Agile marketing is a popular marketing strategy that involves working in short bursts known as sprints, continually testing new solutions to problems, evaluating the results in real-time, and making constant adjustments to improve with every sprint.
For marketing teams in the B2B world, agile marketing has the potential to increase both revenue and brand awareness when utilized effectively. It can increase marketing team productivity by 53% and show improvements in adaptivity, project visibility, and responsivity to feedback.
With an incredible 98% of organizations in one survey claiming to have had success with agile, there’s no reason not to consider how it could benefit your business.
In this guide, we’ll take you through what exactly agile marketing is, its benefits, how to implement it, and some examples of how it’s being done.
- What is agile marketing?
- Benefits of agile marketing
- How to implement agile marketing
- Agile marketing tech stack components
- Case studies: how the biggest B2B brands are using agile marketing
What is agile marketing?
Agile marketing is a method of working that breaks projects down into small increments to allow for continuous feedback gathering so teams have the flexibility to adapt to changes. It requires a strategic vision and short, medium, and long-term goal planning.
Plans are more flexible in agile marketing, with just the main goals outlined rather than every step broken down and accounted for. That way, a company can adapt to any rapid changes in their industry on the fly and achieve greater success.
These goals are then re-prioritized on a monthly or even bi-weekly basis to ensure the agile marketing team is always working towards success.
Agile marketing also means looking at and using the data, rather than relying on opinions and conventions.
Using carefully chosen metrics ensures the right decisions are made, and any plans that don’t work out can be used to learn from in the future. Marketers can then make small tweaks and experiments throughout a campaign to discover what works best.
Another important aspect is the elimination of silos and encouraging collaboration between teams. When teams like marketing, sales, and management all work together towards the common agile marketing goals, the outcomes will be better. We’ve written before about how you can structure your agile team meetings for success.
6 key values to agile marketing
Respond to change over following a plan
This doesn’t mean ‘don’t plan’ - it just means making your plans more flexible. Instead of writing a 40-page marketing plan every quarter, try just writing a page.
This may seem drastic and a little impossible but the key is in the details. Your one-page plan should only contain your goals and aspirations for that quarter. This way everyone on your team is aware of their goals but no one is stuck in a box - allowing you to adapt to rapid changes in the industry.
Every 2-4 weeks look at your goals and re-prioritize tasks and goals. This way, you’re always moving in the right direction (towards your goals) but can shift the order and importance of tasks as necessary.
Rapid iterations over big-bang campaigns
More traditional marketing strategies often use big campaigns that run for 3-6 months - these campaigns are costly and time-consuming so it’s hard to admit failure and pull the plug when things are going wrong.
In agile marketing, you start with a small strategy and test it out. Then you measure the results and document what you learned. This way you learn something and there’s no huge loss whether it’s successful or not.
By constantly testing small ideas you can get a feel for what works and what doesn’t using customer feedback and metrics such as click-through rate (CTR), conversions, and social media engagement.
Testing and data over opinions and conventions
Agile marketing tries to avoid going off the highest-paid person’s opinion (HIPPO), instead, testing ideas and using metrics is the way to go. And not just any metric - using the right metrics will allow you to make the right decisions for your agile strategy.
Don’t use the wrong metrics to back up a failing idea and boost your ego - remember, failing is good as you can learn from your mistakes!
Many small experiments over a few big bets
Using data to make decisions is important in agile marketing and so is spending your time and budget in the right way. The 70/20/10 rule can help you with this. It states that you should use 70% of your budget and 50% of your time on things that work, the data should back this up.
Then you spend 20% of your budget and 25% of your time on trying to improve what works. These are small tweaks and experiments that will help you optimize the 70% stuff. The rule then says to use the remaining 10% of your budget and 25% of your time on out-there ideas.
Go wild! Only around 2 out of 10 ideas will likely work - but that’s okay! The point of this section is to be creative, eventually, a few of those ideas will be the future 70 or 20%.
Individuals and interactions over one size fits all
Engagement with individual customers is important in agile marketing. You should try to personalize your interactions for each buyer. This includes doing research to find the right information about them to have more genuine conversations.
Find out each customer's specific pain points and needs in order to satisfy them on an individual (or organizational) level. One size doesn’t fit all in agile marketing - personalization is key.
Collaboration over hierarchy and silos
Often the different departments in companies struggle to communicate. In agile marketing, collaboration between marketing, sales and upper management is essential. Goals should be a group effort - you should make them together and review them together. This helps to keep everyone on the same page.
Companies will also often choose a particular agile marketing framework that works for them, either Scrum, Kanban, or a mix of the two known as Scrumban.
In a nutshell, Scrum delivers chunks of deliverables with short deadlines, whereas Kanban is more continuous and flexible and goes from the start of a project to completion. The hybrid approach provides you with the structure of Scrum and the flexibility of Kanban.
