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How an agile marketing methodology can transform your company from good to great

Last Updated 
Posted on
July 9, 2024
Aimtal Team
Marketing Strategy

Since its development in the 90s, Agile methodology has taken the software world by storm. Since the Agile Manifesto was published in 2001, the frameworks have been refined and others have been developed, leading to the revolutionary Agile Marketing Manifesto, created in 2012. In the process, it’s changed the way we work each day.

Agile can be an excellent match for marketing teams, helping them improve flexibility, collaboration with stakeholders, and responsiveness to change and risks while placing less stress on team members. Transforming your organization from a traditional approach to an agile one can be the key to taking your marketing (and company) from “good” to “great.”

In this article, we’ll walk you through the benefits of Agile for marketing teams and offer some tips to make the transition easier. Ready? We promise—your project managers and marketing operations will love you.

What is Agile marketing?

Agile marketing is based on the original agile methodology for software development. The values and principles are very similar, with just a few minor tweaks for a marketing environment over a development one. The essence of an agile system—whether for marketing, software development, or anything else—is a combination of short cycles and quick adaptation based on evaluation and feedback, continuous improvement, and a focus on customer feedback. 

The Agile marketing methodology comes from a core set of values and principles outlined in the Agile Marketing Manifesto. The Manifesto was originally written in 2012 by a group of marketers who were experimenting with applying Agile methods for software development to marketing operations. 

There are five values and 10 principles. In reviewing these, you can see where the ideas of releasing early and often, learning as you go, and focusing on the customer come from.

Agile marketing values

These are the five core values of Agile marketing, pulled from the Agile Marketing Manifesto:

  1. Focusing on customer value and business outcomes over activity and outputs
  2. Delivering value early and often over waiting for perfection
  3. Learning through experiments and data over opinions and conventions
  4. Cross-functional collaboration over silos and hierarchies
  5. Responding to change over following a static plan

Agile marketing principles 

These are the 10 Agile marketing principles from the Agile Marketing Manifesto:

  1. Great marketing requires close alignment, transparency, and quality interactions with internal and external customers
  2. Seek out different and diverse points of view
  3. Embrace and respond to change to enhance customer value
  4. Plan only to a level sufficient to ensure effective prioritization and execution
  5. Take chances, and learn from your failures
  6. Organize in small, cross-functional teams where possible
  7. Build marketing programs around motivated individuals and trust them to get the job done
  8. Long-term marketing success benefits from operating at a sustainable pace
  9. Agile marketing isn’t enough. Excellence in marketing requires continuous attention to marketing fundamentals as well
  10. Strive for simplicity

Why go Agile? 

So why does all this matter? Your company probably already has a marketing system in place, and it might even be doing very well—why mess with it?

The short answer is optimization. There’s almost always something you can be doing better. When it comes to implementing Agile marketing, you can expect a lot of optimization. According to the 2023 State of Agile Marketing report by AgileSherpas and the Agile Marketing Alliance, teams that start—and stick with—Agile report achieving the following benefits:

  • More effective prioritization of work
  • Improved team productivity
  • Improved marketing quality
  • Improved team morale
  • Better visibility into project status
  • Enhanced alignment both within the team and with external teams
  • More effective management of remote or distributed teams
  • Greater insight into deadlines, roadblocks, and overall timelines
  • Enhanced ability to pivot based on feedback

That’s a pretty solid list of benefits—we’d imagine even the most high-performing teams wouldn't mind improving in these areas.

Agile methods and effective project management

Project management is tough—and effective project management is even tougher! It requires juggling many moving pieces as you engage stakeholders, incorporate their feedback to meet their needs and ensure service provides value, manage stakeholder expectations transparently, and balance your workload. Performing a juggling act on a unicycle seems like a solid analogy to us. 

We talked to Heather Schafer, a Sr. Procurement Project Manager with Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, to uncover what drives effective project management. According to Heather, flexibility, accountability, communication, and organization are crucial:

  • Flexibility: “Being able to adapt to changing needs and priorities while remaining resilient is key in any environment.” 
  • Accountability: “It’s important to be able to hold people accountable to the commitments they make, especially if the project depends on multiple individuals or teams. It’s equally important to hold yourself accountable and ensure you do your part!”
  • Communication: “Clear and easy lines of communication between various stakeholders are essential to getting work done. Poor communication is one of the biggest bottlenecks in any project, but it doesn’t have to be.”
  • Organization: “It’s pretty hard to manage projects without effective organization strategies. This will vary from person to person and team to team, but the key is finding something that works and really leaning into it.” 

A well-implemented Agile system can help in all of these key areas. Agile is, by nature, flexible—in fact, that’s one of its main purposes! The methodology is designed to take and adapt to frequent feedback, from both internal and external stakeholders. Many core components of Agile methods, such as daily standups and retrospectives, foster accountability and enhance internal communication.

