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What is agile marketing and should you be sprinting to it?

James A. Martin | April 18, 2016
Agile marketing, an adaptation of the agile software development methodology, is a real thing. If you have any doubt, check out what your competition is doing. Here are seven things you need to know about agile marketing.

“All the decisions were made in real-time quickly because marketers and agency members were sitting together at a ‘mission control’ center, or a social-media war room of sorts,” Sarah Hofstetter, CEO of 360i, told BuzzFeed.

Oreo’s famous Super Bowl touchdown “was not big in scale, but it was huge in impact,” writes Scott Brinker in his book “Hacking Marketing: Agile Practices to Make Marketing Smarter, Faster, and More Innovative.” (Brinker is also editor of the blog and was program chair for the spring MarTech conference.)

6. What are the benefits of agile marketing?

At a high level, agile marketing — when done right — enables brands to stay close to their customers and top-of-mind across multiple digital channels, whether it’s via mobile, social media, Internet, email, or all of the above. Cross-departmental teams collaborate use shared (not siloed) data to achieve a common goal.

Other benefits can include increased transparency into what marketing does, thanks to cross-departmental collaboration, which can help increase support of marketing initiatives throughout an organization; better prioritization of marketing initiatives; improved productivity; the flexibility to increase speed-to-market; and ultimately, when all goes well, increased revenues and customer loyalty.

“Every business today is wrestling with change,” Brinker tells CIO. “For classic management methods, which emphasize long-cycle, top-down planning, change is your enemy, because it disrupts those plans. Managers find themselves fighting change.

“Agile management methods, in contrast, start with the assumption that change is going to happen — so let's build into our process a systematic way to detect and adapt to those changes,” Brinker explained. “That's the overarching benefit of moving to shorter, iterative planning cycles that allow us to incrementally adjust our strategy based on real-world feedback. For companies who are good at this, change is their friend.”

7. What are the challenges in implementing agile marketing?

To become agile, marketing organizations must transition from orchestras — highly structured organizations with everyone following the same sheet music — into jazz bands, which are often looser in structure and highly improvisational, observed Pat Spenner, strategic initiatives leader, CEB, at MarTech.

If such a transition doesn’t sound easy, it’s because it isn’t. Becoming an agile marketing organization is challenging in part because so many jobs and departments today are siloed, Martin Kihn, a Gartner research vice president, tells CIO.

“There are too many people with distinct jobs who don’t talk to each other, and there are too many VPs: VPs of customer loyalty, VPs of customer success,” Kihn says. “They all report to the CMO and rarely meet.”

Companies need to restructure roles and responsibilities and break down barriers if they want to have an agile marketing organization, Kihn addes. “You need teams that form around a project and work together on the outcome,” he says. “That’s how you gain traction today.”


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