You Can’t Get Results From Inbound Marketing Without Agile; Yes, It’s That Important
If you asked 100 marketing people from either in-house teams or inbound marketing agency teams “are you doing Agile marketing?” most will answer “yes, of course.” They don’t mean to be deceptive in any way. They truly believe that the way they execute is Agile, and perhaps it is to some extent.
But that’s not really what the question intends to uncover. The question is very specific. Are you doing Agile marketing? To be even more specific: Do you use Scrum or Kanban? Do you have daily stand-ups? Do your teams run weekly or bi-weekly sprints? Do they have retrospectives at the end of the sprints? Do you do sprint planning? Do you use a backlog of tactics and is this groomed on a regular basis? These questions tend to produce different responses and most of those include the look on the woman's face above.
Let’s start at the beginning. What is Agile marketing?
What Is Agile Marketing?
Google, the all-knowing, all-powerful resource for everything, defines Agile marketing as a tactical marketing approach in which teams identify and focus their collective efforts on high-value projects, complete those projects cooperatively, measure their impact, and then continuously and incrementally improve the results over time.
If you want to go a little deeper, Agile marketing is an approach to marketing that takes its inspiration from Agile development, and it has very specific values that come along with it. Like any methodology, you have to buy into the values. You have to agree to six very specific values before deciding if Agile is right for you. However, when you look at this in context with inbound marketing, these values are perfect for creating a system that delivers leads in a predictable, scalable and repeatable way.
Here are the six values associated with Agile marketing:
- Responding to change over following a plan
- Rapid iterations over big-bang campaigns
- Testing and data over opinions and conventions
- Numerous small experiments over a few large bets
- Individuals and interactions over target markets
- Collaboration over silos and hierarchy
The goals of Agile marketing are to improve the speed, predictability, transparency and adaptability to change of the marketing function. Agile marketers also support a set of principles that define what it means to be an Agile marketer:
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of marketing that solves problems, creates value and generates leads.
- We welcome and plan for change. We believe that our ability to quickly respond to change is a source of competitive advantage.
- We deliver marketing programs often, from every couple of weeks to every two months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
- Great marketing requires close alignment with the sales and business leadership.
- Motivated individuals build great marketing programs. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
- Learning, through the build-measure-learn feedback loop, is the primary measure of progress.
- Sustainable marketing requires you to keep a constant pace and pipeline.
- Don’t be afraid to fail; just don’t fail the same way twice.
- Continuous attention to marketing fundamentals and good design enhances agility.
- Simplicity is essential.
Now that you’re crystal clear on what Agile marketing is and the values that have to come along with your commitment to practice it, let’s look at how it impacts inbound marketing.
Why Inbound Marketing Requires Agile Marketing
If you’ve been doing inbound marketing as long as we have, you start to realize that inbound done right requires a responsive methodology. I don’t mean responsive like smartphone responsive, I mean being able to respond to the real-time data that’s available when inbound is deployed properly.
Take one look at the values of Agile marketing and you’ll see some noticeable alignments.
Responding to change over following a plan – Any solid inbound marketing professional will tell you that a 12-month, traditional, static marketing plan is not going to produce results when paired with inbound marketing tactics. In fact, the plan is likely to be outdated and invalid after just 30 days of live inbound marketing. So instead of doing the 12-month plan, create a series of 30-day plans. Be positioned to respond to data accordingly and you’ll see a dramatic improvement in results.
Rapid iteration over big-bang campaigns – No matter what I tell you is going to work, I won’t know for sure until we start delivering. Creating big-bang campaigns on assumptions, opinions or guesses, no matter how educated the guesses are, is not productive. Instead, you want to quickly make smaller adjustments over and over again to produce the desired results.
Testing and data over opinions and conventions – Everyone has an opinion. So what? If we’re all about the results, we have to graduate from opinions and start making decisions based on data. The answer to almost everything should be, “we should test that.” The result from continuous testing is going to be data that allows us to make an informed decision. The result from that is improved performance across all aspects of your inbound marketing program.
Numerous small experiments over a few large bets – This has been covered in the previous two sections, but here’s an example of how Agile thinking impacts inbound marketing tactics. Instead of investing thousands of dollars in a new e-book (including a landing page, CTA button, delivery emails, lead nurturing workflows, and copy and design of the e-book) in the hopes it gets downloads, consider this more Agile alternative: Start with a 600-word blog article and track it.
Is it viewed, shared, clicked on and linked to? If so, do a single sheet that goes into more detail. Does that get downloaded? If so, move to a bigger, more comprehensive and more expensive piece of content. Because you tested it first, you’ll have a pretty good idea of expected results before you put the investment into it.
Individuals and interactions over target markets – Marketing, when done correctly, is a very personal experience; it’s a person-to-person exercise. A person from your company is attempting to interact with a person from one of your prospective customer companies. When paired with Agile, inbound marketing gives you the opportunity to look at what people are clicking on, responding to, viewing, downloading and requesting. You get a uniquely personal profile of what they like, don’t like and need. This allows you to continuously tailor your marketing to produce even better results.
Collaboration over silos and hierarchy – The old marketing is definitely built in silos; simply look at the makeup of an internal marketing team. You have your social media manager, your event manager, your email marketing manager and your website guy. I know because this is how my marketing team was built when I ran marketing for a software company over 10 years ago. Unfortunately, most teams are still built with silos.
Inbound marketing needs to break down these silos, and the only way to produce a dramatic lift in visitors, leads and new customers is to tightly integrate every single tactic across all your marketing. With inbound almost every aspect of it is connected, so a siloed approach to inbound is definitely going to produce lower-than-expected results. Don’t make this mistake.
Start Today Tip – If you’re not seeing the results you expected, then looking at your deployment methodology is a good place to start. Another area to look at is your marketing strategy and messaging, but that’s a topic for an upcoming article. Agile is really the only way to truly optimize inbound marketing in a way that’s data-driven and results-oriented. However, it’s complicated and requires innovation, practice, patience and expertise. So it might be more efficient to consider using a firm that already has Agile marketing as part of its delivery model. Remember, ask the right questions and make sure the firm is actually using Agile.
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