I just returned last night from Moscow, where Roland Smart and I taught Agile Marketing to 19 students. It was a fantastic experience and one that says a lot about the thirst for knowledge of Agile Marketing, not only in Russia, but around the world.
I’ve taught this class on Agile Marketing quite a few times, but this is the first time I’ve taught it with someone else. Roland Smart, the author of The Agile Marketer: Turning Customer Experience Into Your Competitive Advantage, joined me. What a fun and enlightening experience. I learned a ton from Roland about teaching and about Agile. It was very interesting for me, and I think for the students, to see that Roland and I take slightly different approaches to Agile Marketing, and both are equally valid. For example, Roland suggests that Agile Marketing teams start with Kanban, because it’s less prescriptive; I generally suggest that students jump right into Scrum. Roland stresses the importance of aligning closely with the product team; I tend to emphasize aligning with senior management and the sales team. The differences served to expand my idea of the scope of Agile Marketing, and the possibilities. This was a fantastic learning experience for me, and improved the class.
Agile Marketing in Russia
Although Agile Marketing is still early on the adoption curve in Russia, the interest level was both high and broad from our 19 students. The organizations they represented ran the gamut – from banks to restaurants, business software to gaming software, no previous knowledge of agile to certified Scrum masters on the IT side. We left with the impression that this is only the beginning – that these students will serve as pioneers for Agile Marketing in Russia and take it into many more organizations and many more settings.
Marina and Dmitry Simonovy, the team behind AgileSpace, hosted this training. I have to say they did a wonderful, wonderful job. Ably assisted by Julia Tegel, the logistics and the customer experience, for both us and the students, was totally first class. Marina is a Certified Agile coach, CSM Professional Scrum Master and a CSPO Scrum Product Owner.
Marina applies Agile not only to marketing, but to sales as well. This is the first time I’ve heard of someone applying Agile and Scrum to sales, and both Roland and I found it very interesting. I have to admit that we were initially skeptical, as sales people resist structure even more than marketing people. But Marina has successfully applied Agile and Scrum to poor performing sales teams, and turned around their performance. I think the key to her success is that she uses Agile and Scrum to emphasize four areas that are important to successful sales:
- Pace – Marina works her sales team on a weekly scrum cycle, with daily standups. For poor performing sales people, increasing the number of their sales calls can make a big difference. Also, after observing Marina in action, keeping up with her energy level is going to inspire better performance.
- Accountability – Marina gets the sales team to commit to Sprint goals each week, and she doesn’t accept excuses for an answer. You can’t just say “the customer didn’t call me back” in her system. You made a commitment: find a way to make it happen.
- Iteration – this is somewhat related to accountability. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t just try harder, try different. Try something else, and iterate until you find what works for you as a salesperson.
- Customer focus – they write many of their commitments as user stories in order to ensure that the salesperson is taking the customer’s point of view. Anytime you can get a salesperson to stop “selling”, and start “helping the customer buy”, you’re going to have success.
Overall, this was a wonderful experience. I felt like I made some Russian friends at a time when tension between our two countries is higher than it’s been in a while and I certainly only increased my respect for Roland Smart. I’m also eager to see if opportunities come up in other countries to serve as an ambassador for Agile Marketing.