Agile Marketing

Agile marketing team using Agile marketing best practices during a sprint

Agile marketing is where marketing teams find the highest-value projects available and concentrate their resources on them. The teams then work together to complete those projects, assess their impact and take steps to obtain better results in the future.

Put simply, Agile marketing a less stressful way to be a marketer. It has a colorful history, was devised during a 48-hour meeting in 2012.

This article will take you through the principles of Agile methodology in marketing and help you decide if Agile is the right tool.

Table of Contents

What is Agile marketing?

Agile marketing is a tactical marketing approach, where marketing teams collectively identify high-value projects on which to focus their collective efforts. The definition of this approach involves self-organizing, experimentation, and a focus on delivering work in short bursts — agile marketing is fast-paced at its core.

Agile marketing teams use sprints to complete those projects as a team. These are brief, fast-paced mini projects that allow managers test teams and how they cope with these pressures.

Once a sprint has finished, managers can then assess how these projects have gone and use these findings to continuously improve results on upcoming projects.

More broadly, Agile is a type of project management methodology. It tends to be focused on speed and dynamism, where Kanban methodology prioritizes smooth workflow and Waterfall uses top-down rigidity.

How does Agile marketing work?

Agile marketing works by structuring projects around frequent output and regular recalibrating. It’s carefully planned, but in such a way that allows for experimentation.

Prioritizing audiences is a core principle. When marketers can react, they can implement razor-sharp targeting.

Agile teams might decide a project did not provide enough value and should not be repeated. This may seem like a loss, but can actually be considered a big win.

Learning from any failures that happen and figuring out what not to do in future projects can sometimes produce even better projects moving forward. The way Agile marketing teams work is underpinned by these values:

Utilizing Agile for marketing.

To get the most from Agile marketing, you need an overarching strategy to underpin your methods. Strategy is something that should be drafted before you decide how to complete the work.

No matter if you use collaborative or top-down methods to devise your strategy, Agile marketing allows you to put those plans into practice. This keeps your teams poised, meaning they’re better placed to react with alert performance.

Whitepaper: How to Become an Agile Agency

How to implement Agile marketing methodology.

Know your burndown charts from your user stories? Agile marketing could have its own dictionary, with a litany of terminology and language you might not be 100% familiar with, but that describes the methods of Agile.

Each marketing department will find the precise format that works best for them, but any Agile marketing implementation has these features:

  1. Sprints. A sprint is the amount of time you allow your team to finalize their ongoing projects. Usually, these last from two to six weeks. Bigger initiatives may not fall under a single sprint and you might have to separate these into smaller, mini-projects to tackle in multiple sprints.
  2. Stand up meetings. Every day, your team should assemble for a brief stand-up meeting (max 15 minutes). All team members need to summarize what they worked on and completed the previous day and their plans for today. They should also talk about any problems or issues they encountered that need to be solved.
  3. Board to track project progress. Whether it's the old-fashioned whiteboard with sticky notes, a simple Kanban board, or specialized software, you need a centralized way to track your sprint.
  4. Teamwork. A single team member might own a project, but the success or failure of the sprint is the responsibility of everyone. The team need to be in a position to work together and assist each other – this is a fundamental part of the Agile marketing framework.

For marketing, Agile methodology can help to keep operations light-footed, paving the way for constant evolution.

What an Agile marketing department can do.

Staying agile in marketing means getting one step ahead of classic processes. The idea is these should work for you rather than weighing a project down.

By following the methods established by developers (with our own twists, of course), marketers can open up entirely new ways to reach audiences and goals.

Agile marketing allows marketers to:

  1. React swiftly to changes in the market
  2. Produce rapid campaigns that can be tested and optimized over time
  3. Try lots of things and repeat the ones that succeed
  4. Use input from other departments to augment marketing efforts
  5. Explain choices in campaigns and projects with hard data
  6. Work with team members to prevent a tunnel-vision approach to marketing

When you start to assess the possibilities on a project-by-project and sprint-by-sprint basis, the possibilities out there are almost unlimited.

Datasheet: The Agile Marketing Cheat Sheet

Is Agile marketing right for me?

Do you feel your team’s approach to marketing is too rigid? Is inflexibility a drain on your key performance indicators (KPIs)? Spend some time contemplating these big questions before you spend a month’s budget on sticky notes — your “why” should inform your “how.”

Maybe your team members are buckling under their immense workloads. If you’re experiencing high turnover rates or seeing signs of burnout from your marketers, reducing the burden on your team needs to be your top priority.

You don’t want to adopt an approach like scrum that demands a lot of up-front education or role changes — that’s just going to stress everyone out more.

If your team is stable, consider methodology designed to give you the most significant competitive advantage in the market, such as Scrumban.

External interruptions that routinely derail your projects may necessitate structure and boundaries.

Consider what you hope to accomplish by taking your marketing team Agile and choose a methodology that will get you to those goals.

What are the wider business benefits?

In marketing, it’s easy to gravitate toward working in silos — agile methodology can help organizations avoid this. Since marketing should be integrated at every level of a modern organization, relationships with other departments must influence our Agile transformations.

Agile methodologies can be utilized beyond your company’s marketing efforts. Today, your sales, marketing and operations teams might all adopt Agile methods, making it easier to collaborate fast.

Marketing departments may use Agile processes to set — and hit — deadlines. Religiously. Once your team has proven its worth, continuous improvement becomes easier, because stakeholders will give you more autonomy.

If you already hold influence, start with more serious workflow adjustments, which you’ll get from tools like the WIP limits used in Kanban and Scrumban. These get you quicker results, but they require an independent team.

Team members are key to making it work.

Regardless of the methodology that you choose, it’s the individuals on your team who will make or break your project.

