What your CMO needs to hear about agile marketing

Here's what to say (and what not to say) to your executive to identify the value of agile marketing and how to give your team the support it needs to succeed.

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While your marketing team may be all jazzed up about agile, your CMO may need a little more convincing. Find out what to say (and what not to say) to your executive that will help her see the value in agile marketing and give your team the support it needs to succeed.

Don’t sell agile marketing as a process

If there’s one thing that C-levels don’t really have time for, it’s details about a process. CMOs are a lot more concerned about strategy and outcomes versus how we get there, but too many times middle managers approach agile as a process conversation.

When we sell agile marketing as a process conversation two things typically happen—first, we’ve lost them in the details and they don’t really care, and secondly we’ve now just sold agile as a process, when in fact it’s a mindset change that everyone needs to get on board with.

Avoid agile lingo

In order to avoid the conversation coming across as a process one, you may need to skip any mention of ‘agile’, ‘Scrum’, ‘Kanban’ or other agile terms that are about how it works. While the agile verbiage is great for the team to hear, sometimes these terms have negative connotations based on preconceived notions of what the C-suite thinks agile marketing means.

If your C-suite is familiar with agile marketing and is on board, use the lingo to your heart’s content. However, if you find it’s shutting down the door, it’s time to find the window.

Look for pain points

Instead of selling your CMO on agile marketing, think of this how you would to any customer you’re marketing to—find pain points.

Let’s say your company has had to put a hold on hiring new people, whereas before you had specialists for everything. You’ve also gone through layoffs and now your teams are missing some key skill sets that they used to rely on. This has hurt productivity and their ability to get projects done. 

One of the benefits of an agile team is spreading knowledge throughout the team in an effort to deliver. It becomes less and less about specialists, and more about getting work done for customers. Therefore, the CMOs pain point of losing talent may work to your advantage. 

Ask for an experiment

If you approach the CMO asking to transition the department to agile marketing, you may find that you’re constantly having to sell the value. However, if you ask for an experiment and the results are solving the CMOs problem, you’ll have a much easier time getting buy-in.

Try saying something like, “It’s been really unfortunate that we’ve had to let so many talented people on our team go, and we are definitely feeling it’s hurting our ability to deliver work. I recently read about cross-functional teams where we get a small group of people together with a common goal and they are able to step outside of traditional titles to get the job done. Since we’re so limited on being able to hire specialists, what if we ran an experiment for a few months to compare results?”

In this situation, you’re directly answering the CMOs concern with an outcome-based solution. You’re also not asking to change the world—just one small experiment where you can prove or disprove an assumption.

Seeing is believing

CMOs are a lot more convinced that agile marketing is the right thing to do when they see real results that meet your company’s specific needs. Otherwise it’s way too easy to say, “That will never work here because (insert special snowflake syndrome).

Now, given this opportunity, almost all teams will be able to get work out the door a lot faster because you’ve removed the bottlenecks that come from having very specialized skills. 

Once you get the green light to try this, communicate regularly with the CMO about the team’s progress and look at how it’s working against a comparable project using the traditional way of working. Look for data to prove out the experiment, such as reduction of wait times from person to person and the total time it takes from concept to completion.

There are many proven benefits to agile marketing from companies that have already embarked on this journey, such as faster feedback, better customer-centricity, stakeholder trust, team happiness, faster time to market, elimination of wasteful processes and the ability to quickly respond to customers’ needs. But don’t take my word for it – try and experiment at your company to resolve a pain point and you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Stacey Ackerman
Stacey knows what it’s like to be a marketer, after all, she’s one of the few agile coaches and trainers that got her start there. After graduating from journalism school, she worked as a content writer, strategist, director and adjunct marketing professor. She became passionate about agile as a better way to work in 2012 when she experimented with it for an ad agency client. Since then she has been a scrum master, agile coach and has helped with numerous agile transformations with teams across the globe. Stacey speaks at several agile conferences, has more certs to her name than she can remember and loves to practice agile at home with her family. As a lifelong Minnesotan, she recently relocated to North Carolina where she’s busy learning how to cook grits and say “y’all."

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