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If you think that a scrum is the main reason you’ll never play rugby, you might be right, but you are also missing a type of scrum much more related to marketing.  Scrum meetings are cross-functional gatherings that can resemble a free-for-all to an outsider, but that make huge progress in reaching the team’s goal. Agile marketing  unleashes the creativity of the team to succeed with the customer in a measurable way. If you haven’t at least looked at agile marketing, here is your big chance.

It’s not often that marketers learn a new process from technology folks, but agile marketing is a direct descendant of agile development, a process that results in faster delivery of technology that more closely resembles what the business folks actually need. In the age of the Internet, marketing needs to take a page from the IT people.

Agile development was a reaction to the so-called waterfall process, where long projects were divided up into phases that each took months: requirements, design, coding, testing, and deployment are typical names. But even if you don’t know these names, you know how waterfall works–you tell IT what you want, they write a big book of requirements, they tell you to come back in nine months, and a year later you actually get 80% of what you asked for of which half of that is actually what you expected (and still want). Agile development, in contrast, uses a continuous improvement process to make small changes constantly.

As marketing is more and more about continuous improvement, the pressure moved to IT to respond. I managed a team at that introduced agile development processes so that we could improve our Web site one step at a time. I wrote the book Do It Wrong Quickly to explain both agile development and agile marketing to marketers, but I wasn’t smart enough to use the term agile marketing.

Agile marketing is built around experimentation–try small cheap ideas and see if they work, rather than planning big expensive campaigns without knowing how successful they will be. To make this work:

  • You must work as a team. No more finger-pointing at IT or sales or anyone else. Everyone contributes ideas, and everyone is responsible for success or failure. Those regular scrum meetings are just the beginning.
  • You must favor action over debate. If your normal frame of mind is, “Don’t just do something, stand there!” then you might keep yourself safe politically in a large organization, but you aren’t very effective. Agile marketing requires that you try things.
  • You need metrics as your feedback loop. The major way to silence debate is with the voice of the customer. If you can tie marketing all the way through to a sale, that’s great, but even metrics based on impressions or clickthrough rates are better than nothing. Use them to make decisions.

Agile development isn’t magic–it’s hard work–but it pays off. If you have been suffering with disappointing results, intractable problems, or worse, no way to quantify results at all, agile marketing is your ticket to improvement. Success won’t come easy, but it will come if you try. Agile marketing is difficult, but it is easier than failing.

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Mike Moran

About Mike Moran

Mike Moran has a unique blend of marketing and technology skills that he applies to raise return on investment for large marketing programs. Mike is a former IBM Distinguished Engineer and the Senior Strategist at Converseon, a leading social consultancy. Mike is the author of two books on digital marketing, an instructor at several leading universities, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Society of New Communications Research.



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