In today’s digital world, marketers have enthusiastically adopted technology to aid them in reaching ever harder demographics and mapping customer journeys that a brand can meaningfully converse with. While a burst of start-ups and established companies have rolled out products and services that can help marketers take their messages to their customers, most of them do not sit in boardrooms where marketing strategies and budgets are discussed and decided.
CMOs today face the challenge of creating marketing strategies and plans that need to respond to the dynamism in the technology and market landscape. Often, marketers look at the challenges from a topline perspective, crafting marketing strategies and allocating budgets based on yearly data. But can we, in this day and age, trust data that is a year old?
Technology can be an answer to this problem. But as Deanie Elsner, former Chief Marketing Officer of Kraft Foods, cautions: “The illusion that has to be dismissed is that marketers know enough to know that they have an ad-tech problem.” Indeed, most marketers don’t know how their strategic campaigns are performing and need to wait before any relevant data comes in. Thus, when most data do come in and strategy is reset, the scenario may have changed. Thus, the growth problem persists. “The irony is, getting ad-tech solutions that enable marketers to connect their brand with consumers at an individual level at scale would solve their growth problem, but they don’t see it as an ad-tech problem.”
Technology can be a marketer’s best friend, but it needs to be used tactically and efficiently. Else, the impact is lost. The age-old process by which marketing strategies are decided at the beginning of the year and implemented in tandem with business activities needs to change. For marketing to be effective, it needs to be responsive and ‘agile.’
What is ‘agile’ marketing?
Agile marketing is a philosophy and approach towards marketing that takes inspiration from agile software development, and values customer experience and satisfaction through early, continuous and adaptable delivery of marketing messages. The aim is to increase the speed and efficiency of reaching out to customers, improve predictability and transparency, and make marketing responsive and adaptable to the volatility of business and customer conditions.
It is a strongly held belief among marketers that greater volume of work or increased speed is key to professional success. As one study shows, nearly nine in 10 marketers, i.e., 89%, log in to work/work e-mail outside of standard business hours during a typical work week. Agile principles can change that – the emphasis is not on volume but on quality; one that seeks to make marketing as a function more dynamic, responsive, and smarter.
A CMI survey shows that the number of B2B content marketers who see their efforts as ‘effective’ fell 8% between 2015 and 2016. These numbers have their roots in the current digital environment where content and marketing saturation, along with policy changes, have made it increasingly difficult for marketers to effectively reach out to their audiences. And these changes are likely to continue. As the opportunities for marketers across different channels, platforms, publications, and events explode, the effectivity of their marketing efforts will likely be impacted.
The answer is not to do more. Andrea Fryrear, President, AgileSherpas, and author of the book “Death of a Marketer,” says, “An Agile approach enables you to become more effective without working more. You may get more done – or you may not. The point is that you’re more likely to get the right things done.”
How does it work?
The core principle of agile marketing approach follows a process called scrum, a rugby term that encapsulates the discipline, order, focus, and adaptability needed to be effectively implement it. The main aim of agile marketing methodology is to increase alignment with day-to-day business aims of the organization, support sales staff, develop effective communication channels, both within and outside the marketing team, and to increase the swiftness and sensitivity of marketing approach. This process is iterative, allowing for short marketing experiments, recurrent feedback, and the aptitude, skill, and ability to react to changing market needs and business conditions.
The core idea uses data and all available technology to develop short ‘sprints’ — a definitive period during which all or certain team members aim to complete a set amount of high-priority work that’s connected to a long-term plan. The priority of the work being done, its impact, and the timelines are decided taking into account the results of the previous sprints and business needs. Dedicated toward only a particular campaign/task/goal, these short duration sprints usually don’t last more than a few weeks.
As one sprint ends, the results are analyzed and the next one is decided upon. The short duration and pinpointed objectivity of the activity lead to increased awareness, communication, and strong business alignment. Results are tracked daily with data being analyzed and technology helping teams achieve their targets. Ad tech plays a crucial role here, as sprint teams look to use every available tool and platform to achieve their numbers.
Does it work?
Agile teams make small, strategic, and measurable campaigns rather than massive plans. They adjust, discern, and acclimatize their campaigns based on continuous incoming data. They are more likely to hit their targets – and to stay in sync with evolving business opportunities than teams that invest enormous amounts of time and resources in large projects.
Of course, there are limitations and quality control is one of the key concerns of such hyperactive, short-term oriented marketing. That is more a matter of hygiene and as the principles of agile seep into the very fabric of organizations, quality of marketing output is likely to get better. There can also be a monitor for the same; CMOs taking upon themselves to ensure that while speed, efficiency, and data-driven output are important, the softer aspects of marketing strategies are well-looked into.
CMOs need to ensure that the system created enables marketers to incorporate new information and emerging innovations into the marketing strategies more rapidly and successfully than what the current quarterly or yearly plans allow. The flexibility that an agile marketing model also allows for are revisions, corrections, and updating of campaigns, as well as quickly addressing quality concerns and responding to customer reactions. Agile marketing supports the rapid adaptation of changes in a strategic, balanced way that furthers business aims proactively rather than reactively, using limited resources to enhance customer experience.
As Andrea Fryrear says, “Agile teams may be fast, but they aren’t chaotic. Choices are considered; decisions are not reactive.”