How agile principles can be applied to a marketing organization.
What would happen if you took "agile" principles from manufacturing and software development and applied them to marketing? I asked Rose Holston of Aviso Communications to walk us through how an agile marketing organization would operate.
A New Vocabulary
Like most days, Meredith, a marketer for a technology company, will attend a meeting that can go no longer than 30 minutes with her seven-partner team. She will confer with one or more imaginary customers called personas, will visit her marketing war room, will finish a three-week sprint, and will kick off another.
After returning, a quick look at her calendar shows the usual morning 30-minute scrum, a review of a marketing campaign that just ran, and a meeting with the production team putting together the next sprint.
A glance at her inbox tells her that a video being developed seems to have hit a snag. The videographer and the script writer disagree on the length of the final edit. She opens the sprint campaign document for this project: nothing here about length.
However, she notices that this video targets the persona "Blake" who is a very spontaneous visitor. Blake is one of their trickiest Web visitors, not having the patience to read about her company's advantages over the competition. The video is supposed to deliver that message within his attention span.
"Three minutes is too long, guys," she writes. "Blake won't stick around for more than two minutes max. Let me know if you need help editing the script down."
Sprints, not Marathons
Visiting the collaborative space her teams share online, she navigates to the folder for the recently completed sprint kaizen notes. A sprint is a short, highly-focused marketing campaign. It took her a while to change her thinking from driving big campaigns to running collections of marketing sprints.
Kaizen literally means "good change." A kaizen is the process of reviewing and documenting the changes brought about by a series of sprints. During a kaizen, the team brainstorms the improvements that can be included in the campaigns that follow.
This sprint was a series of e-mails designed to get recent Webinar attendees to schedule a demo of their product. Results are lower than previous efforts, and Meredith begins mentally ticking through the seven wastes that could have affected the outcome: overproduction, unnecessary waiting, too much inventory, motion, defects, over-processing, or transportation.
The mailing was well-targeted, went out on schedule, and had a high delivery rate, so the first three weren't issues. Open rates and click-through rates were within tolerance, and the landing pages were well tested, so the campaign probably wasn't defective.
The e-mails may have been too promotional, or the audience was reluctant to have someone call them. These are defects of over-processing and transportation, and are continuously issues with their prospects.
She makes a note to include a case study with the next invitation to add value. She also writes a note to offer a pre-scheduled demo as a Webinar.
An Odd Meeting
Meredith visits the war room to get an idea of what programs are currently in play. On one wall she sees a giant calendar marking the start and end of sprint campaigns. On another is a cloud of sticky notes organized in a matrix by product and team.
She adds some notes to her pad and then runs off to the conference room.
There, she joins four other people standing around the conference room table and three calling in remotely.
The creative director begins speaking: "I finished the statement of work on our video microsite. Today, my next step is to present it to the production team. In my way is the fact that this production team is too busy to deliver before the sprint date."
Recommendations are made for follow-up meetings to find different resources.
Each person in the room takes their turn:
The meeting lasts 30 minutes. By the book, a scrum should last no more than 15 minutes but her team has modified the time to fit into their team culture. Needless to say, it took a great deal of discipline to get this group to focus enough to get done in such a short time.
Meredith notes that the recently completed sprint underperformed and she will yank the next e-mail from the schedule. Her plan is to add a case study and recorded demo to the scrum board, and add a new Webinar-to-demo sprint to the schedule for next month.
Oftentimes "agile" means "patient" when the data tells you what you're doing isn't working.
The 30-minute scrum meetings work because the team collaborates well. The frequency of a scrum depends on the initiatives defined by the C-suite.
This quarter, the company is preparing for a new product launch in the next two quarters, so Meredith has assembled a team to ramp up social media and search engine optimization efforts to get the message out and build pre-sales leads ahead of the launch. Additionally, the C-suite is not convinced that SEO is a valuable investment when paired up against other strategies available to drive potential customers to the website.
Meredith employs a "show me" strategy and sees the need to perform testing to put the C-suite's mind at ease and make her team's life easier over the next three quarters. Meredith is able to complete a summary of the flawed Webinar-to-demo e-mail because the data was waiting for her.
Teams are able to work independently for the most part because the size of each effort is smaller, and they spend little time in meetings. All members are working with the same collection of personas, are driven by a central calendar, and have performance metrics for each effort.
Meredith is an agile marketer. Her world may seem strange to us. However, she enjoys the ability to make data-driven decisions by getting frequent buy-in from the C-suite and working successfully with collaborative teams. She tests online marketing strategies through multiple sprint campaigns as opposed to long "marathons" and understands the importance of making small changes that impact her entire team positively, including the decision makers in the organization.
It's a win-win. Over the next few months, we'll be drilling down on these agile marketer concepts, many of which are borrowed from proven software development techniques.
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With 15 years of online marketing experience, Brian has designed the digital strategy and marketing infrastructure for a number of businesses, including his own technology consulting company, Conversion Sciences. He built his company to transform the Internet from a giant digital-brochure stand to a place where people find the answers they seek. His clients use online strategies to engage their visitors and grow their businesses. Brian has created a series of Web strategy workshops and authors the Conversion Scientist blog. Brian works from Austin, Texas, a place where life and the Internet are hopelessly intertwined.
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