was successful or not.
Stand up meetings
Stand up meetings are brief and frequent check-ins, typically three times a week. They shouldn’t last than 15 minutes and each team member should cover only a few basic questions:
What did you do the day before?
What are you planning on doing today?
What obstacles have you encountered?
Project tracking board
This can come in the form of sticky notes on a whiteboard, a kanban board, or a project management software like Trello or Asana. In order for agile marketing to work smoothly, you need a centralized place where all sprints are tracked and organized.
The Benefits of Agile Marketing
As the name suggests, agile marketing is focused on adaptability. A marketing team’s ability to adapt to external and internal factors can make or break a brand. As we saw in 2020, the teams already practicing agile marketing were more successful in pivoting their strategies to account for the pandemic. Agile marketing helps companies avoid large campaigns falling flat after months of preparation and spending. Because projects are performed in sprints and revisited frequently, agile marketing teams can make adjustments or eliminate initiatives on the fly. Agile marketing strategies anticipate change, and budget is set aside to account for any unexpected changes.
Agile marketing success relies on close collaboration between various people and departments. Within the marketing team, collaboration increases as a result of sprint management and stand up meetings. Everyone knows what the other team members are working on and how much progress they are making, increasing transparency among the marketing team. Outside the marketing team, Agile marketing increases cross-team collaboration. Tools and resources from multiple teams are required to achieve sprint goals, so communication between marketing and other teams increases in frequency.
Agile or not, monitoring and measuring results is vital to the success of any marketing team. Agile, however, requires constant measurement and subsequent tweaks based on performance. If something is working, agile teams invest more resources into it slowly over time. This ensures that resources are allocated only to high-performing initiatives. With a non-agile approach, teams typically review performance only at the end of a campaign. This means that budgets are being wasted if the campaign ends up being unsuccessful. While you can learn from campaign to campaign, the problem areas will be harder to pinpoint because of the size and complexity of a large campaign. With agile marketing, you’re constantly taking stock of which components are succeeding or failing.
In 2020, 42% of marketing teams reported using at least some parts of an agile marketing approach. So, if you’re currently not using an agile approach, there’s a good chance that a few or many of your competitors are. Those competitors are likely releasing initiatives faster, innovating more often, and working more efficiently. An agile marketing approach is now a necessity, not a differentiating factor, to remain competitive in such a cutthroat digital landscape.
Cohley and Agile Marketing
Cohley is a favorite of many agile marketing teams because of our emphasis on rapid content generation at scale. As you’ve just learned, rapid iterations and numerous small experiments are cornerstones of agile marketing. In order for high velocity testing to work, you need an endless supply of new content coming in. On top of that, the content needs to be acquired for a relatively low cost so budgets don’t balloon out of control. In one example, Cohley helped Rhone go from testing 10-15 experiments per week to over 150 per day. Our approach to content is purposefully agile, utilizing a constant feedback loop to improve testing and optimize content across marketing channels.
If you’re considering implementing an agile approach, or you're missing the content piece to your agile puzzle, contact us today.
Written by Parker Dietz
Parker is a staple in our marketing team - Our Marketing Manager brings with him an intimate knowledge of the platform, and is our go-to on technical topics, and user behavior. With a wealth of knowledge about competitors and pricing, Parker is all about exploring the best way to communicate Cohley's benefits. Outside of work, Parker enjoys poorly playing guitar at parties, watching every Adam Sandler movie ever made, and eating Arabic food.