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Agile Marketing: 5 Critical Things You Need to Know

By June 15, 2016 No Comments

If you ask five people to define agile marketing, you’ll probably get five different answers. But the unifying principle of agile—across industries and fields—is prioritizing the right work to make an efficient and quantitative impact, and doing it even better next time.

With agile, B2B marketers learn and iterate, moving toward key business objectives. It contrasts waterfall processes, where you wait until the end of a campaign to review performance, perhaps only to realize you missed the mark.

At Brady Corporation, the marketing team has used agile for three years, but it hasn’t always been easy. As a certified ScrumMaster managing two of Brady’s digital marketing teams, Susan Bain shared what she’s learned while implementing and iterating on marketing processes in this 15-minute webinar.

To sum it up, here are five key takeaways and the critical components to successfully executing an agile marketing operation.

1. Focus on What Matters

Before implementing agile, Brady had a deluge of internal requests for the digital marketing team—project requests, last-minute campaigns, website changes—all of which needed to be done yesterday. The team was working from an endless list, and everything was a high priority. 

This mentality punctured productivity; it needed to stop.

To start, the teams consolidated all project requests, including the IT development teams. The completed list was shocking—they were working on 140 projects, with 81 projects currently in flight, which told them:

  1. They had A LOT of work to do.
  2. They weren’t able to actually get much done.

They realized there wasn’t sufficient time to focus on individual projects, and completing projects just to check a box was ineffective. They needed to take the next step, removing disruptions and focusing on essential business efforts.

To begin, they defined a digital strategy, goals, and objectives. Then, they set goal-based criteria for prioritizing both current and future requests along with a process for managing one-off requests.

As Susan and her team discovered, the process for managing requests is almost as important as creating the priority list in the beginning. 

Then, they socialized changes to key internal stakeholders—namely, leadership and sales—to ensure everyone understood how and why they were changing. After a month or so, they shared wins with their stakeholders. By focusing on specific projects, they accomplished significantly more work. Sharing this information not only built trust but also demonstrated that committing to less meant delivering more.

2. Avoid Functional Silos

When the digital marketing team first started with agile, they built scrum teams based on historical departmental roles. But after a few sprints—two-week, time-boxed periods for delivering work—it became clear that hand-offs between teams took too long.

To eliminate lengthy hand-offs, they restructured based on skills, using the Kapost Platform to scale work across teams. Kapost was instrumental in adopting agile methodology, providing essential visibility into what was happening and how content connected to form cohesive campaigns.

The lesson? Get the right people with the right skills and give them the platform to work cross-functionally. This structure empowers teams to deliver a finished product at the end of the sprint, instead of delivering one team’s partially complete work that requires another two weeks of work for the next team.

3. “Just Enough” Is Good Enough

At Brady, they have teams aiming for 120%. But as they learned more about agile, they started to question: what if our consumer only needed 100% or even 80%? Could we have been working on something more valuable instead of completing that 20%? Are we losing opportunities waiting for that perfect image or design, which may have made a “perfect” campaign? What if we can get something into the marketplace tomorrow, before anyone else?

Perfectionism can paralyze your team. Challenge them to ask, “Do we really need that piece, or is it good enough as is?”

Now, quality is essential to Brady—you’ve got to follow branding guidelines, make sure links work, etc. But don’t let the idea of perfection get in the way of results.

Get it out there, test it. That’s what’s really going to get you ROI.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

View failures as opportunities to learn—they’ll lead you to the best answers and approaches to meeting customer needs.

Encouraging trial and error is essential to success. Brady facilitates a culture where it’s safe to fail, and empowers the team to feel confident enough to experiment with new ideas and strategies. This approach drives innovation and data-driven decisions.

And when you fail, fail quickly. You’ll be that much closer to getting what’s right into the marketplace. Failing and iterating require the right metrics and analytics to easily evaluate progress, successes, and failures. Brady used Kapost Insights for collecting data and measuring performance.

5. Trust the Agile Process

Stick to the framework. Don’t customize.

When they first started, they thought, “We’re marketers, not developers. This stuff doesn’t apply to us. Let’s just tweak this here and change this part here.”

Brady’s marketing team assumed they were different. They were wrong.

Their struggles led to hiring an agile coach. He helped the team realize that the “customized marketing framework” for agile wasn’t working.  After listening to their retro, he convinced Brady to embrace the scrum framework in the way it was intended.

It was hard at first, but within a sprint or two, they saw the difference. Teams began to gel, sharing stories and connecting with their work as a whole, versus operating in silos. People were cross-training and learning new skills, which meant that they didn’t have as many bottlenecks on a team. Overall, teams were happier and more efficient.

By committing to thinking and working differently, they finally understood how powerful agile can be. 

According to Susan, the best advice the agile coach gave her was, “If it doesn’t feel right, then you’re probably not doing scrum right.”

Whether you’re using scrum or a different form of agile, make sure you’re committed to the framework. Challenge your teams to work differently. Be patient. Becoming good at agile is a process. There are a lot of small steps forward—don’t forget to celebrate them.

If you’re interested in learning more about agile marketing, Check out Susan’s 15-minute webinar with Kapost.

Kelsey Loughman

About Kelsey Loughman

Kelsey is a Writer and Content Marketing Manager at Kapost, trading law school for marketing startups. Now, she geeks out over innovative content strategy, trail runs, kale chips, and the (occasional) legal drama.

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