You can learn more in our dedicated article on agile marketing frameworks.
If you’re new to the world of agile marketing, take a look at this article detailing how you can discover if your brand is ready to take on this marketing strategy:
Benefits of agile marketing
So, why are nearly half of marketers implementing agile marketing into their business?
When you implement an agile methodology, the analysis of data and prioritization of workflows becomes much easier. This in turn means an increase in productivity as resources can be allocated to the right place for maximum efficiency.
Greater transparency across all departments ensures no one is left in the dark at any stage of a project. Everyone involved across the company can clearly see where resources are needed and being used, making it easy to streamline and improve processes.
When more teams have access to better data, there are more opportunities to measure results. Teams such as marketing then have a better understanding of how they can adjust their campaigns to maximize the effectiveness of their agile marketing.
When the workflow improves, this translates to better customer service. As companies strive to streamline their processes and produce faster turnaround times on projects, you’ll see happier customers as a result.
When you break down those silos and teams work together on projects, everyone’s communication improves. With more transparency across all departments and the sharing of more data, agile marketing provides the groundwork for better communication in the workspace.
Agile marketing is all about flexibility. Working in small sprints means spending more time examining how things are working as a project progresses, and making changes throughout to continuously improve over time, rather than waiting for the end of a project to have a discussion of how everything went.
Using data and analytics to better understand how a project is performing means that the work can be better distributed among teams, so everyone is flexible enough to prioritize the most important projects while still leaving enough time for smaller projects and personal development.
When processes are streamlined and everything is more efficient, you’ll see an increase in ROI. as resources will be more efficiently distributed, and there’s more flexibility with time to spend on new projects, agile marketing can have a serious impact on revenue growth.
How to implement agile marketing
So if you think agile marketing could be an effective way to work at your organization, how can you implement it in your team? Here are the steps to consider.
Put together your team
You need to bring together your team to work together under the agile methodology so everyone’s on board. Everyone needs to understand the goals and objectives of agile marketing and why your team is making the switch.
For the process to work, your team needs a clear direction of what they want to achieve, like if there are specific customer journey points that need improving or a target market you want to acquire.
Your team needs to be trained in the agile ways of working, by ensuring they have the proper marketing tools, web analytics, and overall technological infrastructure in place before you can get started. This will allow them to capture the data needed and respond to trends.
Plan the first sprint
Once the team is on board and sufficiently prepped, it’s time to plan that first sprint. Sprints are short bursts rather than long-term marketing strategies.
They can be as short as two weeks, or perhaps as long as six weeks, depending on the specific goals you have for the sprint. Either way, you’ll need to define the sprint and the timeframe.
When planning, the team needs to agree on a particular project and divide up roles and responsibilities. Work from the top of the priority backlog to the bottom until the team runs out of capacity for any remaining work - that’s how you know you’ve drawn the line for the sprint.
Now your team members need to work independently, taking responsibility for their own tasks. This is where they can use their creative freedom and find a working style that is most productive for them.
Daily stand-ups are a helpful tool in the agile methodology to help keep everyone on track and ensure they have what they need to complete their work.
Review and analyze
When the sprint ends, you need to review the results. Conduct a sprint review where the team is brought together to discuss whether the sprint was completed and whether it yielded positive results. Review which goals were met, and whether any were missed.
This way you can discuss what you’ve learned about the workflow and whether your daily standups were efficient. You can then take what you learned and incorporate those changes into the next cycle.
For a closer look at how to implement agile marketing and how to avoid common pitfalls, take a look at this article about agile marketing dos and don’ts.
Agile tech stack components
One of the core principles in agile marketing is collaboration. This allows your team to use each other's strengths to drive better results. But some traditional marketing tools can get in the way of this. Let’s look at a few ways software can help your team work together effectively.
Communication within the team is essential for working together - but emails aren’t really suited to collaboration. Agile teams need quick and efficient communication to keep the workflow going - email with its formality and potential to be missed can slow your team down.
Ideally, teams in the same office can just walk over and talk to each other - but this isn’t always possible. Therefore, it may be good to have chat software available to your teams to allow for smoother communication.
Even in an office space it can be useful for quickly sharing files and asking questions, especially when it’s crunch time or you don’t want to break your flow.
Popular communication software:
Creative projects & copywriting
It’s hard to collaborate on creative projects - iterations and small changes back and forth can make working in a team tedious at best and if you don’t know what it’s like at its worst you’re a lucky person indeed.
Thankfully, there are creative tools out there that can help multiple people to work on the same project at the same time.
This can increase the speed of workflow and allow projects to be finished faster.
This is also true for copywriting! Software that allows multiple authors to work at the same time can save a lot of back-and-forth editing.
