As I write this, the year 2020 is just days away. For years, plenty of corporate and civic initiatives carried names like “Vision 2020” or “Impact 2020.” Now it’s time to build your marketing plan for the big year, and it’s overwhelming. Instead of trying to plan for the next 12 months, maybe you should try something new: agile marketing.
What Is Agile?
There is a universe of blogs and books and videos and conferences about agile methodology. I’m not going to try covering them all here. But here’s a very quick primer on the principles.
The Agile Manifesto came out of software development. Agile replaces large project plans comprised of a few big phases with many short, responsive bursts of work designed to show value early and respond to ongoing changes.
In agile, work is organized around broad themes called epics. An epic contains many user stories that relate to the epic and describe activities that users would find valuable and want to accomplish. Workers work on tasks that implement user stories that support epics.
Agile methodology manages works in sprints. A sprint usually lasts two weeks. In that time, the team focuses on completing specific features that contribute to user stories and can be demonstrated at the end of the sprint.
During a sprint, teams have frequent, short status meetings called scrums. Scrum meetings might occur daily and last just 15 minutes. In a scrum, team members report to each other what they accomplished the previous day, what they are working on today, any impediments they might have, and any help they might need.
Because sprints are just two weeks and teams communicate every day, there is plenty of opportunity to respond to changes and input. Changes and input can come from the customer, other team members, market research or conditions, nearly anything.
Marketing organizations have adopted and adapted agile methods to delivery rapid value to the customer. There’s even an Agile Marketing manifesto.
Here are some of the way agile marketing is different:
- Marketing serves many customers and all must be accommodated. Marketing’s customers include internal customers such as product management, corporate communications, and manufacturing. Externally, marketing serves all past, present, and future customers of the organization, not just the customers of one product or service. The epics and stories in marketing’s agile plan must encompass this wide array of customers.
- Marketing manages both projects and processes. (A project is something you’ve never done before and may never do again. A process is something you do repeatedly.) You need to include processes as part of your sprint resource allocation. You might also have annual projects, if that makes sense. For instance, you might have an annual user’s conference. You put on the conference each year, but it’s also different each year because of location, theme, etc.
Examples of Agile Marketing
You could design your marketing epics around customers, such as
- Past customer: Warranty service, upgrades, reactivations.
- Current customers: Product support, hints and tips, pricing.
- Future customers: Promotion, competitive comparisons, sales enablement, pricing.
You could also focus your epics on different marketing channels, such as
- Event marketing.
- Digital marketing.
- Influencer marketing.
- Partner marketing.
- Brand marketing.
- Public relations.
Product lines, personas, regions–there are many ways to organize epics in agile marketing.
Within each sprint, you’d work on tasks that contribute to the users stories supporting your epics.
Take the Agile Plunge
You might feel weird at first, planning only two weeks out. You’ll get the hang of it.
And sure, there are marketing tasks that have very long lead times, such as reserving booth space at trade shows. Agile doesn’t mean putting off those long lead times.
Even if you’re a one-person marketing team, you can use agile methods. I’ve done agile methods while working as a contingent marketing director. Using agile methods, in just five months of working half-time I relaunched a small company’s marketing and completely overall their website. (You can read more about this case study.)
In fact, that experience was such a success that now I manage my entire working life (and then some) in personal two-week sprints focused on my various business clients and personal projects.
Agile planning may seem complicated at first. In my experience, you’ll quickly get in the rhythm of planning and focusing on sprints.
And you may need a good tool to get started–I’ve found that the free project management tool Trello works great for agile marketing management.
Here’s to sprinting your way towards marketing the social good!