WHAT AGILE MARKETING IS AND WHAT IT ISN’T
If you’ve been halfway tapped into the marketing zeitgeist lately, you’ve seen this phrase: Agile marketing.
Everybody’s talking about it as the “next thing in marketing.” It even has its own manifesto. Despite all this hooplah, however, you shouldn’t feel too bad if you can’t quite put your finger on what Agile marketing is.
Take a look at the Agile marketing groups on sites like LinkedIn, and it becomes clear that more than a few people are a tad confused about it. Is it simply restructuring your marketing and in-house creative teams and their processes to be more nimble? Sort of. Does it just mean streamlining your process and jettisoning any baggage that slows your team down? Kind of.
To give you a nice, clean 20,000-foot explanation of it, Agile is a work management methodology that has been dominating IT work management for the last several years. It has been known to increase teams’ flexibility and ability to react to demand while improving productivity. Now that it’s proven itself effective, the marketing folks have taken notice.
Agile-driven creative teams have reported that their creativity has experienced a major boost once freed from the endless development cycles that can happen in traditional marketing work management. Creative teams have seen their productivity explode by 400 percent and with less fuss. Marketing teams can test and iterate on campaigns faster.
If you’re like most marketers looking for ways to get creative and campaigns on time and with less fuss, here is a quick crash course on Agile and how you can use it to make your marketing and creative teams as creative and effective as they deserve to be…
What Agile Marketing is not
Some less-informed marketers will talk about agile marketing (with a lower-case ‘a’) as simply a mindset or philosophy. Their comments focus on streamlining processes or looking for ways to make your team more nimble and faster to react to opportunities. And it’s easy to see where these ideas come from, since they are basically just going off the adjective ‘agile.’ Not coincidentally, these things are some of the biggest benefits of using Agile (with a capital ‘A’) in marketing.
Unfortunately, this confusion can lead to lots of talk on the subject without the power to actually make those benefits a reality. It’s only when you understand what Agile marketing really is that you start to make progress.
What Agile Marketing is
Simply put, Agile marketing is the application of a specific work methodology (Agile) to the way marketing projects and non-project work is executed.
Where most creative teams produce projects sequentially from step A to step Z, also known as a waterfall methodology, Agile marketing seeks to put your team’s resources into creating a minimum viable product as quickly as possible. It’s also built not to plod along on a single project for weeks, but to accommodate all of your most important tasks—from multiple projects and even ad hoc requests that can be completed in a short timeline.
To accomplish this, Agile requires that all work be broken down into “stories,” which can be chunks of larger projects or small ad hoc requests. Each story tells your team, in a nutshell, what needs to be created. With that information, your team assigns to the story the number of hours they think it will take them to complete the story. Your team divides their time up into periods of time called sprints, which are a week or two weeks. Naturally, every sprint has a set number of hours which will be filled by stories and is intended to be a period of focused creativity that allows ample time for creative team members to explore a number of approaches to a story before moving forward. Again, the stories are chosen for a sprint based on their priority, and the creative team goes to work. Stories are placed on a public burndown chart, where team members and stakeholders alike can see them move from ‘incomplete’ to ‘approval’ to ‘complete’.
As you can see, Agile is quite different from the traditional workflow most creative teams are used to, but the benefits are undeniable. Agile eliminates the bottlenecks and wasted time in found in conventional methodologies and empowers creative teams to collaborate more, and make on-the-fly decisions about a project’s direction, task order, or priority. Hence the name Agile.
This increased productivity and quality, of course, have a direct impact on the companies that use Agile. In fact, studies show that Agile firms grow revenues up to 37% faster and increase profits as much as 30% more than their non-Agile counterparts.