Is Agile Marketing incompatible with a longer-term, more strategic approach to marketing?
I get asked this question often. Most times, it’s a genuine question. Sometimes, it’s a critique of agile marketing dressed up as a question, the questioner’s tone implying that the short iterations of agile marketing must lead to a tactical, non-strategic approach to marketing.
The question also comes up for Agile Developers and Agile Product Managers. Karol McCloskey recently pointed me to two resources addressing this question for product managers: the first, by Liz Rice, advocates creating an Agile Roadmap by grouping sets of related user stories into projects, and plugging these projects into a quarterly plan. The second, a white paper by Allan Kelly, advocates creating three plans – an iteration plan, a release plan and a roadmap plan – each with a different time-horizon, and each subject to different levels of certainty and change. These approaches are very helpful for product managers, and suggest some directions for Agile Marketers, but they’re not the whole story.
Let’s come back to the original question: Is Agile Marketing incompatible with a longer-term, more strategic approach to marketing?
I think not, and the diagram below, which I call the Agile Marketing Strategy diagram, illustrates how I would approach reconciling Agile’s short-term iterations with a longer-term, more strategic approach to marketing.
At the center of the strategic marketing model is your iteration plan. It encompasses your marketing backlog, your current sprint iteration, and perhaps the next sprint iteration. It is the shortest term. Depending on the length of your iterations, the time horizon for the iteration plan could be anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. It is tactical by nature, but arises from strategy. In some ways it is the most certain (hopefully you know what you’re doing for the next several weeks), but it is also the most subject to change from one iteration to the next.
Working outward in our rings, next is the marketing calendar. The time horizon is typically 6-12 months. It should include all of your product releases, any major events (like quarterly sales meetings, user conferences, major tradeshows, etc) and any “themes” for your marketing efforts.
I use a WordPress plugin, Editorial Calendar, to manage my marketing calendar, but you can use almost anything. Just make sure everyone on the team has access.
If you’ve read my Introduction to Agile Marketing, you know that I advocate that Agile Marketing teams begin by getting on the same page regarding the basics. The tool that I use is called the Marketing Model Canvas, and it takes its inspiration from Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas. You can download the Marketing Model Canvas here.
The Marketing Model Canvas includes customer segments, customer problems & aspirations, value proposition, touch points, partners & channels, the buyer’s journey and success metrics.
Most of these are self-explanatory, but customer touch points may need a little explanation. Where do you communicate with your customers? Where do they interact with you? On their buyer’s journey, where do they learn about your company and your products?
I divide customer touch points in to inbound and outbound, where inbound includes search engines, blogs, video, eBooks, influencer marketing and social media. Outbound touch points include advertising, your sales force, direct mail and PR.
The marketing model canvas should stay fairly stable over time, but it should be reviewed at least once a quarter.
Positioning and Brand Plan
This is probably the most strategic document for your marketing team. It should document your product positioning, your brand attributes and, if you’re in the middle of a re-positioning effort, how you are going to change your positioning vis-a-vis your current positioning in the mind of the market, and vis-a-vis your competition.
This document generally experiences the least change and should be the most far-reaching in its vision and time horizon.
Agile Marketing Strategy
So that’s my approach to reconciling agile marketing with strategy. Have you faced this question? How have you answered it? I’d love to hear about other approaches to agile marketing strategy.