Agile team organization is based on clearly defined roles—i.e. a product owner, scrum master, and the development team — collaborative practices, and adaptive processes like sprint planning, standups, sprint review, retrospectives, and backlog refinement. Daily organization is up to each individual on the team, but the transparency and accountability of Agile encourages an organized workflow. Additionally, many of the tools that are typically used (such as kanban boards), along with the shorter cycle of work (sprints) used in many agile methodologies (more on that in a minute), go a long way towards keeping things organized and clear. 

Project managers use Agile to stay on top of rapidly-changing priorities and keep their teams functioning optimally. It’s an excellent way to level up your marketing operations, which helps the whole business.

Why you should focus on marketing operations

Marketing operations is essentially the sum total of the people, processes, and technology that power your business’s marketing. It’s the way the marketing department operates. This may sound a little boring, but it’s very much worth focusing on. 

Why? Your marketing department’s efficiency and ability to create effective output is a major driver of business success. Success in marketing generally means more sales, and more sales means more profit. So, it’s wise to spend some time optimizing your marketing ops. 

And that’s where the Agile framework comes in. It’s a fantastic way to streamline operations and help your team deliver better marketing material more efficiently, which ultimately helps lift the whole company up. In other words, it can help take your company from good to great!

How Aimtal implemented Agile marketing for an enterprise-level company

Here at Aimtal, we’ve seen a lot of success with Agile marketing, both for ourselves and our clients. Our project managers are certified by the Project Management Institute as Project Management Professionals (PMPs), which includes training in Agile project management. Together, we’ve built a teamwide Agile mindset and shifted our perspective towards embracing change and focusing on customer value, team collaboration, and continuous improvement, allowing us to consistently deliver higher-quality work.

Implementing Agile methodology in our processes hasn’t just been helpful for Aimtal itself—it’s also given us a strong foundation to take our clients’ marketing from good to great:

"Agile methodologies are crucial especially when implementing new marketing operations processes for clients. For one client in particular, a large enterprise with more than 2,000 employees, using Agile methods of cross-functional collaboration and alignment helped bring together multiple siloed teams. We were able to establish a brand new process for social media planning using their existing project management platform and setting up regular syncs for the teams to align on content." - Sarah Gilbert, Digital Marketing Manager

4 tips for adopting Agile marketing

Going Agile is a huge undertaking. Depending on your team and current operational methods, it could require significant overhauls of systems and ways of thinking. It’s hard to distill it down to a simple list of steps. Instead, we’ll offer some general tips and guidelines for accomplishing key tasks in going Agile.

1. Get everyone on board

The systems outlined above are a pretty drastic change from the way many traditional or waterfall teams often operate. Don’t be surprised if you encounter growing pains or even resistance from your team. This doesn’t have to mean outright refusal to change—it could be as simple as unconscious pushback on a new project management tool or difficulty adapting to the sprint cycle (plan, sprint, review and refine, plan, sprint, and so on). 

When implementing Agile it's crucial that the whole team receives training in Agile principles and practices. This is key to help them adapt to the new way of working. The team must develop an Agile mindset. This includes building a culture of open and honest communication, welcoming change, and continuous improvement. Otherwise, the effort of implementing Agile is doomed to fail.

To get everyone aligned, it is essential to describe why these changes are being made. Explain the advantages of working in sprints and operating on a faster release schedule. And explain the benefits for the team and organization that you can expect from implementing Agile. If you aren’t clear why you’re making the shift to Agile and how it positively impacts the individual, it can be difficult to get your team to buy in.

Don’t expect results overnight. Agile is about continuous improvement. First, the team has to develop an Agile mindset, which is rarely a quick process. However, you can apply the Agile method to the implementation of the Agile method itself. Encourage the team to regularly reflect on the new processes and make adjustments as needed; it's crucial to be open to feedback and be willing to adapt Agile implementation based on what the team learns. That’s key to the Agile mindset. This can be done with the help of Agile ceremonies such as standups and retrospectives. Take an iterative approach and implement one piece at a time. You’ll get there!

2. Align on your purpose

First and foremost, your team needs to sit down and get clear on its purpose—not just for going Agile, but also for your marketing overall. Prioritization is a key benefit and a key component of the Agile method, but you can’t prioritize tasks and projects if you aren’t clear on your larger priorities. 

Getting aligned means having some hard conversations in the short term about what’s important and what’s not. It also requires iterative processes and communication to keep goals and expectations aligned. That's usually done in sprint planning when the team decides what to work on in the next sprint — you align on priorities frequently so nothing falls off your plate.

