I recently watched the new Star Trek movie Into the Darkness. At one point in the movie, the Enterprise entered Warp Drive hoping to escape. The ship sped through space with the confidence that the old -but tried and true – tactic would save them yet again (this is going somewhere, I promise). They were shocked to get a shot across their stern from the pursuing ship with a new type of drive (apologies to Star Trek aficionados for likely butchering the differences between warp and hyper drive). This scenario reminded me of the state of many of today’s marketers – relying on old tactics and then being caught unexpectedly from behind.
Marketing in this day and age is no doubt a challenge for even the most knowledgeable and confident of marketers. The never-ending stream of new tools, mountains of data and nearly endless numbers of customer/prospect touchpoints (with a device in hand to let the positive or negative be known – and very, very quickly) can make for a pace that can feel overwhelming at times. Fear not, we as a Marketing community are nothing if not a creative lot. New times require a new way of going about things.
Enter Agile Digital Marketing
Agile has a history rooted in software development and based on the concept of iterative and incremental development versus traditional waterfall methodologies. Scott Brinker sums up Agile Digital Marketing pretty succinctly in the following definition:
“Agile management is an iterative and adaptive process where small, highly-collaborative teams work in a series of short cycles, incorporating rapid feedback, to deliver emergent solutions, emphasizing transparency among all stakeholders.”
At its core, Agile Digital Marketing affords marketers a framework to push out short bursts of user-focused marketing, measure and adjust into succeeding cycles. Today’s digital world provides the tools and data to allow digital marketers to pull this off. But it requires a big change in thinking and buy-in from across a broad array of stakeholders to pull it off successfully.
Agile at Delphic
Delphic has been using aspects of Agile on the web development side of our business for many years now. Candidly, it is sometimes hard to adapt pieces of Agile (or, say, “Scrum”) into an agency environment. It requires a great level of trust between client and agency – but it can be done. At Delphic, we iterate and change our processes with each project, continually moving toward a model that is focused on the customer and adaptive to changing business requirements.
On the digital marketing side of the house, we have always employed aspects of Agile – preferring iteration and agility over long drawn out planning while looking to data over subjective opinion. But we still have work to do in fully adopting Agile Digital Marketing as our way of doing business.
Delphic Agile Digital Marketing Mantras
At Delphic, we’ve developed a mix of mantras gleaned from various Agile methods from both the web development and marketing sides.
Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through continuous delivery of business value
The customer is truly King (or Queen) – our first priority (note for an agency, this is not likely your client, but your client’s customer). Agile is not about speed per se, it’s about setting your team up to be able to deliver a steady stream of work product aligned to the greatest business value. It seeks to avoid fire drills and low value business distractions by focusing on the customer’s needs in a nimble framework.
Many small experiments over a few large ones
Breaking down large initiatives into smaller ones simply makes sense. It’s better to structure your marketing organization to produce in 2-4 week sprints that allow you to get more usable efforts in front of clients more frequently and with the benefit of learnings from each turn of the crank.
If you fail, do it fast, learn and move on
Let’s face it, as Marketers we have all been part of some things that have worked well and others – well, not so much. Structuring digital marketing programs into shorter, more iterative sprints allows us to see what works, and, perhaps more importantly – what doesn’t work more quickly. Don’t dwell on mistakes, learn from them and move on – quickly.
Deliver working websites and campaigns with a constant pace and pipeline
Remember, Agile Digital Marketing isn’t about doing things fast, per se. It’s about breaking things down into a shorter, more consistent pace that is sustainable over time. Backlog items and good ideas and tackle them by priority based on importance to the user.
Simplicity is essential
Focusing on simplicity is a critical component to effective Agile Digital Marketing techniques. But simplicity is often harder to achieve than throwing everything against the wall. Whether you are talking about process, UX design or virtually anything else – removing roadblocks that prevent people from getting their work done is a critical facet of working in an Agile program.
Great digital work requires close alignment with business, marketing and development
Today’s Marketing department does not operate in a vacuum. Agile programs are meant to have cross-functional teams who work closely together to flesh out requirements that are closest to delivering value to the end-user. This high level of communication brings a level of transparency that helps keep programs on target and focused.
Respond to change versus following plans
Most of us have been part of projects or campaigns where the view of management is that document tonnage is an indicator of the potential of success of the project. Agile sheds this delusion to focus on working prototypes over binders no one looks at or bothers to keep up to date. An adaptive approach to changing business requirements is critical.
Motivated individuals build great digital programs
As a digital agency, we really are the sum of our collective parts. Our people bring their expertise and experiences to bear. We as agency leadership need to provide the right mix of people, culture, environment and work that keeps individuals engaged and motivated. Motivated individuals bring energy to one another and creative ideas to problem solving to make marketing campaigns great!
Attention to digital fundamentals and good design
Getting started with Agile Digital Marketing requires a solid foundation in fundamentals. This is not a “hair on fire” approach to managing digital marketing programs. A grounding in the fundamentals of the components that go into great digital marketing efforts is essential – creative, copywriting and UX design, marketing, development are all the responsibility of the greater team.
Testing and data over opinions and conventions
Digital offers a gold mine of customer touchpoint data – so why not use it more often and to great effect? We don’t care if the button is blue or green – what generates more and better clicks? A simple example – set up the systems to understand your user behavior in increasing levels of sophistication. Start slow and iterate – there are a lot of options at all different budgetary price points.
Agile Digital Marketing Resources
If you want to learn more about getting started with Agile techniques, here are a few really good resources.
Wikipedia – Agile software development
Chief Marketing Technologist – Agile Marketing for a world of constant change
Logic + Emotion – Unconventional Marketing
Agile Marketing Blog
Agile Marketing – 4 Principles and 13 Hacks