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What Is Agile Marketing?

Article Cliff Notes

Agile marketing is a tactic, not a strategy.

The key benefits of agile marketing are speed, cost-effectiveness and risk reduction.

Agile marketing requires discipline to pull off, but the rewards for your business can be very lucrative.

In a nutshell, agile marketing means constant adaptability. An agile marketing team firing on all cylinders is able to:

  • Sense when their customers’ needs or their industry are changing;
  • Test many things in a short period of time, tossing the broken ideas out and keeping the good ones;
  • Collect real data instead of working on assumptions;
  • And, make tiny adjustments with each successive campaign to achieve optimal results in a short space of time.

Let’s take a look at the nuts and bolts of agile marketing and find out why the most successful teams on the planet are putting this practice to good use.

<h2″>Let’s Reiterate

The last bullet point above is really the core of agile marketing—the iterative process.

Marketing for Software as a service and Saas companies have been utilizing the iterative process for a while now, but recently the methodology has been crossing over to other industries.

Iteration simply means repeating round after round of analysis or operations (software development, marketing campaigns) in order to reach a specific result or decision.

Iteration is powerful because some decisions are extremely weighty, and the consequences of choosing poorly are costly, either in time, reputation or money.

For many projects, the desired end state is either not fully known and/or in flux.

— Marc Strohleim

Software developers picked up on iteration to eliminate the risk of sinking boatloads of cash into a project, spending years working on it…then finding out that either the market had changed and no one wanted it, or there was no market in the first place.

Using iteration, developers instead release incremental and small updates to their project that still offer value to their users.

Imagine a bookkeeping software that looks ugly as hell, but still boasts the most efficient management tools possible—the pretty buttons and stuff can come later, but odds are you’d still be able to sell copies or subscriptions now, so why wait?

With feedback from their customers, they use each previous iteration as the foundation for the next build cycle.

Doing so prevents the heartache of wasted time and money, and ultimately provides a product their customers love even more.

Marketing is the same. Through the iterative process, marketing teams can avoid the pitfall of planning a huge, expensive campaign targeting the wrong audience, or trying to sell the wrong product.

Iteration in Agile Marketing

As you can probably guess, agile marketing teams are lightweight, responsive and quick.

That means cutting down on bulk (working in small teams), not becoming emotionally attached to or invested in preconceived notions, and working in rapid-fire blocks (called “sprints”) instead of marathon work sessions.

Agile marketing is meant to identify the best, most profitable areas in which to focus work.

After picking an initial directions, teams roll up their sleeves and dive in for their first sprint session, which can be very short or a couple months long.

At the end of their first sprint, teams take a step back and evaluate. That means within weeks you already have feedback on whether to change directions, intensify efforts or put that particular project on the shelf for the time being.

It’s important to note that even deciding to dismantle or delay a particular project after an iteration or two is considered a resounding success (as long as important insights and lessons are learned).

The ability to satisfy customer expectations is core to profitability. If you’re not agile, you can’t do it, because customer expectations are never static.

— Peter Weill

After all, not wasting another 8 months on a clunker is a big win in my book.

The time saved by avoiding bad projects is priceless. Time, after all, is the only resource we can never have back.

Agile marketing means depending on facts and science over guesswork and gut feelings. It means admitting when you’re wrong and acknowledging bad deals, and plunging forward in a slightly new direction instead of retreating. And it means working efficiently and passionately.

Imagine El Dorado is sitting out there in the digital wilderness. When you make it there, your company is going to be rich. You have two ways to reach the fabled city of gold—a well-traveled highway, or bushwhacking through the jungle.

The highway has clearly marked exit signs and mile markers. “500 miles to marketing Shangri-La.” You have an end goal in sight already, and you’re just going to follow this road for the next 500 miles until you arrive.

Well, you run into a few snags:

  1. The road is clogged with traffic.
  2. You need to take several detours to get around roadwork.
  3. You get too comfortable, saying “We’ll get there eventually. Just 100 more miles!”

Finally, after much wasted time, you arrive at your destination—except it’s been ransacked. Someone beat you to it.

Or, you could dive with reckless abandon into the woods, hacking and slashing towards your prize. You get turned around at first, but the insights gained from your initial mistakes set you on the right course. You reach the promised land in record time.

The second path in this totally realistic story is agile marketing, and there’s a good reason to head into the jungle every once and a while.

Risk-Free Reward

A common misconception about iterative/agile marketing is that it’s inherently reckless and risky.

“We’ve done things such-and-such way for 100 years!”

Which is great, and I’m all for clinging to beliefs and methods that aren’t broken. But agile marketing is actually less risky than traditional marketing methods, which is why iteration (as I’ll reiterate) was picked up by software developers—to minimize risk and avoid starting from scratch because a project fell flat on its face.

And you don’t even need a special certification or hours of training to implement an agile marketing plan. Here’s all you need to get started:

  • Dreams: While it’s foolish to get tunnel vision, your marketing attempts obviously need to aim somewhere. That’s why we suggest combining the iterative approach with OKRs to get the most bang for your buck;
  • Organization: Project management software is great, even if that “software” is just a big whiteboard or the back of a napkin. Anything to keep you organized and motivated;
  • Accountability: Some companies prefer brief daily meetings to stay on track, but we use longer weekly/bi-weekly conference calls to keep us all straight;
  • Intense Cardio: Each mini-project is supposed to get knocked out in one sprint, which can last from a couple weeks to a couple months;
  • Education: After each sprint, you have to learn from your trials and tribulations. Use that data to refocus and warm up for your next sprint.

And why would you even bother with all this? Because agile marketing lets teams and companies:

  • Take a raw idea and improve it over subsequent iterations
  • Try out tons of new ideas and keep the ones that kick ass
  • And, make important decisions with hard facts backed up by research.

Any time you can take a soft science like marketing and instill it with hard scientific methodology, you’re going places.

That’s exactly what agile marketing does, and that’s exactly why so many bright startups are shedding the fat and slimming down.

Written by on February 22, 2016

I'm Nick and I have a uncanny obsession with words. I live, breath, and even eat (alphabet cereal) words all day, everyday. You should definitely subscribe because we're going to put out some of the most insightful marketing content you'll ever come across.