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4 Tools of the Agile Marketer

  |  June 8, 2011   |  Comments

How to empower the mid-level manager. Second in a three-part series.

We've all heard the story. You know, the one about the boy who falsely cried, "Wolf!" so many times that no one came when there really was a wolf.

It doesn't matter whether you've heard it or not. I was able to communicate its meaning simply by telling it. However, if I communicated only the data for this fable, you may not come to the same conclusion:

Number of times boy cried "Wolf!": Four

Number of times someone came to help: Three

Yet, marketers tend to rely on data when communicating with managers, believing that charts and graphs are sufficient to transfer important conclusions.

Rose Holston continues her exploration of reporting as seen through the eyes of an agile marketer, from building toolkits to composing a story from the data.

  • Building a communications toolkit
  • Building evidence through empirical observation
  • Building a story
  • Introducing "The Book of Swagger."

Let's revisit our three levels of communication:

  1. C-suite: Those with a "C" in their title set the agenda. An "agile marketer" must have visibility into what is defined at this level of the business. Through various business tool processes, we can identify where an organization is headed through an understanding of the goals this level wants to achieve.
  2. Management: Mid-level managers attempt to understand the C-suite objectives and are responsible for allocating the resources to achieve them. At this point, communication has already transferred from one layer to the next.
  3. Implementation (our champion): The agile marketer must have in place not only the tools to implement strategies but a method to understand clearly how to measure those goals.

The implementation layer is really the foundation. As an agile marketer, the outcome of the implementation is at the core of what brings value to management and the C-suite. Without a strong champion, the upper layers will not be able to perceive success. It is the goal of our champion to communicate the knowledge gained through evidence supplied by testing different elements to the layers that set agendas and make decisions.

Building a Communications Toolkit

Management works constantly to understand C-suite objectives and to translate expectations. In turn, management tasks our agile marketer with managing campaigns that fall in line with those outcomes. Asking the right questions is a two-way communication that helps to fine-tune a manager's understanding of C-suite objectives.

The same can be said for our agile marketer. The outcomes should be defined by both management and the C-suite. Think of reporting as a way to pass along information that could otherwise be lost in translation. Ideally, objectives should be clear and goals measurable.

Part of an agile marketer's team should include a business analyst mindset. Business communication processes should drill down to measurable goals that will fill out your story much more clearly.

Some include:

  1. Focus matrix/feasibility chart. Ask tough questions that help a business understand where to focus from a high-level perspective. Asking questions will make people uncomfortable, especially if the answers are tough, but can create an understanding that more clarity is needed.
  2. Test planning. Building a hypothesis around possible outcomes is a powerful tool to test different elements and measure their outcomes.
  3. Persona development. Capturing the organization's knowledge of prospects and customers in a format that all members of the team can write, design, and develop for.

Although it is not the role of our agile marketer to act as business consultant, it is necessary to identify when there are gaps that need to be filled in order to complete the story.

Building Evidence Through Empirical Observation

Empirical evidence comes in many forms. Ideally, think about how your story may unfold. What are the different outcomes that are possible? Developing a set of hypotheses and how evidence either way will complete yet another chapter in a company's history. Some examples that evolve the story into chapters include:

  • Test planning results
  • Analytical results
  • Taking good notes

There is no substitute for taking good notes. Less is more translates well into our story. Think of how annotations can become the clues strewn throughout the book that fill in the gaps and illustrate points that would take yet another book to determine.

Building a Story

Communication through storytelling is a way to level the playing field. Literally, crafting a tangible book, one that continues to evolve, becomes the center of storytelling for our agile marketer. Everyone enjoys a good story, especially one that is all about them. Acknowledge the past. In fact, embrace it. Knowing where you've come from helps you to position yourself in a more secure present. Finally, focus on the future.

Illustrate where they have come from, where they are headed, and where they will be:

  • A prologue
  • The past
  • The present
  • The future

A good story needs a prologue. Putting a spin on your discovery brief or initial assessment inspires almost an epic quality to your story. Keep it brief. The prologue, a one-page, bold statement at the beginning, sets the stage for a preceding set of five to 10 pages focused on the present where current statistics or supporting evidence clearly illustrates a direction defined by management. One that is easily recognizable by the C-suite.

In Comes the Book of Swagger

Finally, the story begins to take shape.

In part three of this series, we'll take a deep dive into the world of our agile marketer by talking to the three levels that create this world where storytelling takes center stage.


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Brian Massey

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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