Warning: Agile Marketing Ahead

Agile Marketing

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In case you haven’t noticed, Agile Marketing is heating up.  I’ve been writing about Agile Marketing for just over a year now. In that time, I’ve seen daily references to the term Agile Marketing on my Google alert go from 3-4 a week to 3-4 a day.  We’re also about to hit an important milestone: on June 11th in San Francisco at the offices of MindJet, we’re going to hold the first ever gathering of Agile Marketers.  We have over 60 people registered, and we’re just about at capacity.

So why has Agile Marketing struck a chord with so many people recently? Perhaps its time has just come, but I think its more than coincidence.  I think there are at least five reasons why Agile Marketing is gaining momentum:

1. Speed of Change – Marketing has changed more in the last 2-3 years than at anytime during my 30-year career. Partially, these changes are the result of the rise of social media. But it’s more than that. Consumers today are empowered by the Internet to complete so much more of the buying process than they could pre-Internet, that the very fundamentals of marketing have changed.  Whether you call it permission marketing, inbound marketing or content marketing, the consumer is in charge, and the role of the marketer is not so much to promote their product or service, but to build knowledge, likability and trust in their brand and to educate the customer, helping them through the buying process. Marketers who don’t respond to these changes risk getting left behind. Marketers are looking for ways to keep pace with today’s rapid changes, and are turning to Agile Marketing as a way to improve the speed and predictability of their marketing efforts.

2. The Rise of Real-Time Marketing and PR – One of my favorite books is David Meerman Scott’s Real-Time Marketing & PR.  In it, he describes the importance of speed and agility to marketing success. David and others cite example after example of companies responding in hours to marketing opportunities, and reaping the benefits, or by not responding, suffering the consequences.  Here are just a few examples:

  • July, 2009 Dave Carroll of the band Sons of Maxwell posts a video called “United Breaks Guitars“.  Within 12 hours, Taylor Guitars, the maker of the guitar, reaches out to Dave and offers a free replacement, and 2 days later, they post a response video to their YouTube channel.  Within a few days, Calton Cases creates a Dave Carlton Traveling Edition of their protective guitar cases, and reap the benefits.  United Airlines takes almost two months to issue a public apology and in the meantime, their image suffers.
  • In his non-apology for his boorish behavior on an American Airlines flight, actor Alec Baldwin writes that American has “made flying a Greyhound bus experience”. Within 24 hours, Greyhound CEO Dave Leach responds, inviting Baldwin to take a trip on a Greyhound Bus from New York to Boston, where he says Baldwin can “play Words With Friends® during your entire trip and nobody would give you any grief over it”.
  • When the LA Angels signed slugger Albert Pujols to a mega 10-year contract, a St. Louis church saw a way to to take advantage of the St. Louis loss in real-time.  They tweeted “Don’t burn those Pujols jerseys! Bring them to The Gathering United Methodist Church. Discarded t-shirts, jerseys, pull-overs, etc, will be donated to a clothing pantry in the LA area.”
  • Oakley Sunglasses provided sunglasses for the rescued Chilean miners as they came out of darkness into the sunlight, resulting in worldwide television coverage and invaluable product placement.

One of the under appreciated aspects of Agile Marketing is the importance of setting aside some resources during a Sprint to focus on real-time issues. As David Meerman Scott points out in his book, opportunities to take advantage of real-time marketing and PR come to those who are well prepared. Agile Marketing, by its very nature, eliminates long-term marketing plans in favor of responding to the current needs of customers and the market. Agile Marketers believe that the ability to respond in real-time to changing market conditions is an important source of competitive advantage.

3. The Need for Marketing to Better Communicate Its Value – It’s no secret that the Great Recession was not kind to marketers. Many were laid off, in part because senior management often thinks that marketing is expendable, and isn’t very clear on how (or if) marketing contributes to the bottom line. One of the most important aspects of Agile Marketing is the power of the Sprint Planning sessions in aligning marketing with management’s business objectives and demonstrating the results of the marketing effort at the Sprint Review session. Agile Marketing also seeks to align sales and marketing on such critical issues as the definition of a quality lead, and marketing’s role in contributing to the sale. When marketing communicates its value on a regular basis and executes in line with business and sales objectives, senior decision makers are much more likely to spare marketing when it comes time to make cuts.

4. Agile Development has Passed a Tipping Point – in 2011, for the first time, more than half of developers contacted by Version One (an Agile Development tool maker) had been using Agile Development for a significant amount of time, and across multiple projects.  Think about it: if your development team is using Agile methodologies to deliver new capabilities every few weeks, how can marketing continue to execute on yearly or semi-yearly marketing plans? The short answer is they can’t. To compete effectively, companies must align all departments around the idea of responding effectively to change, and delivering solutions to customers in days, weeks or a few months, not in 3-year product cycles.

5. The Rise of the Marketing Technologist – Scott Brinker blogs about the role of the Marketing Technologist over at his Chief Marketing Technologist blog.  Scott is not alone in noting the increasing involvement of technologists in the marketing process. Neil Perkins, Forrester, Douglas Karr, and Paul Dunay all discuss different aspects of the impact of technology on marketing and the need for marketers with strong technology skills or technologists that report to marketing. When this happens, it’s inevitable that technologists familiar with Agile Development methods are going to start asking themselves “why can’t I apply these same techniques to marketing?”.  This was part of my path to Agile Marketing. In a previous job, I studied Agile Development, and the more I learned about it, the more I thought that some of the concepts could apply to marketing. After all, many of today’s development teams face similar problems to today’s marketing teams: too much to do with too few resources and tight deadlines, changing requirements, and fickle users (also known as customers).

So I have no doubt that major changes lie ahead, and I believe Agile Marketing will be part of the response to those changes. How do you get ahead of this oncoming train and avoid getting run over? If you can, join us at the SprintZero conference.  If that’s not possible, start getting educated on the values, principles and methods of Agile Marketing.  In addition to my own website, I’ve listed a great set of resources here for those wanting to learn more about Agile Marketing.

As always, let me know what you think.

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