Agile Marketing Takes Off!

Traditional marketing plans start with research, followed by planning and execution—in that order. Long-term marketing planning is important, but the ability to respond to marketplace events as they unfold is becoming a crucial planning and management skill.

Agile marketing compresses initial planning, combining strategy with execution and adjusting course along the way by incorporating insights from tracking market responses throughout the campaign. The agile approach doesn’t over-think or attempt to solve problems in advance. Instead, planning and plan revisions become ongoing processes and are done in real-time.

In some circles this is nothing new.

The agile process has its origins in software development, originating in response to the “waterfall” development method, which begins with an exacting planning process followed by a long, locked-down build phase. However, this waterfall process is long and isolating, and often results in products that are out of sync with real user needs. The agile process was created by software developers who wanted the process to be more open, learning and relevant.

Public relations professionals have always been agile, responding to news and events as close to real-time as possible, to keep up with breaking news and events.

Similarly, social media marketing occurs at a pace that is nearly live. Corporate social media marketers are attentive to online activity, interacting as promptly and immediately as possible. Mobile, video and other social apps are accelerating response times and the pace of interaction.

But agile marketing is more than rapid response. Here are several examples:

Agile marketing is concept testing

The traditional marketing process tests concepts with a small set of users before launching the full creative media campaign. But agile marketing takes that idea further by transforming all media into live, ongoing tests, gathering feedback and continually evolving the program based on what is really working in the market. This takes a serious bite out of the problem of wondering “which half of the marketing doesn’t work?” Agile marketing offers a framework for better decisions

  • An agile process can tie product development into the marketing experience, which is especially important for web-based services, app development and other software. It’s also an opportunity for consumer products like apparel, entertainment and dining.
  • Can help manage changing priorities
  • Keeps the marketing relevant

Agile marketing can be integrated with product development

The product experience is a big catalyst to winning new customers. Understanding what customers really want, need and love is essential in developing products that consumers adopt and that inspire evangelism. With an agile marketing process, product insights can evolve in tandem with customer expectations. This works when marketing picks up on customer responses and transmits the feedback to product development to implement improvements. Research and interviews during product planning provide customer and consumer insight. The next level of user-relevant product development is co-creation. This can be seen in companies that develop products with heavy customer input. While consumer co-creation (and the B2B equivalent of close customer feedback gathering and listening) has been around for over a decade, agile marketing is now on the rise and it dovetails with open product development.

The formal agile process

The notion of “formal” agile marketing processes might seem a bit paradoxical. But Agile marketing has been codified. Here are a few ways:

  • Cross functional teams
  • Customer collaboration
  • Response to change
  • Continuous improvement

Taking the concept further, agile marketing is also:

  • A frame of mind: letting go of control and responding to the market
  • Customer-centric
  • Valuing efficiency
  • Active use of data
  • Speed to implement
  • Flexibility and resilience
  • Heightens internal communications within teams and across functional areas and departments
  • Short iterative cycles
  • Adaptive and able to refocus priorities

Who benefits from agile marketing? 

Agile marketing may seem to be the domain of small companies and startups. However, examples abound among mid-market companies as well as Fortune 500. By definition, the small company start up advantage is speed and nimbleness. But in some ways, the larger companies have more to gain. Agility adds a significant advantage when it is overlaid onto a large organization’s resources and the ability to scale. Of course it’s more difficult to change large-company culture to become agile.

Agile marketing is the blurring of technology and business practices. Marketers are becoming more innovative and entrepreneurial by adapting practices that spring from other functions.

Stay tuned:  technology may well be providing marketing with another model: Responsive Design.

photo: Kevin Masi, 2013