Inbound Can’t Be Inbound Without Agile
Agile marketing is a phrase that’s starting to get traction, at least in the agency community, but with a lot of clients as well. The challenge is Agile marketing has a different definition depending on who you’re talking to.
Ask most inbound marketing agency owners or marketing team leaders if they practice Agile marketing and the answer is going to be “yes.” They’re not lying. They believe they respond in an agile way to client requests or requests from internal stakeholders. They believe they work in a way that is agile. But in reality, do they practice Scrum and deploy all the rituals, practices and techniques that allow Agile marketing to improve results? The answer is “no.”
These are the questions you should be asking: Why do I care about Agile or Scrum? What value does it deliver to me as a business owner, CEO or VP of marketing? How can I use it to see better results from my marketing?
Here are answers to the ways Agile marketing improves your business results.
1) You’ll Get More Done In Shorter Time Frames
The entire premise of Agile is getting twice the work done in half the time, so you should expect to see faster turnarounds for work that historically took longer than you might have wanted. The way this works is by allowing people to focus during the course of the week. By eliminating the distractions, you produce efficiencies.
This doesn’t work magically. If you keep interrupting your team with meetings and impromptu requests to do things outside of the work the team agreed to deliver during the sprint, you’ll become your own worst enemy. But if you let the team focus and deliver on the work you all agreed the team members would deliver and you eliminate all the other distractions, you’ll quickly see the team’s ability to produce increase dramatically.
2) It Provides A Prioritization Methodology That Focuses On Results
So much to do, so little time. How do you prioritize what to work on first? It’s a big issue with inbound. If you work on the wrong stuff, you might not get the results you were expecting. Having a way to consistently prioritize the long list of work is key.
Scrum teaches you to start with the items that will produce the biggest lift in results for the least amount of effort. This forces you to get these into your workweek first and then fill in around those high payoff, low effort activities. For example, if we can double the conversion rate on a landing page in two hours and double the amount of leads from it, that’s an example of what you want on your list first.
3) Your Marketing Becomes Data-Driven, Improving Performance
In the example I just gave you about the landing page and the conversion rate, it was the data that allowed us to identify this as an opportunity. We’re no longer going on assumptions, opinions and attitudes. The days of “the CEO thinks blue will be better” are over. Does the blue page perform better than the red page? Let the visitors dictate the color. The page that produces the most leads gets to stay.
This is especially important when everything you’re doing is quantitative. We have data on which offers work best, we have data on which site pages are the most popular, we have heat map data on how far people scroll and where they rest their mouse, we have click-through data on links within pages, data on emails, data on blog views, data on page rankings, data on bounce rate, exit pages, entrance pages and much more. The list of data available outpaces any questions you could possibly ask.
4) Your Team Is Going To Be Happier, Reducing Turnover
One of the tenets of Scrum is that it empowers your team. It gives your team the tools, rituals and methodology to deliver on your objectives and direction in a self-directed way. It gives your team a level of control that is rewarding and satisfying. If the team members set the estimates and they commit to the work, they should be able to deliver and deliver on time. As a team, everyone has to work together to make their deadlines and goals.
After every cycle, the team is getting together and evaluating what when well, what didn’t go so well and how to fix any challenges. This too is incredibly empowering. We saw a dramatic improvement in our team member attrition number once we moved everyone to Scrum and started practicing Agile. The reduction in voluntary team member turnover is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. If this approach can produce happier team members and a happier workforce overall, you’re going to want to go all-in.
5) Your Team Gets Better After Every Cycle
Inbound marketing is supposed to be a self-directed, course-correcting methodology, but if you don’t have the process to capture those course correction requirements, funnel them to the people who need to know about it, plan to do something differently and then track the results from that course correction, you’re not going to fully realize the benefits of inbound.
In short, your teams should be learning what’s working and what’s not. I’m not talking in this section about the marketing tactics. In this section, what’s working and what’s not has to do with the way you deliver the work. Inbound helps you use data to improve marketing tactic performance and Scrum helps you use data to improve the performance and efficiency of your team.
6) Your Planning Becomes More Short Term Based On Actual Performance Data
Don’t bother doing a 2017 marketing plan. In a couple of months, it will be 100% outdated. Instead, we’ve moved to 30-day planning. Each month we meet with our clients and give them a list of recommendations that, based on their budget, will produce the results we need to hit their goals. Sometimes this conversation centers around goal-setting. Just because you want to hit a goal doesn’t mean you’re going to hit a goal. You have to set your investment level appropriately with your goals.
By planning for February in January, we have the ability to construct sprints that deliver client work that impacts results quickly and efficiently. You can still plan for a longer time frame. For example, if you have a webinar coming up in April, you can work on it in February and March with the 30-day planning process.
7) It Keeps You On Budget, Actually Optimizing Your Budget Every Month
Scrum also gives us a chance to work with our clients to reset their budgets up or down each month based on their goals. You can apply the same process to your internal marketing team and see similar results.
Inbound marketing is a complex methodology and the delivery makes it even more complex. A number of tactics need to be executed every day, every week and every month. When you put ongoing optimization, data analysis and planning on top of the regular reoccurring tactics, it can feel like a massive effort.
Prioritizing work, collecting ideas, estimating the work and using data to drive you to your goals is how Agile marketing and Scrum support the ongoing delivery of inbound marketing. Yes, you might be able to make it work without this approach to delivery, but using this methodology on a regular basis certainly reduces and mitigates a lot of the risk associated with inbound.
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