Be realistic about the personnel you’re working with. Make a smart choice about your Agile marketing transformation based on the team you have, not the one you want.

Are my marketers willing to go Agile?

Most importantly, evaluate your team’s willingness to change.

If your team is invested in the status quo and unwilling to experiment with alternatives, you may have a battle on your hands. You’re going to need to start with the lightest weight method available (such as Kanban) to minimize reluctance.

Adaptability is important, but your team’s cross-functionality (or lack thereof) is almost as important as their openness to change.

Do you have cross-functional marketers?

Cross-functional marketing teams have a wide variety of skills, specifically ones that enable them to complete the full life cycle of projects. They can move forward autonomously most of the time.

The more cross-functional your team, the greater their existing agility. There’s no reason a highly specialized team can’t be Agile, but they’ll rely more heavily on outside help to get started.

Some methodologies, such as Scrum, are designed for highly cross-functional teams. Others, like Scrumban and Kanban, can accommodate teams with more variation in skillsets.

Team size matters.

Last, but certainly not least, the size of your team should inform your choice of methodology.

The classic formula for Scrum teams is seven members, plus or minus two, but teams as small as three can use this methodology. Large departments can also break into multiple Scrum teams.

Kanban and Scrumban, on the other hand, scale up and down more readily. These approaches can require less coordination if you’re new to Agile. Learn more about project management methodologies and what the terminology means.

Marketing teams that shouldn’t go Agile.

You might find Agile marketing methodology isn’t suitable if you:

Agile marketing was created to help manage the uncertainty that surrounds complicated knowledge work. If you don’t have uncertainty in your work — you know 100% of the requirements before you start, and nothing ever changes — then Agile may not help significantly.

Pilot programs — small, low-risk, visible experiments that you can run using an Agile methodology — help prove the value of transformation without up-front buy-in. Assemble a handful of willing souls, then try out Agile in your next content marketing or social media, campaign.

Learn more: Workfront for Project Management
Blog: Agile vs Waterfall

Agile marketing saves the day, but requires devotion.

Learning the ins and outs of a true Agile marketing system takes time, and your first sprint will feel more like a crawl.

In the long run, Agile marketing can help marketing departments of just about any shape and size to:

Agile is quickly gaining momentum and popularity in marketing circles. This kind of flexibility:

If creative teams can find a solution that will help them manage their Agile marketing process, they will be among the first to reap the benefits of this new and exciting trend.

Further reading about Agile marketing.

For those interested, this concluding section details the origins of Agile marketing and shows how it gained momentum and became a movement.

A history of Agile marketing.

On June 11, 2012, an intrepid band of innovators met to formulate a document that would transform modern marketing.

Sprint Zero was its name and this two-day meeting of marketing luminaries discussed the emerging idea of Agile marketing. Their aim was to create shared core values and principles, and forge a path to future adoption of the movement.

The result of their 48-hour intensive meetings was the Agile Marketing Manifesto. Bringing together a collection of thoughts and ideas, it’s still considered the gold standard for explaining what Agile marketing is all about.

It sparked dozens of articles and blog posts, lending fuel to the steadily growing fire around the idea of changing marketing into an Agile profession.

Early arguments for Agile marketing.

Prior to the end of Sprint Zero, there were many different people putting forward their own versions and visions of an Agile Marketing Manifesto.

The groundswell of discussion during 2011 and 2012 was vibrant and important, but it was also creating a very wide variety of manifestos.

Most of all, people wondered how Agile marketing could attain credibility if arguments constantly brewed around its core values?

By 2012, it was clear that if Agile marketing was going to become a real movement, it needed a single point of reference. This, then, was the primary objective of Sprint Zero.

Managing a manifesto.

Agile software development produced their own Agile Manifesto back in the early days of the 21st Century, and it was a catalyst for the solidification of that movement.

Similarly, 2012’s Agile Marketing Manifesto has done a lot to circle the wagons around a central idea of what agility in marketing actually means. Although you still see quite a lot of, “What is Agile Marketing?” articles popping up, there are nearly as many on more specific, tactical topics.

By taking the time to get a group consensus around what values should inform the agile marketing movement, the members of Sprint Zero drove us into the next phase of the agile revolution.

The post-Manifesto years.

Many people ask why Agile marketing hasn’t caught on. If this is such a great idea, the argument goes, then why aren’t all global marketers adopting it?

The answers lie in marketing as a profession.

Its historical position within organizations has marginalized and silenced many marketing teams, forcing them to barge their way back into the conversation recently. It’s hard to fight for a voice while also learning a new Agile language.

On the flip side is the nature of marketers as individual professionals.

Consider the number of marketers who were in the midst of their careers during the advent of digital marketing, and it’s easy to understand how simply keeping up with the breakneck pace of change has eclipsed other forms of professional evolution.

Then, of course, there’s the 24/7 nature of marketing work to contend with. In a nutshell, the agile marketers who left Sprint Zero full of revolutionary zeal were fighting an uphill battle.

Unsure if the Agile marketing revolution is right for your business? Compare alternative marketing project methodologies with our guide to Agile vs Waterfall marketing.

Frequently asked questions.

What is an agile marketing definition?

Agile marketing is best defined as a strategy for making fast decisions that react to events in real time. Its aim is to enable companies and teams to move quickly through and deliver at various stages of a project. Data and analytics are key enablers of agile marketing.

Is Agile good for marketing?

Agile is good for marketing as it enables businesses to quickly capitalize on opportunities. Legacy marketing, steeped in sign-off and process, moves much more slowly, often taking weeks to deliver relatively simple tasks, such as a sales email. Agile marketing is much faster.

What are agile principles?

Agile working is underpinned by key principles. The Agile Manifesto originally set this out as 12 main pledges. But the principles of agile have evolved and become universal. Common themes include: