April 21, 2021
Can you pivot on a dime, drive to the open lane and score when it counts? No, I’m not talking about Steph Curry or Damian Lillard. Not exactly, anyway. Marketers need to be as speedy and shifty as NBA point guards in today’s fast-paced, dynamic marketing game.
Speed and agility scores points with customers, which is why more and more marketers are embracing agile marketing best practices. Agile marketing adoption jumped to 51% last year, up from 41% in 2019, according to a report from AgileSherpas and Forrester Research.
Why the sudden rise to agile marketing? The pandemic exposed marketing’s inability to adapt to dramatically changing conditions, as most brands fell woefully short of consumer expectations. But brands with the ability and agility to pivot to digital channels found success amid the chaos, making speed and agility marketing’s winning attributes.
First, let’s define agile marketing. This is a critical first step because many marketers don’t have a clue. The AgileSherpas-Forrester study, for instance, found that the lack of training or knowledge about agile approaches were by far the biggest barriers to adoption.
Here’s a good, albeit long, definition from Workfront: “At its core, agile marketing is a tactical marketing approach in which teams identify and focus their collective efforts on high value projects, complete those projects cooperatively, measure their impact, and then continuously and incrementally improve the results over time.”
Agile marketing is not an out-of-control or poorly planned scrum hellbent on moving fast no matter the cost. Nor is it a license to change directions on a whim. Another important distinction: Agile marketing is not synonymous with Agile software development. Confusion over the term “agile” leads to miscommunication between marketing and IT when collaborating on projects.
For me, agile marketing is marketing’s take on Silicon Valley’s master text, “The Lean Startup” by Eric Reis, published nearly a decade ago. The lean startup prizes speed and agility through a methodology that calls for launching a minimum viable product, learning through testing and data validation, and iterating to achieve better results.
Even in worse case scenarios, the lean startup methodology limits risk exposure. The build-measure-learn feedback loop identifies likely failures, thus enabling the company to fail fast and pivot quickly to a more promising strategy. When applied to marketing, this assumes CMOs have the ability to dynamically reallocate budget on an ongoing basis.
Recently, I was chatting with a marketing executive trained and certified in agile marketing management techniques. He explained how most traditional projects follow a sequential “waterfall” method, whereby step one must be completed before tackling step two. In contrast, agile marketing calls for multiple teams to work on related pieces for short, bursty periods at the same time. Then the pieces are brought together and collaboratively iterated on.
The end result are projects brought to market faster. According to the AgileSherpas-Forrester study, marketers apply agile marketing to these top five areas:
Of course, joining the agile marketing movement isn’t going to be easy. The AgileSherpas-Forrester study cited the following five challenges:
All of these definitions and challenges shed light on the agile marketing movement. The reason why this management style has caught on, why half of marketers have adopted it, is a dire need for speed and agility in today’s chaotic and unpredictable buyer’s journey.
If you’re part of the other half of marketers — that is, if you haven’t yet adopted agile marketing — then you risk falling behind in what has become a drive to the customer, not a lengthy brand-building exercise. The shot clock is ticking.
Tom Kaneshige is the Chief Content Officer at the CMO Council. He creates all forms of digital thought leadership content that helps growth and revenue officers, line of business leaders, and chief marketers succeed in their rapidly evolving roles. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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