Popular creative software:
Popular copywriting software:
Physical task boards may be good for some things but digital planning is likely much faster and easier for your team to check - especially if your team is distributed or working from home. Using software to track the progress of tasks and show who is working together and on what can allow for better collaboration and more efficient workflow.
You can establish clear deadlines and checklists, providing a clear visual reference point for everyone involved in the progress of each project.
Popular planning software:
Content management systems (CMS) remove the obstacles of creating and releasing content. Before CMS, each new piece of content would require a developer to create and code a new page.
Now, an effective CMS allows you to upload and format content quickly and efficiently. This streamlines the process and makes producing content highly repeatable and efficient - perfect for your agile team.
The speed to market is much faster when using a CMS, making it ideal for agile when the goal is many quick iterations to optimize the results.
Data forms the basis for every decision in agile marketing. Therefore having the right software to keep track of all that data is essential for making those choices effectively.
Your data should be well organized and set out neatly together to allow for comparisons to be made quickly, ideally stored in a single source to make it easier to compare stats. You should be able to tell which project was a success at a glance.
Popular data collection software:
Customer relations are at the core of all marketing activities from events to email marketing. Having good customer relationships is still just as important in agile - so why not get a customer relationship management system to help your team?
A CRM can track interactions with customers and allow you to easily use segmentation to effectively target their preferences and pain points. 77% of B2B marketers believe that personalization improves customer relations - CRM software makes this a breeze!
Popular CRM software:
Iterations and constant improvements allow you to slowly perfect your marketing but it usually involves doing the same task over again and again. To optimize this, try to find a way to automate the small repetitive tasks, such as posting on social media or building landing pages, to free up more time (and energy) for the bigger or more important tasks.
Popular automation software:
Case studies: how the biggest B2B brands are using agile marketing
Few B2B brands are bigger than IBM, and as they utilize agile frameworks across the majority of their marketing functions, that makes them one of the biggest agile marketing brands out there.
IBM made the switch to agile team structures in 2016. It was a move that caused no small amount of controversy, as their agile model was to be based around co-located “agile hubs”.
Even though their 2,600 strong marketing team had been enjoying the benefits of working from home policies for several years at that point.
The reported basis for the switch was to encourage greater innovation and collaboration between different types of marketers (although rumors persist it was perhaps an attempt to reverse a long period of declining revenue).
Now the switch didn’t come without cost. The “agile hubs” were spread across seven different locations in the US, costing $380 million, with a further $1 billion being invested in staff training.
But while we can’t necessarily get our hands on the exact data on how successful the transition has been, the company at large has been outwardly positive about the switch, with IBM’s CMO, Michelle Peluso being one of the most prominent advocates for the benefits of Agile marketing.
“At IBM, we’re applying Agile to our marketing function, and that means creating small empowered teams with the right skills, clear accountability, sprints, and a constant focus on prioritization.
"When you adopt Agile, you can see how different marketing becomes, and the emphasis it puts on hiring Agile teams that have a strong mix of creative, process, digital, and data science skills.”
Michelle Peluso (TCV via Medium)
In fact, Peluso has stated that an agile approach has been key to weathering the pandemic and allowing businesses to adapt, survive and thrive during the difficulties of the COVID-era.
A big part of agile marketing is flat team structures and this is well exemplified by SEMRush’s marketing department. They work in a way that fully empowers the teams to meet their targets and goals, which are outlined by leadership. It’s then down to the individual teams to meet their goals through whatever means they deem fit and works best.
Olga Adrinko, SEMRush’s Head of Global Marketing, says it’s like a sports team: the coaches might have an overview of the field and understand what needs to be done to win, but it’s down to the players on the pitch to actually kick the ball and respond to what happens during the game.
But how do they keep track of everything and ensure the different teams are on track? Well to continue the sports metaphor, it’s through a dedicated approach to Scrum. This is both a rugby term and a term for an agile framework, where the teams will develop and evolve through their experiences, wins and losses, and self-organize to improve.
The results speak for themselves: at one point SEMRush gained 500,000 new users in 8 months.
While not necessarily a household name, the database and analytics provider Teradata is one of the foremost pioneers of how we look at data since the 1970s.
They’re also one of the early adopters of agile marketing, having started introducing the practices and frameworks all the way back in the far-off days of 2009.
They’re now a major proponent for the agile marketing approach, having published whitepapers on its use and even an article stating it’s the only way marketers can maintain relevance.
Teradata made the switch due to a perceived slowness and a lack of responsiveness and communication. By automating their workflows and approval processes, they were able to remove a lot of the aspects in their organization that were impeding their ability to get work out quickly.
They also flattened a lot of their hierarchy and removed a lot of the micromanaging that could prevent progress.
Their agile processes work well with their data-driven approach and integrated marketing tech stack (who woulda thought it, a leading data analytics company using data-driven marketing well? Next, you’ll be telling us the sky is blue), which has improved their relationships with customers and their overall go-to-market processes.
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