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Three Ways Agile Marketing is “Hacking Marketing”

Camille Landau, Director

We are holding a sort of book club at CMG and the first read is “Hacking Marketing” by Scott Brinker, CTO at Ion Interactive and author of chiefmartec.com blog. The book is a deep dive into Agile practices from one of the pioneers of the approach. Our Agile for Marketing team has been chatting over email about the book and we have found these three points to be noteworthy and familiar to our experience working with clients adopting Agile:

  • 1. Find ways to most effectively structure to achieve our goals as a marketing organization to have the right points of coordination and remove points of friction.

We call this picking your orientation and have recommended to our clients that they think about how to align their teams with their priorities whether that be by product, by customer segment, or by stage in the buying journey. As Scott nicely points out “How you structure multiple agile teams is about deciding where connections and coordination are most valuable. For instance, instead of structuring around channels, as [marketing has] classically done, it may be more effective to build teams around different segments of customers or different stages of the buyer’s journey. The key is to really focus on the smallest amount of coordination that is genuinely useful.”

  • 2. Manage your marketing with a strategy to sunset legacy marketing content and programs.

We have found that our clients struggle to shift their mindset from creating business value to creating business value through building customer value. An aspect of this is their reluctance to eliminate work that isn’t creating value. Marketing is often ruled by the urgent over the effective. There is resistance to de-prioritizing work that may have value internally, but doesn’t really impact the customer experience. It’s hard to break habits of doing things because ‘that’s how they have always done them.’ It requires working closely with them to think through how to really create customer value. Our client, Extensis, compared the positive (but sometimes painful) consequence of adopting Agile Marketing to “breaking twenty years of muscle memory.” (Read the Extensis case study).

  • 3. Agile marketing is concerning for others who have a hard time imagining marketing as series of sprints.

This is a common roadblock that we run into with people who are curious but skeptical about agile marketing. Marketers—and the people they report to—are used to a traditional way of doing things. Even though they are not getting the results they want, there often is resistance to change. To address their concerns, we try to bring agile marketing to life with real-world stories that show how marketing actually does work in a series of sprints. We conducted research with more than 40 marketers for our CMO’s Agenda. The paper features many examples of teams struggling with change then gaining benefits in performance, speed, and collaboration after just a few sprints.

Every marketing organization is a unique team of people with its own culture and style. Changing the status quo by adding high levels of flexibility, experimentation, and transparency can seem daunting. To address the skepticism, we take several steps with an organization BEFORE training to really understand their points of resistance, leadership’s level of support, and individual personalities. This lets us know where to focus our training and how a particular marketing organization will best apply the agile methodologies.