As your team gets trained on Agile, establish clear goals and expectations. These should be clearly communicated to all team members who are internal stakeholders. It's important to define roles and responsibilities, and establish and agree on expectations for how Agile will change how work gets done moving forward.

3. Implement Agile systems and techniques

Agile methodologies typically involve flexible, collaborative methods of organizing, planning, and reviewing work tailored to your needs—like kanban boards, sprint planning sessions, and daily standups. Although many fall into the trap of approaching Agile with rigidity by following methods to the T, there’s a lot of flexibility there. The 4 Agile values are guiding principles but are often misunderstood. For example, the first value is individuals and interactions OVER processes and tools. Over, not instead.

The whole concept of a sprint, a time-boxed iteration during which specific work is completed or made ready for review, can be very different (and require different systems) than a more traditional way of working. The duration of sprints, typically 1-4 weeks, is consistent throughout the project and establishes a rhythm for the team.

You can go all-in on Agile systems, or pick and choose the specific items that work best for your team. Here are some of the more common Agile ceremonies used by marketing departments:

  • Daily standups: The daily standup is a key part of the Agile method. This is a short meeting, no longer than 15 minutes, held with the whole team that helps clarify what the team worked on yesterday, what they’ll be working on today, and what issues are currently blocking progress. It’s called a standup because the idea is to do it—you guessed it—standing up. This helps ensure it stays short and to the point.  
  • Digital kanban boards and project management tools: Agile teams need a centralized tool where the team can get visibility into what everyone is working on and the status of those items. Kanban boards have become popular for this, although other tools can work. Common software includes Jira, Trello, Asana, and the venerable spreadsheet.
  • Sprint planning: Sprints are a big part of many Agile frameworks. Sprints are timeboxed iterations of work (usually 1-4 weeks) where the aim is to move toward a specific goal. The sprint goal is determined by the team during sprint planning and the team decides which items from the backlog to complete during the next sprint.
  • Retrospectives: Retrospectives are exactly what they sound like. After a sprint review, the team presents and reviews the work in the just completed sprint. This allows the team to gather feedback from stakeholders and adjust the backlog as needed. Then, teams come together to reflect on what happened, what went well, and what could have been done differently. This is a key ceremony within the Agile methodology, allowing the team to inspect itself and create an improvement plan that is to be implemented in the next sprint. This can include behaviors, processes and/or tools.
  • Frequent releases: A defining feature of Agile frameworks is a focus on frequent releases. The idea is to get a usable product out early and then improve it from there, rather than waiting to release until it’s more refined. This has several advantages, but one of the biggest is that you can deliver value to stakeholders early. Frequent releases help to ensure your team can collect and implement feedback early, allowing for continuous improvement and alignment with stakeholder needs and expectations and enabling you to further improve future iterations.

4. Identify your key data points

Agile is all about continuous improvement. To pinpoint areas that need improvement, you should pin down the key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll use to gauge success.

When it comes to measuring the success of Agile implementation, it's a good idea to have a mix of success metrics covering different areas:

  • Customer satisfaction, e.g. Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Product/service quality, e.g. # of defects; if # of defects decreases that means better quality
  • Delivery metrics, e.g. velocity, cycle time, release frequency
  • Process efficiency, e.g. lead time, sprint burndown
  • Team performance, e.g. team satisfaction, turnover rate
  • Stakeholder engagement, e.g. participation in sprint reviews and retros
  • ROI

Within the success of your deliverables, every project will have its own key metrics: clicks, impressions, views, conversions, etc. These can also vary based on the type of marketing you’re doing: content marketing, SEO, sales copy, and so on. When it comes to the process of work itself, though, there are some common metrics many agile teams use: 

  • Workflow efficiency: The ratio of the time an item is actively worked on (value-adding time) vs the total time from start to finish of a project.
  • Cycle time: How long it takes to complete a task from beginning to end.
  • Throughput: The total number of tasks completed within a given time period.

These metrics help you get a great idea of how well your team is performing, at least in terms of efficiency and quantity of output. You can then use this information to identify bottlenecks and fine-tune your internal processes. It’s important, however, to mix both quantitative and qualitative metrics. The ultimate goal of Agile is to drive value to the client early. At least one of the key metrics to measure the success of Agile implementation should reflect this.

Many agile-oriented software tools will automatically track these (and other) metrics for you, which can be a great time-saver. Many will also present this information in nice, pretty charts and graphs that can give you a better idea of how things trend over time.

Adopting Agile methodologies can be a big undertaking, but we know—from experience!—that it’s worthwhile. It’s helped us take Aimtal (and many of our clients) from good to great, and it can do the same for your company. Get your key stakeholders and team members aligned, settle on your tools and data points, and get everyone on board, you’ll reap the rewards of driving value early and frequently and you’ll be well on your way to transforming your marketing department to an Agile marketing machine! 

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