Agile Marketing: The Future or Fluff?

Agile Marketing. You've heard the term, but should you care? Is this just another marketing buzzword for the buzz saw? Or should we pay close attention to it since the savviest marketing organizations are adapting this philosophy? Let's lay out the facts and let you decide.

What exactly is agile marketing?

In simple terms agile marketing is a measure of how efficient your organization is at achieving your marketing goals. I know...agile marketing is a total buzzword. It's the younger buzzword cousin of 'Agile Development' which is an extremely popular term used by software developers to describe the process of fixing or 'enhancing' apps quickly after their real-world users complain about something (like Twitter allegedly removing the 140 character limit on Tweets).

What Are The Characteristics of an Agile Marketing Team?

Agile marketing teams provide a lot of strategy and (theoretically) results to their stakeholders. They are really good at coming up with big ideas and then explaining the opportunity behind those ideas to the people that need to hear them. An agile marketer may corner the CEO of a chain of steakhouses and explain to them, using real data, the opportunity behind adding more vegan-friendly items to the menu or why a marketing campaign aimed at soccer moms may be a good thing. Ok, so maybe an agile marketer will never literally corner the CEO, but you get the idea.

Another thing that makes agile marketing teams unique is how they are wired. Agile marketing teams know that their stakeholders are more interested in new business as opposed to new marketing material. Don't get me wrong, all stakeholders appreciate a new website, social media page, brochure or bobble-head....but only to the extent that they're getting ROI from it. Agile marketing teams are staffed with marketers. People that come up with big ideas and data to support those ideas to win business. They don't carry the baggage that comes with technical resources (developers, designers, engineers etc) on payroll. That's because they know that the value is in the architecture of the strategy. Not its implementation. The implementation of that strategy can be done by third-parties. Plus, one of the main principles of being agile is the ability to change those big ideas on the fly as agile marketers collect more info and learn new tactics that may work better than what's currently in place. Agile marketers can change plans quickly because they partner with back-end support teams that provide them the technical skills needed on demand and cheaper than hiring these people in house. They stay nimble so they can make adjustments quickly.

So aren't all marketing teams agile?

Surprisingly not many are. Most marketing teams are focused on day-to-day 'marketing operations' as opposed to figuring out how to generate opportunities. They hire in-house for tasks - people that can design or develop or know a software really well etc. Remember, a marketing team's job is to market. It's that ability to market that determines their success or failure as a team. Not their skills in Photoshop or Illustrator. Agile marketing teams definitely need support from designers and developers. They also probably need an accountant or IT help. The extent they need them in-house is the difference-maker between agile marketing teams and the others.

Take for instance how most marketing teams build a website and how most organizations pay for a website. An organization wakes up one day and says 'You know what? I need a new website. What I've got now is a couple of years old and I'm not getting any business from it.' Then they reach out to a few traditional marketing teams about the cost of building a website and get one built. 2-3 years go by, or some new marketing VP comes in, and the organization thinks they need a website again. It's kind of like how Batman keeps getting his movies rebooted! That's because most marketing teams and organizations don't realize something like a website, or any marketing tool for that matter, needs daily activity to really generate business - maybe a new blog post or two each week, new specials or other work to build up a contact database. Not only will an agile marketing team know and address those things, but they would build that regular activity into the arrangement before starting the work. They would also make adjustments or additions where needed to make sure the site stayed valuable.

This all sounds like a lot of money

Well, yes and no. Technology plays a huge role in marketing and the cost to create anything from a website to a documentary has decreased. You can take great pictures/video from equipment costing less than $1000. Building a website can be done in less time than it takes to watch 2 seasons of Game of Thrones. The 'labor' involved in creative work isn't what you should pay for. The assurance of results from that creative work is what you should pay a premium for. Remember, you reach out to a marketing team when you need new business opportunities (interest, leads, sales, donations etc;). That's the lifeblood of any organization. Agile marketing teams can create, track and iterate how effective their tactics are on the fly. So much so that many agile marketing teams will start charging organizations for each unit of sales, leads or opportunities they bring to the table through their efforts as opposed to for the creative work involved in getting them. The cost for them to create marketing material is getting lower through their partnerships and technology which gives them added flexibility to charge a high cost-per lead fee to customers. Plus they know they'll keep organizations happy long term by proving over and over that they can put points on the board for them.

So is agile marketing going to be in buzzword cemetery a few years from now? You decide, but one thing is for sure: you can't argue the results of the process. This agile marketing whitepaper outlines how to make your marketing team more agile.

About the Author:

Sajeel Qureshi is the Vice President of Operations at Computan. Computan helps short-handed marketing departments and marketing agencies get more agile by providing them affordable and reliable back-end support. He has a degree in business administration from St. Bonaventure University, and an MBA from Eastern Illinois University