Living the 5 values of agile marketing
A rundown of agile's next wave.
In an ever-changing marketing landscape, we need to continuously look towards the future of our industry. This September, agile marketers from around the world came together to help shape the next wave of agile in the marketing space with a revised Agile Marketing Manifesto.
The History of Agile Manifestos
The first agile manifesto, the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, was created in 2001 and has led the idea of what it means to be agile in terms of values and principles for 20 years. When this was created, there was a great divide between business people and software developers and a lot of this original manifesto was to help foster better collaboration between these two parts of companies. This manifesto is still used today.
While software teams pioneered the agile movement, they soon realized that agility is a cultural change that the whole company needs to get behind. This next wave is often referred to as ‘business agility’ where we transform old ways of working across software, human resources, finance, and of course, marketing.
The agile movement began with a very small group of early adopters in marketing nine years ago, when they created ‘Sprint Zero’, which was the birth of the first Agile Marketing Manifesto. The group intended to revise the values and principles frequently, but it took nearly a decade for that to become a reality. With a lot of collaboration from the community, the new manifesto is a true reflection of where we are today in a world that’s unpredictable, global and vastly remote.
The Agile Marketing Manifesto is a single source of truth to ground marketers that want to be agile in the cultural changes they need to live by. We’ll explore the five updated values (down from the original seven) and ways that your company can live them in day-to-day operations.
Value #1: Focusing on Customer Value and Business Outcomes Over Activity and Outputs
Traditionally, marketers are measured by quantity over quality. How many articles did you produce? How many social media posts were launched? How many hours were you utilized? While delivering something is definitely better than only analyzing and delivering nothing, volume doesn’t tell us anything about impact to our customers.
- Discuss desired outcomes before beginning any work.
- Measure success at early intervals. Did the tactic perform as expected?
- Be willing to pivot and change work that under-performs.
- Double down on high-performing marketing.
- Have team members focus on collaborating to finish all pieces of work (writing, design, etc) and have it customer-ready.
- Reward people for output or hours worked.
- Work on things just because they are in the plan.
- Measure teams on the number of stories they did – often less is more!
- Focus on tasks of individual roles.
Value #2: Delivering Value Early and Often Over Waiting for Perfection
It’s really common to think about everything we want in our marketing deliverables, making them pixel perfect and having everyone that may have an opinion get their eyes on it before it goes live. However, there is a really big cost to that—we may be late to market, miss an opportunity or simply just spend too much money on inventory on the shelf, because that’s what our work is when it’s not usable by customers.
- Think in terms of minimally viable; what’s the simplest version we can get out there that still meets our desired outcome?
- Reduce the number of hand-offs and sign-offs needed to go live.
- See where you can repurpose existing content and images.
- Consider delivering what you have now, but adding the bells and whistles later (maybe your website just needs to be usable, but it can have more functionality later).
- Can a non-expert pitch in and help? Perhaps you don’t need your best designer for some simpler pieces.
- Get caught up in analysis paralysis.
- Spend too much time with upfront planning.
- Wait until you have the ‘expert’ available if that person is in high demand.
- Have an all or nothing approach to getting work in front of customers.
Value #3: Learning Through Experiments and Data Over Opinions and Conventions
If you’ve ever been told, “We’re going to that trade show because we do it every year,” that may be a sign that your company has some conventional thinking going on. With this value, we want to move away from complacency into a world where experimentation, backed by data and learning, is our preferred way of working.
- Allow teams to experiment, even if they may get it wrong the first time.
- Use A/B testing or other methods to learn how customers react.
- Give people time for brainstorming and creative thinking of new ideas.
- Show leaders the data behind a campaign’s performance, and use that to make decisions around future work.
- Keep doing what you’ve always done without questioning why.
- Overload teams with deliverables or they won’t have time to experiment.
- Be afraid to take risks and be wrong.
- Take on work because a very important person thinks it’s a good idea if it’s not what customers are looking for.
Value #4: Cross-Functional Collaboration Over Silos and Hierarchies
In traditional marketing organizations, people work in departmental silos and work gets passed like a baton from department to department, which is a really slow way to work. This old-school culture also requires strict adherence to hierarchies, so oftentimes smart people with good ideas aren’t given a voice. With this value, working on teams together and having a high degree of empowerment to get things done is important.
- Form agile marketing teams with cross-functional skill sets in order to create fully customer-ready marketing initiatives.
- Allow team members to work outside of their job title, rather than only within their specialization.
- Encourage the entire team to be responsible for all aspects of work.
- Form teams with a lot of external dependencies.
- Wait for the ‘expert’ to do work if it bottlenecks your team.
- Create sub-teams within your team, handing off work from person to person rather than everyone collaborating.
Value #5: Responding to Change Over Following a Static Plan
If there’s one lesson we’ve all learned from the pandemic, it’s that plans are highly subject to change, so we must learn to plan flexibly. With agile marketing, we want to make plans, but they should be emergent and flexible rather than static and unchangeable.
- Keep changing your marketing backlog (prioritized list of future work) as you learn more from past campaign performance, customer feedback or market/environmental conditions.
- Create quarterly roadmaps that show your campaign plans, but continually discuss them with stakeholders in real-time and swap things out as change happens.
- Discontinue work that isn’t performing as expected or creating a high degree of customer value, even if it was part of a plan.
- Use ‘we’re agile’ as an excuse to continually insert new work at the last minute – that will actually hinder your teams’ productivity.
- Spend too much upfront time planning work in great detail, or you may be wasting time.
- Create plans that can never change.
When your agile marketing seems to be stuck in a rut, go back and revisit these values with your company and see where improvements can be made. We hope you can appreciate and live by the new and improved agile values in your day-to-day work as a marketer.