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Agility and the New Marketing Organization

  |  June 16, 2011   |  Comments

A look at what makes agile marketing work and how to know if it will work for you.

Agile is an exciting and energetic value system and set of practices that the software development world has used for a decade to add more value, accuracy, and speed to the development process. Agile marketing is a quickly evolving adaptation of the practices found in the "Manifesto for Agile Software Development."

My previous two columns (found here and here) on the subject showed the basis of agility in the integrated marketing space, and gave an example of a 100 percent online company (Overstock.com) that is successfully becoming agile.

In this final column of the series, I focus on what makes agile work – and what to look at to discern whether agile marketing can work for you.

Valuing Human Interactions Above Analysis

Have you ever felt overwhelmed at how the world of social media has drastically changed the way you, as a marketer, do your work? How consumers want to collaborate with brands, not through focus groups anymore – but in real time? How changes in marketing campaigns happen more rapidly than ever before?

Integrated marketing has seen great improvements year after year because of a strong technical emphasis of implementing and understanding analytic data. And even though agile has its roots in technology, what makes agile work is the surprisingly principle – not process – focus. For a process to truly be considered agile, the principle of being human-centric, which refers to reliance and interaction between people, is the first key. The second key of an agile process is technical excellence, which refers to the use of procedures that maintain the highest marketing quality possible.

These principles guide the integration of practices in agile projects, leading an organization on a wave of adoption and maturity that looks something like this:


Assessing Whether Agile Marketing Can Work for You

As you can see from the chart, the human-centric focus of enhancing communication and collaboration has the highest and most encompassing growth through each level of agile adoption maturity. This is because, as marketers, we're very focused on integrating social channels into our marketing mix – so this graph wouldn't reveal the same level of communication and collaboration growth even just five years ago.

However, integrating agile processes and adapting to change are visibly weaker areas for marketing teams to focus on. This is understandable, as the various flavors of agile, such as scrum, lean, kanban, etc., each have their own set of practices, each with their own unique characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses. It's much easier for marketing teams to be shortsighted and leave agile in the development department, than to discover how to make it work in their projects.

Becoming an agile marketing organization is a lot of work. Your team needs to buy into the value-set, and management needs to learn to provide value in an agile environment. Also, management needs to decide whether to implement a ready-made flavor of agile and translate it to marketing, or create its own flavor.

That said, agility in your practices, principles, and values is more important for marketing organizations than ever before because of the fluidity of new media. What are the payoffs?

  • The market is moving quickly. Agile marketing provides a flexible framework and your marketing programs need to be able to seize new and emerging market opportunities before your competitors do.
  • Agile adds value to marketing programs by improving the entire process of value creation by adding visibility into how to more seamlessly capture revenue.
  • Agile marketing lets you get feedback so you can more accurately connect with your target audience.
  • Team reflection and retrospectives help you adapt to change and stay one step ahead of your competition.

Putting It all Together

Over the past weeks, we've covered the history of agile, its basis in marketing, and an example of agile in action. Agile is an emerging practice in the marketing world. As such, this series was designed to give you just a taste of what agility could mean for your marketing organization.

As a Certified Scrum Master and Certified Scrum Product Owner, I've learned that the exercise of being involved in a training course is invaluable for teams seeking to become agile. I highly recommend the International Consortium for Agile, Scrum Alliance, and Project Management Institute for additional training on the subject.



Ghennipher Weeks

Ghennipher Weeks has spent the past 13 years as a marketer working closely with IT teams to increase cross-functional collaboration, and helps teams excel in delivering great results quickly.

With deep expertise in creating conversion-driven and insightful search engine marketing and social media strategies for national and regional brands since the late 1990s, Ms. Weeks has increased online revenue for Philips, Wells Fargo, The Women's Information Network, The Allegis Group, TotalGym, Overstock.com, TigerDirect, LeoSchachter Diamonds, and others. She excels in formulating SEO, conversion, social marketing, and value-creation strategies. Ms. Weeks says, "Integrated marketing strategies are more effective, but much more difficult. Agility in execution requires measurement, accountability, and an unwavering customer focus to deliver value that makes both customers and business stakeholders happy. This raises customer, as well as shareholder value, or in relevant corporate terms: increases profits."

She actively contributes her expertise and thoughts through presentations, industry appearances, articles, and her upcoming book on integrated digital marketing.

Ms. Weeks has spoken at SES, Webmaster World's PubCon, EVO, WITI, Blissdom, Social Media Club, Agile Roots, Blogilicious, and other conferences. Notably, she is also certified in Agile methodologies as a CSM and CSPO. You can find Ms. Weeks online on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or on her blog, and a myriad of other social media sites.

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