10 Principles of Agile Marketing
Post COVID-19 pandemic, once businesses resume their operations, there will be tremendous pressure on marketing teams to deliver - bring more leads at lesser budgets. Marketing teams will then need to improve their productivity further and increase innovation. While they are doing that, they will also have to enhance their ability to manage to change priorities as the market will see a high degree of disruption. To be able to manage all this, they will need to align with other teams within their respective organizations. Marketing teams will need to be agile to perform in such a situation. Hence, it is better if they know about 10 principles of Agile Marketing, which I am borrowing from Scott Brinker of www.chiefmartech.com. He has nicely segregated these 10 agile marketing principles into three categories - foundations, pillars, and essentials.
Agile Marketing Foundations
As the name suggests, these are the founding stones of agile marketing principles. All other principles have their roots in these two principles. These two principles are the purpose of the marketing teams. The marketing teams exist and function to fulfill these principles.
The objective of agile software development is to deliver working software. On similar lines, the aim of the marketing teams needs to create remarkable experiences for the prospect, customers, and partners.
The experiences of these stakeholders will only be remarkable if marketing teams are aware of what they are expecting from the brand. So, defining the target audience, identification of its initial expectations, knowing the touchpoints that can impact the experiences, and making necessary changes in the processes to meet or exceed those expectations is the elementary work of the marketing.
Responding to change
The market would be more volatile than ever. The marketing teams need to respond to any changes that will happen suddenly in the marketplace. Whatever plan marketing teams will create is bound to be impacted by the situation around them.
The marketing teams' ability to respond in this radical uncertain time will decide the success of the businesses. The degree of responsiveness will be directly proportional to their market share in the time to come.
Agile Marketing Pillars
For me, the agile marketing pillars represent the philosophies that marketing teams need to incorporate in whatever they do. These are the guidelines that would help the marketing teams remain focused on their foundation i.e., creating remarkable experiences and responding to change.
Individuals and interactions
The technological advancements are giving us newer tools that are helping us track behaviors, build 360-degree customer profiles, analyze data in a way unthinkable a few years back, etc. However, marketing teams should never forget that individuals and interactions preside over processes and tools. Any tools or processes that are enhancing the experiences of the individuals and increasing interactions are welcome. And if they are not, then the marketing teams should look out for alternatives.
As a team, the marketers need to aware of the interactions they are having with a different set of people at three levels.
- Discussion within the team - Marketers would communicate among the group to shape and execute the marketing campaigns. More often than not, they would be using some or other marketing collaboration tools. While they are using these tools, these tools should enhance the interaction within team members and not the opposite. For example, the tool can take up the responsibility of sending reminders of the due dates, notifying other the members within a team regarding the latest updates, helping get social media stats for the marketers. It will create more space for the team members to discuss other productive things related to marketing campaigns such as brainstorming the theme of the campaign, reviewing the copy of the campaign, etc.
- Discussion within different functions within the organization - Marketing teams are not operating in silos. They are in constant touch with sales, pre-sales, support, production, R&D functions, to name a few. Rather than only collaborating with these functions over digital platforms, an in-person meeting once in a while would be a nice change. These meetings will also help build a strong rapport within different functional groups that will help marketers get the insights that BI tools might fail to capture. It is primarily because people from different functions have a completely different perspective of looking at things. Knowing their perspective would help marketers build a better insight system.
- Discussion with customers and outside stakeholders - These sets of people are not easily accessible, so any opportunity to meet in person should be grabbed by both hands. Occasional roadshows, AMA initiatives, and other campaigns would help bridge the gap and build a rapport with these people. Tools have their role here; however, they should not wholly alienate human element from the communication process, relying only on IVR and automated bots.
Testing and data
With an infusion of more and more digital tools in the marketing portfolio, the marketing teams are collecting humungous data about the customers and their online behavior. It is that granular piece of information that gives actionable insights to the marketer. The marketing teams should use as much data as possible while designing their campaigns and initiatives. In the absence of appropriate data, they should go on launching quick and short campaigns. They should continuously test the outcomes of these campaigns. The learnings can then be incorporated in the next modified version of the campaign.
Numerous small experiments
Marketing is all about constant efforts to reach out to the audience and persuade them to purchase the offerings. As buyer behavior, the marketplace, competition offerings are always changing; the marketers need to continually evolve their mechanism of reaching the audience and shift their messaging to fit in the context that the audience is living in.
What would stick with the audience is so subjective that marketing teams need to experiment with their campaigns continually? While they are experimenting, they also need to capture data with every single variable that they change while A/B testing the campaign. Every batch of data should improve the next marketing campaign as it would unearth one small piece of insight.
