The digital era has challenged businesses to adapt to new disruptive market conditions. As part of that, organisations worldwide have had to master new technologies, and many are using them to create disruption themselves. The biggest impact felt by many during this digital revolution may be the increase in the pace at work. The rise of the on-demand economy, as well as an ever-growing demand for personalisation has meant teams have had to adapt to meet the high expectations across the board to deliver products to customers where, when and how they want them.
For many marketers, Agile has provided the answer, and with good reason. There are plenty of examples where Agile has proved to be highly effective in meeting the ‘I want it now’ expectations and improving how quickly marketing teams can react and operate. But as good as these case studies may be, I believe the strategy can go further and deliver more.
Why? Because in my mind, Agile is a philosophy before anything else, and as such, it evolves with time and can be integrated into other best practices. I believe in an enhanced version of Agile Marketing. One that is ever-improving, that learns from its mistakes, and helps teams in the ongoing pursuit of Operational Excellence. To do so effectively however, the right factors need to be in place. Here are three of those:
1. Keeping stakeholders in mind at all times
Regardless of how of prepared a team is, projects hardly ever go according to plan – they simply rarely pan out as they were meant to – and it’s no surprise. Marketing projects are often complex and involve multiple parties, all of which can be the source of an issue or a shift in focus. In order to face this reality, the best approach is to try to anticipate any issues before they occur. Teams need to develop an inherent ability to project themselves into the future and react in advance at any point of progress.
Getting to know clients and stakeholders is key to anticipating these potential changes. Teams should ensure all decision makers are involved in each stage of any project, which requires having the right tools in place to support collaboration, including external parties, such as subcontractors, clients or investors. Each party involved must be aware of the roadmap, and plans must be clear and accessible for collaborative input. And when strategic adjustments do need to be made – and this is almost guaranteed to happen on any given project – the impact of those should be highlighted so any changes can be agreed to and acted upon quickly. One of the biggest benefits of adopting an Agile approach is that it allows teams to pause and update plans as and when necessary.
2. Prioritise collaboration and communication within teams
On a practical and logistical level, the team needs to be kept informed to avoid overlaps, missed communications or even pointless meetings. Controlling processes and workflow can be a challenge however, given the sheer number of tasks and subtasks that marketing teams are often expected to juggle. From designing demand generation programmes to messaging development and value propositions, through to communications, videos or web content, it requires cross-functional and multi-team collaboration. Juggling multiple, and sometimes competing, complex projects successfully demands a single source of truth that everyone can turn to for accurate, up-to-date information. You need a tool that helps you manage not only projects and tasks, but the information as well, and better still, a tool that allows you to automate certain tasks to help lighten the load.
Teams also need to be kept informed from a psychological perspective. A single source of truth helps build trust, interest and commitment within the ‘community’. By being able to see tasks being completed, members can feel reassured they can depend on colleagues, and by creating and sharing dashboards the team can feel like they are doing something that matters – and something that is working.
This approach can only succeed however, if there is a well-defined team structure and order of actions in place. By keeping roles, responsibilities and priorities as clear as possible, the team can easily identify and address roadblocks quickly, determine next steps and bring about any major changes to the project without impacting the overall productivity or on-time delivery of the project.
3. Build scalable processes and aim for continuous improvement
Embracing Agile does not mean randomising processes, but rather having processes that are clear and scalable across the organisation. There needs to be order, and that order needs to focus on creating processes and operations that support the critical factors outlined above: Improving collaboration, work visibility and efficiency.
To create the right processes, marketers should refrain from relying on opinion or habit. Numbers count. Just like building any campaign strategy, marketers need to draw upon available data to help shape processes that will best support your team, and its strategic plans.
Digital marketers are especially lucky because of the ease with which data can be gathered on the go by releasing elements of the project into the market for validation while it’s still in development. For example, movie studios commonly release several designs of movie posters on instagram, and measure which poster receive the most positive fan engagement. This data helps them make additional decisions about marketing as the film’s release date approaches.
You can do similar exercises with your brand by teasing unreleased products and using social media, website banners, or “comments” on your blog to make sure you’re heading in the right direction for both the product itself, and messaging it to customers and potential customers.
An Agile State of Mind
Agile Marketing is first and foremost a mindset, one that demands you accept it is an evolving process. As such, it is paramount teams build time in to reflect and improve processes, eliminate waste and remove bottlenecks to keep workflows efficient. By doing this, teams can increase work predictability, promote self-improvement and ultimately create the culture that leads to Operational Excellence.
There is, of course, no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to marketing processes. Each company and team faces unique and different challenges. However, Agile has much to offer, if done right. There needs to be collaboration between all invested parties, clear structures and actions in place. And perhaps most importantly, an approach that allows for continuous improvements so that teams can thrive and deliver results, regardless of the curve balls that may come your way.