It’s fairly safe to assume that when the Agile Manifesto was written and signed on a cold night in February 2001, no one was thinking about how to apply agility to digital marketing.
Fast-forward 20 years and variations on these same Agile software development principles are now considered the most efficient approach to creating successful digital marketing campaigns.
Why Did Traditional Marketing “Go Agile”?
Marketing through traditional media (for example, print, TV and radio) is a rigid process. Changes are difficult and expensive to make, so marketing teams tend to stick with predefined campaigns with little risk of modification.
The effort required to alter and update campaigns in traditional media also makes it hard to measure results and respond to feedback before the campaign ends. Which, jumping back to our software development comparison, is the equivalent of the waterfall approach and the opposite of Agile.
Agile digital marketing, on the other hand, embraces iteration, adaptation and collaboration, which allows teams to respond quickly to changes in customer trends and behaviors. This marketing agility also helps teams run data-driven campaigns based on metrics rather than assumptions.
The primary benefits of adopting an Agile approach to digital marketing include:
- Increased productivity
- More transparency
- Better prioritization
- Increased ability to adapt to change
- Improved communication
- Higher customer satisfaction
Characteristics of Agile Digital Marketing Teams
According to a study conducted by AgileSherpas, the Agile marketing industry is maturing quickly. Since its first survey in 2018, Agile marketing adoption went from 37% to 42% in 2019 to 51% percent in 2020.
With more than half of the study’s respondents embracing Agile for their marketing initiatives, let’s take a look at the characteristics of an “Agile” digital marketing team to better understand what is happening at the team level to drive Agile transformation in the digital marketing industry.
Like their software development counterparts, Agile digital marketing teams are:
Self-organized and cross-functional
Agile teams adopt a philosophy of autonomy, cooperation, communication and team spirit to work toward a common goal without depending on a hierarchical structure to tell them how to work.
Team members are also proficient in multiple skills, so there is no waiting around for a key resource’s schedule to free up so the project can progress.
Agile marketing teams drop the silos so information and data flow freely and there is a high level of organization and visibility across all of the team’s campaigns.
Metrics-driven decision makers
Agile digital marketing teams justify strategic marketing choices based on data, not feelings. They analyze the results of marketing campaigns and run marketing experiments based on the quantifiable results.
Responsive to continuous feedback
Agile marketers use feedback loops to improve their campaigns. These loops involve deploying campaigns iteratively, gathering both positive and negative feedback, applying that feedback and releasing the next campaign iteration.
Agile digital marketing teams treat failure as an opportunity for improvement. They are flexible and willing to change their marketing strategy if the data shows it’s needed and customize campaigns based on different customer personas.
A key component of an Agile digital marketing shop is the use of templates to increase efficiency. Templates make it easy to adapt to changing customer needs and behavior.
Scrum vs. Kanban: What’s the Difference?
Most teams that adopt Agile digital marketing practices follow either Scrum or Kanban depending on their team’s specific needs. Here is a high-level look at the two frameworks:
Scrum gives teams better product visibility and lets them incorporate changes quickly by focusing on two capabilities.
Responsiveness: Scrum divides work into a series of one- to four-week sprints. Before the project begins, the team creates a backlog listing all the work the team will need to carry out.
At the end of each sprint, the team has a deliverable that the customer can use immediately.
Adaptability: Change happens on Agile projects whether due to discoveries during development or in response to feedback.
By segmenting production, Scrum ensures that testing happens early in the process and users are able to try the product and provide feedback so the team can make changes as needed.
Unlike Scrum, which takes the whole project into account, Kanban focuses on one specific task at a time.
The main benefits of implementing Kanban include:
- Easier task selection and prioritization
- Increased project transparency
- Focus on workflow and service delivery
- Enhanced problem-solving and decision-making abilities
- Improved predictability and inter-team communication
- Better adaptation to change
Getting Started with Agile Digital Marketing
Adopting any new methodology is going to take time and effort, especially when it requires a new way of thinking about old processes.
The adoption period for Agile digital marketing practices will vary based on your team’s willingness to embrace change and the level of support the initiative has from the organization’s decision makers. However, many marketing teams are able to start seeing benefits from their agile transformation in two to three months.