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Agile Marketing vs Best Practices

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 29 Apr, 2015
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Why the marketing hare beats the tortoise

Traditional marketing has been turned on its head by increasingly disruptive technology and the connected customer. It’s not enough to plan campaigns and follow best practices anymore; as a marketer you have to be agile. 

Why is that? Because the connected customer, your customer, people just like you, is ‘always on’. You don’t have a small window in their day to try to reach them anymore, as they’re switching from screen to screen, device to device, which such limited spans for attention, you have to be able to keep up.

To be a customer centric business today means that you as a marketer need to be able to think, and act, in real-time.

As a result, marketing professionals are faced with a new age of engagement - an age in which a series of targeted short-term promotions or messages are beginning to outperform more traditional long-term “integrated campaigns”.

This is an age in which the hare beats the tortoise, in which sprinting a metre is better than jogging a marathon. This is the age of agile marketing.

What is agile marketing?

Taking its roots from the Agile Manifesto for software development, Agile Marketing is a means to 'create, communicate and deliver unique value to an always-changing customer in an always-changing market'. In its simplest form this means moving away from the ‘waterfall method’ of marketing, the traditional lengthy development process that backs up most marketing campaigns to short iterations.

While there is still a place for such long-term campaigns in the modern marketing landscape, the truth is that within our high-speed always on digital environment, many such approaches are simply out of date before they’ve even launched. In contrast, the objective of agile marketing is to constantly prioritise the customer through short iterations of activity which engage them in real-time. This generates incremental, but still significant results.

Why is marketing going agile?

The need for this increasingly targeted but ultimately shorter-term approach has been driven by a series of recent developments within the marketing community. In addition to the growth of the connected customer an explosion in new technologies has also helped to drive the trend. As social networking has grown in popularity and mobile internet technologies have improved, customers now expect to communicate with brands in real-time, and will actively avoid those that fail to deliver on this any time, any where, any channel world.

I have spent some 27 years as a sales and marketing professional, and for the last 10 years I have prided myself with perfecting the 'product marketing discipline,’ yet I’m here to tell you that job, that role as it’s existed no longer applies. Our profession is one of the youngest, and yet as a discipline it’s been constantly reinvented. What made sense for the Mad Men world of the 50’s and 60’s was totally out-of-place in the 80’s and 90’s, which in turn were changed by the dotcom era. But today we face another fundamental change or as we marketers like to say 'a paradigm shift,' of epic proportions. Today’s Marketing pros need to be ready to take more risks, although they’re risks backed up by more science than we creative folk traditionally like.

Sometimes you just have to seize the moment – carpe diem – and forsake perfection in favour of just getting the message out quickly. Customers are bombarded by an unprecedented amount of marketing messages at all times, we all are, and making your marketing efforts more agile is all about reinventing the way you work based on real customer needs at every moment, and pushing compelling, rich and relevant content out that’s also simpler and quicker.

While many marketers are still afraid of this 'always-on' communication, it is the brands that embrace it that will ultimately reap the benefits early on. The king is dead so long live the king, or at least the digital disrupter – the new breed of confident agile marketer. After all, agile marketing is just another way to improve customer connections and increase your response-time when it comes to managing customer needs.

See why this can only be a good thing with our '‘Best Practice Rant'.

Why Best Practice is Killing Marketing | Agile Marketing Rant from EPiServer

The 5 principles of agile marketing

With a bit of help from agile marketing evangelist Scott Brinker, we have summarized the 5 key principles to help get your started on your agile journey:

  • 1. Experience but be focused. It is all too easy to confuse responsive agility with short-term thinking and a lack of campaign planning. Make sure you know what you are trying to achieve with each of iteration.
  • 2. Be adaptable. As a marketer you need to know you can’t just expect everything to be mapped out flawlessly every three months. There will be always be things that come along, so diversify your plans.
  • 3. Prioritize the problem. There’s no shortage of marketing problems to solve. Know your priority and throw time and energy into your biggest problem first.
  • 4. Empower your team.  Sometimes the biggest problem is the management barrier. Give your team the right tools and power to tear up processes, when they need to, and encourage creativity and execution in real-time.
  • 5. Test relevance. Test fast, fail fast and learn fast from your data. Success is a process rather than an end product.

As with all the tools in a marketers’ arsenal, agile marketing is just one (increasingly important) part of a wider marketing mix. It is all too easy to confuse responsive agility with short-term thinking and a lack of campaign planning. Overall, it’s about finding a balance between the long and the short term.

For more advice on Agile marketing from Scott and his rant on why best practices are killing marketing, read the ‘5 principles of agile marketing eBook’ to learn how to become more agile. 

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