Much has been made of real-time or agile marketing. In fact, I wrote a little post about it myself some time ago. But recently, agile has come up time and again and it is something that we are actively adopting and training on here at SME. So what is agile, you ask? Well, agile is inspired by the agile software development principles of evolving requirements and solutions through collaboration. It is about flexibility and responding to changing audience needs and requirements. Think learn -> ship -> learn -> ship and so on. In an agile environment, you move quickly and respond to results based on data and direct feedback. These same principles are being adopted in the discipline of marketing as well. What may have been called real-time marketing a year ago is agile marketing today. It is flexible and always learning. It is about being nimble in your approach and constantly optimizing based on results.
My friend and colleague, Danielle, recently shared this article: “How to Craft an Agile Marketing Campaign”. It’s a solid how-to piece that you should read. But when I think about these principles for a large-scale enterprise, agile has a few hurdles to cross before it is widely adopted. Which is a huge risk for large-scale enterprises. The risk is this: Your scrappy competitors will beat you to agile and will know more about what works faster, giving them a competitive advantage.
Agile is not expensive. Agile is cheap. Which is why smaller, scrappier companies can win with the tools of agile. Agile also does the one thing large-scale campaigns don’t do…test and measure and adjust. Most large-scale campaigns take months of planning, even more months of tweaking, only to launch during the Super Bowl to crickets. Very. Expensive. Crickets. Agile is smaller in nature. You have to start smaller and more rough in terms of campaign. And (broken record alert!) you have to measure everything.
But, we’ve been doing it this way forever. We plan, we focus group, we adjust, we execute, we develop wild contingency scenarios. It is an epic effort to develop a campaign today in our omni-channel world where leaders require results. The problem I see with making the change to agile is three-fold. and the solutions are really simple.
Selling small is impossible to leadership
Agile requires that we start small. The agile campaign is one that starts with a nugget and lets the data determine next steps. That is a tough sell to almost anyone in leadership. Can you imagine that pitch? C-level leadership: “Tell me about the 2015 strategic marketing plan.” Marketing team or agency: “So, we’re thinking about a small Facebook campaign where we are driving traffic to the site using this type of messaging.” More crickets. Potentially career damaging crickets.
Take off your control freak hat
The hardest part for modern marketers with agile is that it requires that we stop trying to control every possible scenario and every possible communication. The reality is this: we are not in control of any aspect of our marketing outcomes. And we never will be. We should work to give up this stress-inducing, arm-flapping habit right away.
We don’t even know where the data is
I’ve talked to far too many clients in my day, and I always ask about results and ROI; I am never shocked to learn they have no idea where the data is. IT and Marketing work in separate, and sometimes combative, relationships. If we are going to be agile, we need to start asking questions about tracking and metrics that we’ve never asked before. We need to know where our customer data lives and how we can tap into it to see if our work is contributing to increased basket size, repeat purchases, account growth, etc. Until we know where the data is, we cannot be truly agile.
In all of these instances, the insane pitch to leadership, the desire to control everything about a campaign, and our resistance to real ROI measurement doesn’t have to be this way. The truth is this: agile should start with a small piece of the marketing puzzle as a proof of concept. And as any proof of concept, the best stuff stays; the rest is either ignored or re-tooled into a different test. This is how agile could easily be propagated through a large enterprise. Start with a measurable goal. Then, take the time to understand where the data is. Create an outline of what your campaign should be. Take the experimental money you’ve set aside this year, find a use case or a specific product to promote, and do it in agile-style. See what works in a small way before going bigger. It is after all, the agile way.