Scott Brinker, editor of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog, co-founder of Ion Interactive, a marketing software firm and author of “Hacking Marketing: Agile Practices to Make Marketing Smarter, Faster, and More Innovative” (Wiley, 2016) calls on today’s professional marketers to “borrow successful ideas” (hacks) used by software developers to meet the digital challenges and demands. “Agile” refers to method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans. But in this article, we will be talking about “Agile” as it relates to Marketing.

According to Brinker, “software provides a virtual pipeline to consumers… and marketers need to understand how their software-dependent digital pathway operates.”  Half the world population accesses the internet through their mobile devices (Statista.com). “Digital dynamics (speed, adaptability, adjacency, scale and the precision of digital applications, communication, data and storage)” impact the way we do business. The components of agile software development, “agility, innovation, scalability and talent,” also form a framework for smart marketing teams.  With every technological innovation, businesses have a greater opportunity to increase brand awareness, efficiency, engagement and sales. Those who keep up with and adopt innovative marketing strategies can stay ahead of the game.

4 Step Framework for Agile Marketing Management

Step One:  Create Agile Teams

  • Teams “manage for outcomes instead of activities”. Understand the pulse of the their social media audience and the data that supports it.
  • Teams follow the “Scrum process” –  a worklog is prioritized into cycles (“sprints”) for  small, cross-sectional teams. Teams agree on tasks and meet every day for a 15-minute “daily scrum” or stand-up to share yesterday’s progress, today’s plan and any problems that may hinder the goal. A “sprint review” follows to recognize efforts, share new ideas and get feedback.
  • A “Kanban board” is used to track a sprint’s tasks into columns:  “To Do, In Progress and Done” or “To Do, Create, Reveiw, Test, Done”. Team members select “To Do” items to work on and report in a “Sprint review”.
  • Big ideas are broken down into incremental stages and tested along the way to get feedback.
  • Iterations (changes to existing offerings that needs improvement) are A/B tested to determine what change will work best.
  • Management supports “Big Testing” on a larger scale to consider big ideas and make it a  part of everyone’s job to approach target marketing in innovative ways through experimentation.
  • Teams use “Customer Stories” to focus on what buyers want to buy and to prioritize marketing objectives that best meet their demands.

Step Two: Create Innovation Hacks to Feed the Pipeline

  • Management supports and provides the money and time for teams to innovate and develop ideas.
  • Teams take ownership and are transparent. Strategic strategies are determined related to design,  customer journey experiences, competition, and technological trends.
  • Teams follow agile practices to reduce “accidental complexity (human mistakes or developmental flaws) that can hinder innovation and problem solving.
  • Teams reduce “essential complexity” of marketing management  (multiple platforms, technological advancements, customer demands, data results) by evaluating the best innovations and getting rid of systems or features that are not purposeful or are unpopular for a given audience.

Step Three:  Apply a “Bimodal IT” approach to Scalability

  • Teams test the scalability of a successful small scale marketing program.
  • Teams see new marketing innovations as the “edge” and take them gradually to the “core”.
  • When a program reaches “scale” it becomes a viable and central part of the core marketing program.

Step Four:  Seek Talented Digital Marketers

  • Companies who use “Agile Practices” need to hire the best digital marketers to meet the demands of modern marketing.
  • Provide opportunities for them to showcase their talent, to work independently and with teams and to innovate for the future.

“If you’re willing and able to explore and adapt, with the right balance of speed and strategy, you can turn digital dynamics to your advantage.”  – Scott Brinker