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A guide to agile marketing

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Companies competing in this era of disruption must adopt agile marketing practices or risk becoming irrelevant, write David Edelman, Jason Heller and Steven Spittaels for McKinsey Insights.

On average internet users decide whether or not to leave a web page after just three seconds’ browsing; the proliferation of information brought on by rapid technological innovation means that being able to get things done quickly has become more important than ever. This is particularly true for marketers. If you want to stay ahead of the pack, take the lead in persuading your company to adopt agile marketing practices.

What is agile marketing?

Agile marketing means developing what David Edelman, Jason Heller and Steven Spittaels describe as a “bias for action”, utilising data analytics to identify a potential opportunity, testing a hypothesis, evaluating the results of the test and taking action in quick succession. This can happen at scale, so get it right and you could be running hundreds of marketing campaigns simultaneously.

You might already have introduced some agile marketing practices – perhaps you have witnessed a return on investment, perhaps not – but unless every department in your company is signed up, from the marketing operation to legal, IT and finance, you are not going to be able to work quickly enough. “Simply put: if you’re not agile all the way, then you’re not agile,” write Edelman, Heller and Spittaels.

If you are willing to go all the way you can expect revenues from the product lines utilising agile marketing practices to increase by up to four times.

Step one: build a war room team

Before you set out to make your company’s marketing operation more agile, you must have a clear view of what you want to achieve with your agile marketing initiatives, have an efficient marketing technology infrastructure in place to capture the data you will require and get senior marketing staff on board. Once you have prepared the ground, it is time to start building your agile marketing “war room team”, “pod” or “tribe”.

Your war room team must possess multiple skill sets and, released from BAU (business as usual), be able to work together at speed. Located in a designated war room, the war room team will execute a series of experiments that have bottom-line impact.

The composition of the war room team depends on the tasks it is taking on, but it should comprise eight to 12 people (what tech giant Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, calls “two pizza” teams).

A typical team might look like this: scrum master/team leader; project manager/campaign strategist; analytics lead; tagging developer; SEO head; UX designer; HTML developer; art director; copywriter; media head.

The team must have clear lines of communication with other departments, including legal, IT and finance and identify leaders in each department who have bought into the idea of making your company’s marketing operation more agile. These leaders should sign agreements committing to a set response time.

Senior marketing staff should oversee the war room team’s activities but without interfering too much. Technology in the form of a metrics dashboard can be utilised to provide progress updates with a meeting taking place every three to four weeks.

Step two: get to work

Now your war room team is in place, it should follow this simple five-stage process:

1) Set goals. Assemble the war room team, senior marketing staff and stakeholders from other departments, agree the initiative’s goals and define your company’s new agile culture, which will be focused on collaboration, speed, avoidance of BAU, embracing the unexpected, simplicity, valuing data over opinions, accountability and placing the customer at the heart of all decisions.

2) Identify opportunities. Develop insights into your marketing operation using data analytics.

3) Design tests. Brainstorm ideas about how to take advantage of the opportunities the team has identified, agree key performance indicators (KPIs) and choose which ideas to test based on potential business impact and ease of implementation.

4) Run tests. Test the ideas in one- to two-week “sprints”. During this time meetings should be kept to a minimum.

5) Report findings. Hold sessions to review the test findings, communicate the most promising results to key stakeholders, take on board any lessons you have learned and repeat the process.

In the daily war room team meeting each member of the team should report on what they accomplished the previous day and what they plan to accomplish that day.

Step three: go all the way

It is all very well putting together a small war room team but if you want the changes you have made to be sustainable your company’s entire marketing operation must function in the same agile way. In order to achieve this company-wide change you must persuade your colleagues that agile marketing practices are credible and capable of yielding results quickly.

The process of scaling up agile marketing practices can be achieved in three phases:

1) Spread the word. Produce reports on the positive findings of the war room team’s tests and forecast the impact they could have if implemented across your entire marketing operation.

2) Replicate your war room team. Each new war room team should be focused on a specific goal, product or service. The more teams you have the more entrenched agile marketing practices will become.

3) Build a control tower. As with the single war room team, senior marketing staff can use a metrics dashboard to track the activities of all war room teams, helping them to allocate resources wisely.

Do not settle for BAU

“Marketing executives contemplating change often speak of the challenge associated with overcoming business as usual. By aggressively adopting agile practices, marketers can transform their organisations into fast-moving teams that continually drive growth for the business,” conclude the authors.

Source Article: Agile Marketing: A Step-by-step Guide
Author(s): David Edelman, Jason Heller and Steven Spittaels
Publisher: McKinsey Insights