The Future Trend of Marketing Automation: Agile Marketing

  |  July 2, 2013   |  Comments

If you can follow the basics of listening to your user base to come up with good ideas, and then execute these ideas, you can become a best-of-breed marketer.

Marketing automation is new to many companies, and yet old hat for many others. Regardless of whether marketing automation is a fresh or familiar concept to you, learning about and understanding the benefits of agile marketing can change the shape of your department and easily increase the impact of your marketing automation tool. The benefits of agile marketing lie in being able to execute more campaigns with greater efficiency and with less time and effort. So how do you become an agile marketer?

First off, let's define agile. Agile is a term borrowed from software developers who created this methodology to help them solve the problem of building complex pieces of software under constantly changing conditions. If you work for a software company, it is highly possible your development team uses agile methodology to build your products. Agile software development includes a lot of buzzwords like Scrum, burndowns, user stories, sprints, and so forth. Agile for marketing will use some of these words, but not all. Adopting agile methodology for marketing needs to be conceptualized differently, so let's begin by going through some steps on how to become an agile marketer.

Step One: Listen

Listening to your user base is the first and most fundamental thing you need to do. If you think you do it already, I can promise you it's not enough. I get so frustrated with marketers on a daily basis because they fail to use their most effective marketing tool: their telephone! Yes, that antiquated piece of technology that most marketers feel only has a place on the desks of salespeople. Marketers who do not communicate directly over the phone with their prospects, current customers, and other constituents are just plain lazy - and afraid. Focusing on social media, tracking trending keywords, and conducting surveys are all useful strategies, but none are nearly as impactful as the direct communication you get with the phone.

Discussions with your user base will yield plenty of actionable data. Listen for key pieces of information such as:

  • What do they think their problem is?
  • How did they come to find out about this problem?
  • Was your content helpful to them at that particular stage of research?
  • What could you do better?

We will call these pieces of information "user stories." These will be the basis for building out future campaigns.

Step Two: Execute

One of my favorite quotes on marketing is from the book "The One to One Future" by Peppers and Rogers: "Operate in realities, not abstractions." Most marketers operate in their abstractions of what they think is the case. This was proven to be the case in ExactTarget's report, "Marketers From Mars." The report highlights the massive disconnect between what marketers believe to be the case and what actually is the case. This disparity between perception and reality causes many marketers to invest in programs based on their guesses rather than the reality of the situation. This is why it's so important to start out by listening.

Once you've listened, you need to execute in order to test your ideas. Only through testing your assumptions will you arrive at realities. Also, remember the mantra, "Better, not best." Don't stress over every little detail. There will be time for analyzing later.

Here are some great ways to start your execution on a small scale:

  • Test content ideas by advertising a prerelease of content. If the content fails to meet your download numbers for a prerelease, examine your title, content, and promotion techniques.
  • Before launching a nurturing campaign, always send it to a test group first. Make sure you're a member of the test group.
  • Build only three email templates in a nurturing campaign at a time. Execute, and then determine how to build your next three.

Tip: "Stand-ups" are very important. Stand-ups are daily meetings that take place first thing in the morning. They typically take no more than 15 minutes and require everyone in attendance to answer three questions.

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What are you doing today?
  3. Are there any roadblocks in your way?

Step Three: Evaluate

When evaluating your campaigns, start by making sure you are looking at the appropriate data for your campaign. With marketing there are a host of reports to use to evaluate different aspects of your campaigns. The most overlooked and overused reports are:

  • ROI reports. Reports measuring ROI are the most overused of all reports. ROI reports should only be used when campaigns have a direct cost, as is the case with SEO, PPC, and events. Other campaigns such as email and lead nurturing cannot be evaluated with these reports because they aren't tied to a direct cost.
  • Velocity reports. Velocity reports are the most underutilized of all reports. Looking at the velocity of a lead though each stage of your funnel will allow you to predict how many leads you'll have and how much revenue you'll generate at a future date. Using velocity reports will also allow you to focus campaigns on specific stages that do not have direct revenue or costs associated with them, such as lead-nurturing campaigns.

Step Four: Repeat

Adopting marketing automation will greatly increase your ability to execute campaigns, which work. Execute, then evaluate what worked, and repeat the best ideas and stop the bad ones. What's more, staying true to agile principles when combined with marketing automation will put you at the forefront of all marketers. Good luck, and remember: listen, execute, evaluate, and repeat.

If you can follow the basics of listening to your user base to come up with good ideas, and then execute these ideas and let the best results drive your future efforts, you can become a best-of-breed marketer. Scott Voigt, founder of agile marketing platform, puts it best, "Agile works well because you can adapt and stay relevant as the future unfolds. You deliver consistent incremental results instead of a few all-or-nothing bets, and you have an opportunity to get better with each iteration." The benefits of agile are the future of marketing in a modern world and need to be considered if you want to consider yourself a best-of-breed marketer.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.


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Mathew Sweezey

Mathew is the head of thought leadership for B2B marketing at Pardot, a Company. A consummate writer, he has been featured in numerous publications such as Marketing Automation Times, DemandGen Report, Marketing Sherpa, ZDNet, and is the author of Marketing Automation for Dummies (published by Wiley February 2014). As a speaker Mathew speaks around the world at events such as Conversion Conference, Dreamforce, SugarCon, and to companies including Microsoft, Investec, NetJets, and, to name a few.

Follow @msweezey.

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