Marketing Strategy

A Case for Agile: Why Agile Marketing Can Help You Realize Your Content Strategy

By August 25, 2016 No Comments

Agile Marketing and millennials have a lot more in common than you might think. Just as this new generation of workers replaces retiring baby boomers, agile, cross-functional teams are replacing the hierarchical, command and control organizations of the past.

When done well, Agile marketing can inspire teams to work collaboratively and execute efficiently, while also aligning with your business strategies to drive engagement—and revenue.

At Kapost, we’ve seen incredible success via our ability to align across our marketing organization—and across other internal teams—using an Agile approach. From capacity assessment to planned priorities, Agile has allowed us to say no, avoid ad hoc content, and focus on what matters.

If you’re ready to optimize your marketing org, we have some nuggets of wisdom to share. Here’s how we continue to implement Agile marketing at Kapost.

Why the Agile Framework

During my tenure with Rally Software (now CA Technologies), I had the pleasure of working with leading “Agile” minds in the industry, receiving certifications as a Scrum Master, Agile Product Owner, and Scaled Agile Framework for large scale transformations.

In 2013, Bob Gower, along with Rally Software’s coaches and leadership, wrote a book called Agile Business: A Leader’s Guide to Harnessing Complexity. It was a time of exploration, as businesses were discovering that Agile processes could be applied to address complexity across more than just the software development. Today, only 3 years later, Agile processes are accepted as a core strategy for managing complex organizations, including marketing.

Now that I’m a part of Kapost, I’m a part of an ongoing exploration for how Agile processes can assist us in harnessing the complexity introduced by two significant changes in marketing.

The first major change is what we refer to as the “digital revolution.” Modern marketers are charged with providing multiple types of content, delivered through multiple tools and technologies, to serve an ever increasing number of channels—all aiming to reach the customer in a personalized way. The second change is the increased role of marketing organizations to manage the customer experience. Self managing, cross-functional teams have never been more important as we strive to deliver on our B2B Marketing strategies.

Modern marketers are charged with providing multiple types of content, delivered through multiple tools and technologies, to serve an ever increasing number of channels—all aiming to reach the customer in a personalized way.

Planning: Putting Agile into Practice

I joined the marketing team at Kapost in the middle of a company-wide pivot. To ensure that our marketing team was aligned with that strategy and could execute effectively, we put an Agile planning model in place.

Our company vision provided top-level guidance. Simply put, our vision was to “enable organizations to realize their B2B marketing strategy using the Kapost Marketing Operating System.”

Then, it was time to plan our initial roadmap to support this high-level vision—our key initiatives. Here’s what that process entailed:

  • Time boxing initiatives based on fiscal quarters
  • Backlog grooming sessions to understand the work that either supported the vision or wasn’t beneficiary
  • Captured ideas under each initiative for ongoing backlog

In Agile planning, knowing what not to do is equally as important as knowing what to do. Using your vision to guide your roadmap is key to “building the right things.”

Related Content: Use Agile Marketing to Quash the Quality vs. Quantity Conflict 

With our key initiatives defined, we then moved into release planning. Starting with the quarter we were in, we moved forward with:

  • Time boxing our work into monthly sprints
  • Planned more critical work in the current month
  • Moved less urgent work into our second and third sprints.

We focused on targeting dates for our work based on priority as well as individual capacity. Once we had our plan for the quarter, we moved to our sprint planning, which we often refer to as iteration planning.

Prior to each sprint we hold a backlog grooming session to review the ideas that have been generated for the initiatives planned for the upcoming sprint. We accept or reject the backlog based on alignment with our priorities.

Fine-tuning the Agile Process

We are continually improving our planning process using the “demo and retrospective” agile practice at the beginning of each iteration or sprint. Each team shows the work they completed in the previous sprint. Then as a team, we retrospect on what did—or didn’t—go well, discussing ways to address what didn’t work and develop action items to address if necessary. Taking these insights, we can review our planned work, discuss and understand our dependencies.

After this step, we can move to planning work at a more tactical, granular level, defining necessary tasks for execution. At the end of the planning process, we commit to the work, knowing that it’s aligned with our:

  1. Values
  2. Priorities
  3. Capacity

How We Manage the Agile Process

Our team uses Kapost to capture our roadmap of initiatives, using the ideas functionality as a way to capture new backlog within each initiative. We use our workflow to manage our tasks and dependencies and smart dates to avoid ongoing bottlenecks. Via a shared editorial calendar, we can look as a team at what’s planned, in progress, or complete.

Once we move into the execution phase, we are able to stay on track. If we have an unexpected block in our work, we are able to quickly address and, if needed, pull other work forward.

When it comes to organizing these individual pieces of content into larger projects, we use Kapost to manage our campaigns into what we call “initiatives.” Each initiative type (webinar, eBook launch, etc.) aligns with a template, pre-filled with the necessary content types and workflows, e.g., launch emails, blog pots. This templatization of initiatives streamlines execution while also ensuring campaigns are consistent across all of the organizations—which is is essential for a consistent customer experience.

Related Content: Agile Marketing: 5 Critical Things You Need to Know

Agile for Marketers versus Developers—and Why it Matters

How is agile marketing different than agile for developers? Well, for one, marketers don’t have “stories,” we have “content,” and we don’t have “epics,” we have “campaigns.” Think of our content pillar process as an example.

Here’s our pillar process in a nutshell (although you can read more about the content pillar here). Start with a large asset, like an eBook. That eBook is the centerpiece of a campaign. Multiple derivatives will be developed such as emails delivered through marketing automation; infographics delivered through a blog; customer feedback delivered through community forums; and videos for customer success to communicate. Because Kapost is purpose built to manage content in all of it’s forms and functions throughout it’s lifecycle, we don’t need to speak in a language other than our own.

I’m aware that for new Agile marketers, using Agile Project Management systems, like Jira or Rally may be tempting. However, I contend that the process itself is what is valuable. Used in conjunction with Kapost, you have the best of both worlds.

I’m aware that for new Agile marketers, using Agile Project Management systems, like Jira or Rally may be tempting. However, I contend that the process itself is what is valuable. Used in conjunction with Kapost, you have the best of both worlds.

Supporting self managing, self organized teams, working in alignment towards key business strategies, in tools that support their daily tasks and workflow, with technology that manages the operational details. That is how we enable our customers to realize their B2B marketing strategies.

The most surprising outcome after moving Agile is a much higher level of participation and commitment from our (mostly millennial) team members. Gone are the frustration they feel from a lack of understanding and alignment with the overall business strategy.

Given this generation’s propensity for inclusiveness, community and collaboration, Agile processes provide a way forward that hierarchical command and control has not. The outcome is a happier, more productive team that produce better results.

Who doesn’t want that!

Kathleen Hill

About Kathleen Hill

Having started my career in technology as a Product Marketer, over 30 years ago, I have a great perspective on how far we have come as B2B Marketers. From the simple days of working with customers to define value and promoting products through direct Sales organizations, to the complex set of marketing functions, tools and channels that we have in place to reach our prospects today. I moved to Sales mid-career and fell in love with aligning technology to solve critical issues in my customer base. Learning about the "Buyers' Journey" has been a lifelong pursuit. As I move back into Marketing, I bring with me that passion to serve the buyer's journey in new and interesting ways. This is becoming critical as buyers traverse an ever increasing number of technology options to address their most pressing problems. I still work with customers to define where we can provide value and Direct Sales continues to be my most important channel, luckily I have the Kapost capabilities to manage all of those other operational details associated with the growing number of content types, technologies and channels used by the Modern Marketer to spread our message far and wide.