The goal of every marketer out there is to create a campaign that is so genius and grand, that the whole perspective of their brand changes. Whether directly expressed, or not, this idea consumes most of the marketing departments making them forget, that the times where you could take months to prepare the perfect interaction with the consumer are long gone. Today consumers have means, they have opinions and most importantly – they know they have the power to communicate back. Therefore the new mantra is react or react quicker!
It is only natural, that with the new technologies available to the mass market, the way marketing teams work had to be adapted. In the last couple of decades it changed from working on the one sided communication of presenting a message, into a conversation where the consumers have very clear opinions about everything that a brand does. By now, there is no question, that the marketing teams need to communicate effectively or they will lose in the big race.
As with any changes, the main question is – how do I do it better than my competition and surpass them? While the changes to be made are clear, the best way to organize the teams work is still foggy. The team needs to be more flexible for the short-term changes and still focused on the long term campaigns. The best way to do it is still to be determined, but some are suggesting that agile might be the way to go. And we think, they have a good reason for saying that.
Agile project management practices are usually associated with software development and most think that they have nothing in common with other industries out there. However, agile has proven to be a useful tool in other areas, such as finance, manufacturing, education and more. In fact, agile marketing is not a completely new idea either and by reading the principles in agile manifesto, we get a sense of what exactly the marketing teams are dealing with.
So how can agile help the marketing departments all over the world? By changing their work process in three ways:
- Flexibility towards change
- Crystalized customer priorities
- Efficient team work to achieve goals
The first change that agile brings into project management are the iterations. Instead of working on a project until its completion and then presenting the end result, the project tasks or phases are separated and completed in short (2 week) iterations. The iterations are worked on one at a time and followed by a review and acceptance phase with the client, allowing to review the work and reevaluate the key priorities.
This is similar to the way that most of the creative teams work already – going back and forth with the client in trying to achieve the perfect result. However, this brings clear structure into how the projects are done. For the big campaigns, it leaves enough room for any changes and the need to reevaluate the course of action. While for the smaller projects, it gives the opportunity to release a campaign every few weeks, see the results and tweak and adapt it accordingly. By the series of small releases the pressure to have the absolute perfect campaign right off the bat is lessened and the team can tweak the campaign with the input from their most important critics – the consumers. This approach is ideal for the social media management, where things move very quickly.
The second thing that agile focuses on is bringing value to the end customer. There are several techniques for that, but the one we think might be the most useful for marketers are user stories. The user stories initially are the customer requirements expressed in a specific way and placed on the teams’ project board to be completed during the iterations. They are formed in the following manner: As a …. I want to …., so that I … , filling in the blank spaces when meeting with the client and crystalizing their main requests. When committed to an iteration the user stories are divided into small tasks to be completed by the team.
Having the user stories in the front and center of everything that a marketing team does is great. It allows to keep the focus on what the customer wants at all times, while at the same time working on clear tasks and achieving the end goal. This makes it clear for everyone on the team why they are doing one thing or another and the priorities of user stories can be changed or new stories can be added at any time depending on the situation. The customer is put in the front and center from the first meeting to the completion of the project.
Lastly, the agile methodology is the opposite of waste. Basically, everything that does not create value to the end customer is regarded as wasteful. What this means for the team is that instead of the usual hierarchy, it is organized in a cross-functional way. The team works together to achieve the best result possible and helps each other out in case someone is stuck. This is realized by keeping the teams small (up to 8 people) and having them meet once every day for a 15 minute standup meeting.
To a marketing team, this brings a sense of community and common goals instead of a competition atmosphere. The hardly accessible team members and sending countless e-mails explaining the situation are the thing of the past. Instead the communication is done face to face and the teams progress is discussed daily. This helps to create a more smooth process allowing the creative juices to flow freely.
Adapting agile is but one of the many options that marketing teams can go with to optimize their process. It is great for teams that are struggling with being more reactive to the changes in the market, for those who need to put more focus on their customers and for those who are not working together effectively. To be truly agile, the teams have to fully commit and be prepared of adapting their whole process. This will not happen overnight, but we believe, the ones that do, will have an upper hand on their competition.