Marketing teams need to get into this habit of continually experimenting and learning from the outcome of every experiment.
Organizations exist to offer something to the customer. Wouldn't it be better if marketing teams are collaborating with the customers to understand what they need and want? Customer collaboration would give marketers a clear insight into what the customers are looking for in their purchases.
Marketing teams can listen to social media signals and establish direct conversations happening on digital platforms to understand customer needs and collaborate with customers.
Marketers can engage more actively with the customers who have become the champions or the advocates of the brand and promote them in different marketing campaigns.
Marketers can involve customers while creating new products and services. They can incorporate their suggestions compiled from different digital sources or direct communications from the customers.
Marketers can also connect with the dissatisfied customer to understand what led to their dissatisfaction. It can lead to knowing the possible avenues to improve the overall experience of the customers. Unhappy customers are the best people to improve the pain area of the buyer journey.
Marketing teams need to look for every possible opportunity to engage with customers and learn for every interaction.
Agile Marketing Essentials
This set of principles put the foundation and guidelines to work.
There has to be a single point of truth across the marketing function and preferably across the organization. Transparency avoids confusion and brings everybody to the same page in no time.
All required people should have access to sales funnel in real-time and should see similar information. To have the same view of the customer, all concerned people should have access to customer communication. The campaign reports should be made available to all. The meaning of the marketing jargon from the reports should mean the same for everybody, irrespective of their functions. If they have access to the marketing reports, they should also interpret it in the same context.
If there are any hurdles in executing the campaigns, then the marketing team should raise the flag immediately. Those who have the solution can quickly jump in and resolve the obstacle. It is possible only if there is a culture of transparency. However, it is easier said than done.
It might take some time to build this kind of culture if it is already not there. But it is worth the effort for sure.
Startups work on the philosophy of failing fast. What they mean is that they need to experiment at a very high pace. Only when you are done with the experiment, you will get to know about the learnings from that experiment. So, if you are experimenting with a faster rate, then your pace of gaining insights would also be high. It merely means that you would be able to respond to market situations quickly. Also, the culture of experimenting at a fast pace would make your marketing team highly agile. The marketers then won't have inertia about trying out new tools or tactics. They would be more open to suggestions and are ready to shift the approach relatively faster. And more importantly, they would be free to operate with limited or without complete information.
The marketing teams can have a regular practice of executing campaigns in sprints. Each sprint will have its own goals, and every member of the group would try to achieve them. They would perform these sprints as any other software development team, just that they would be working on marketing campaigns in this case.
Whatever marketing teams publish will have some or no impact on the audience. In both these situations, the feedback should come back to the marketing teams. It is an essential element of rapid iterations. However, specifying it separately just ensures that marketing teams are not missing on receiving or gathering feedback as a step in their marketing campaign planning.
The feedbacks can be quantitative and qualitative, both. Based on the nature of the campaign, the right mix needs to be decided. Regular capturing of the feedbacks also helps marketing teams at arriving at the benchmarks. These benchmarks can be used for evaluating the performance of future campaigns. If the results of the campaign hover in the permissible lower and upper critical limits (terms borrowed from statistics), then teams can treat this as a successful campaign. If the results are below the lower critical limits, then it calls for a thorough analysis of the campaign and marketing teams should go back to the drawing board and check every step against one of the previous campaigns, if relevant data is available for it. If the campaign results are above the upper critical limits, then evaluation needs to be done, it understands the element that caused success.
Break out of silos
The growth of the organization has created compartmentalized operations. Even within the marketing function, there are so many groups such as market research, ATL/BTL, a customer success team, etc. Just in digital marketing, we have different groups such as search marketing, content marketing, search engine marketing, social marketing, etc. For a successful agile marketing organization, there shouldn't be teams working in silos. The information should flow naturally and transparently from one marketing group to another so that everybody benefits from the insights and shared pool of data.
Businesses can utilize a marketing automation platform that is integrated with other technology solutions within the organization for swift information flow within the organization. However, teams meeting in-person is recommended anytime over virtual collaboration all the time.
If businesses have to survive and thrive in today's world, it is a must to have a marketing team that is proactive in taking the lead, swift to respond quickly, and nimble to pivot to remain relevant with the audience. Only marketing teams that are operating by the principles of the agile manifesto, which was initially written for the software development teams, can deliver results. They have to interpret the points discussed in the manifesto in the context of the marketing world. The agile marketing mindset needs a cultural shift in marketing operations. Once marketing teams are committed to bringing this cultural shift, they would start seeing the result in terms of increased trust, higher information sharing, improved productivity, and enhanced satisfaction level among their customers.
I wish you all the best for your agile journey. Feel free to reach out to me for whatever support you need in this regard.