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#MarTech Conference: Marketers are going Agile to keep up with customers

Monday's panel

Monday’s panel on Agile Marketing at the MarTech conference

One of the hottest topics at our MarTech conference — now taking place in San Francisco — is a more flexible approach to working with marketing technology.

It’s called Agile Marketing and, as evidenced by its frequent mentions at the conference, it’s catching hold. Inspired by Agile Software Development, it eshews big planning documents and a “waterfall” approach where one fixed work phase leads into another. Instead, it relies on small teams, flexible goals, and short-turnaround testing and revisions.

In a lunchtime presentation on the subject, work management software provider Workfront executives Brent Bird and Chris Savoie itemized the key characteristics:

  • Early and continuous delivery for enhanced customer satisfaction
  • Continually iterate with changing requirements
  • Close, daily cooperation among teams
  • Attention to quality content and design
  • Simplicity
  • Marketing teams will become more involved, visible and accountable
  • Achievements are recognized and celebrated
  • Teams more readily able to reflect on what works and what doesn’t

Proponents have cited Agile’s ability to quickly discover and resolve issues, as well as the speed with which it can adapt to the changing conditions marketers often face.

At a panel on the subject on Monday, CMG Partners Associate Partner Barre Hardy pointed out that Agile’s biggest benefit is that it “keeps marketing teams focused on customer experience” by quickly building hypotheses about what CX will work best, and then testing and revising them. Marketers “need to learn as much about the customer as soon as possible” when they undertake a new effort, she noted.

(See photo of the panel at the top of this page. Left to right: MarTech conference chair Scott Brinker, Mozilla CMO Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, CMG Partners Associate Partner Barre Hardy, Workfront Creative Director David Lesue, and Oracle VP of Social and Community Marketing Roland Smart.)

With more and more companies focused on customer experience in order to secure the business and loyalty of restless customers, marketing has increasingly become the practice of managing experience. Adobe, for instance, today cited customer experience as the key consideration for marketers, in the announcement about its next generation Marketing Cloud.

Yet customer experience is not something you can build with a recipe. To strike the right chord, marketers need to try out ideas, as Agile does. Agile also benefits by its emphasis on the creation and employment of user stories, which are designed to keep the user’s point-of-view central to the workflow.

Not “big bang”

On the panel, Oracle Vice President of Social and Community Marketing Roland Smart pointed out that Agile Marketing can also be a way for marketing departments to stay in sync with product development teams, many of whom are using Agile techniques.

It’s just not practical these days for digital marketers to wait on the creation and launch of giant campaigns, panel member Workfront Creative Director David Lesue told the MarTech audience.

This point was also reflected Tuesday morning at the conference, in two presentations on other subjects — one by Frito-Lay Senior Director of D3 Studios Ashwin Nathan and one from McKinsey & Company principal David Edelman.

They separately made the point that the old model of large planning efforts, “big bang” campaign implementations, and a single path of feedback from a big effort — think of a campaign of TV commercials — doesn’t apply to the modern digital environment. Instead, it’s about smaller, faster efforts to see what works, and then revise, test, revise.

Edelman specifically referenced Agile Marketing as a key way to do this. “If you can’t create a fast-paced way to test,” he said, “you can’t make progress.”

Iterative work processes for marketing are only possible with the technology tools available today, which are available via any connected laptop. But Agile is also being boosted by the trend toward more accessible and plentiful user data, where marketers can often see results, profiles, or behavioral insights without waiting for the help of data scientists.

Lesue, among others, pointed out that transparency and positive reinforcement are also key to Agile, as is the self-management of the small teams. Others on the panel noted that these kinds of flexible habits from Agile Marketing also impact planning, research, and strategy.

But good habits don’t define a company’s business success. As a new discipline, Agile Marketing’s effectiveness is in the process of being evaluated. In another session yesterday, for instance, executives from Beckon and Coca-Cola discussed emerging ways to measure ROI when Agile Marketing approaches are used in content creation, customer communications, and marketing execution.

In its presentation, Workfront shared some of their research stats on the subject:

  • Agile-oriented marketing departments are three times more likely to significantly grow market share.
  • Ninety-three percent of marketers say this approach helped them switch gears more quickly.
  • Eighty-four percent of respondents reported improved team morale after adopting Agile methods.

(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)


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