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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistFri, Apr 1, 2016 8 min read

Why Your Inbound Marketing Team Has To Be Agile

Agile Marketing And Inbound Marketing Equal 10x The Business Results

Agile Marketing And Inbound MarketingThe days of annual marketing planning are over. For years, I created 12-month marketing plans for the companies that hired me to be their VP of Marketing. Today, a 12-month marketing plan sounds completely ridiculous to me. Why? Because as inbound marketing experts, we use data to drive our decision-making, not a written plan that could be months old.

If real-time data is going to drive your decisions, why spend the time to create a long-term plan? Instead, create a series of 30-day plans that allow you to respond to the performance data directly from clients and prospects.

If you are, in fact, going to do shorter plans and change your tactics every 30 days, you need your marketing team to be designed for, trained on and experienced in adjusting their execution just as fast.

Here’s why we think Agile marketing and inbound are a marriage made in heaven.

The Cycles Match

We’ve learned early on that the faster your inbound marketing team cycles, the better. The Agile methodology also preaches this focused and short-term work style, otherwise known as a sprint. We learned that the success of the inbound marketing effort is 100% measured by our ability to get clients leads – high-quality leads that enter the sales cycle and then convert into revenue. The more times a team sprints, the better the results.

If you think about it, you can sprint once a month and deliver X number of leads or you can sprint four times a month and deliver 4X the number of leads. Which would you prefer? Yes, we would, too. By applying an inbound optimization cycle that includes analyzing the results, reviewing the optimization options, putting together an upgrade plan and executing that plan, you get greater results. We refer to this cycle as Analyze, Review, Respond and Act.

Prioritization Is Critical

Agile marketing gives us the rituals, process and methodology to implement on a weekly basis. Every week, our client teams (which include people from every functional area: client services, interactive, content, design and strategy) pull tactics from a backlog (a list of results-generating upgrades they’ve been collecting over time). Clients collaborate with us every 30 days to set priorities for the upcoming month. In April, we’re planning for May.

Our teams are selecting and recommending tactical upgrades to clients based on a prioritization schema that includes an understanding of what tactics produce the best results and take the least amount of time to implement. Once the monthly priorities are agreed on, our team pulls tactics down each week and sprints to deliver that package of work, ensuring that upgrades get implemented frequently and impacting our ability to drive results.

You Get Better Over Time

Every time you execute another inbound program, you learn something. That spirit of continuous improvement has to be in your DNA if you’re going to see success with inbound. Operationalizing that effort is challenging, but the methodology that comes with Agile and Scrum provided us with all the rituals we needed to track, build on, collect, share and implement key learnings across multiple client teams.

Every week, when our teams meet to do what’s called a sprint retrospective, they’re discussing what worked well and what didn’t work so well. They’re identifying those areas that need improvement and taking the time to plan on implementing those improvements in the upcoming week. These might be client improvements, process improvements or even company improvements. Regardless, each team is getting better every single week, and the client results follow.

Data Is Core To Both

Inbound uses real-time performance data to drive our decisions. Agile uses real-time performance data to drive our decisions, too. It’s a perfect fit. If website visitor traffic is down, we want to take action this week to impact results next week. If the conversion rate drops, we want to take action this week to impact next week. And if leads are down as compared to our projections, we want to take action immediately so that when the month ends, we’ve exceeded our goals.

Agile gives us similar data on the performance of our teams. How much work is getting shipped? How close is that to their committed number? How much is their velocity increasing week over week? What are their team member happiness scores? Yes, we track team member happiness every week. Access to this data helps the teams improve performance, and it helps us oversee where we need to support the teams so they achieve their own goals.

Efficiencies And Improvements Are Married To Outcomes

Velocity, commitments and team member happiness are nice, but if you don’t connect those numbers to the outcomes you’re looking for, you have an incomplete model. So, we’ve drawn a direct correlation between what our teams are doing from an Agile perspective and what they’re doing from an inbound perspective. Increasing velocity is meaningless if we can’t convert that into more leads and more new customers for our clients.

In addition to all the micro data on program performance (like blog shares) and Agile (like team velocity), we’re also reporting on leads generated and new customers closed for all our clients on a weekly basis. This prevents us from having more than a week go by without being able to safely say our clients are seeing massive value, modest value or limited value (in which case we need to put some attention into improving the performance of that client’s program, quickly).

Practicing inbound and Agile is not for everyone. You need to be an expert at one before you add the other, and once you have them both in play, it’s like moving from college football to the pros. The pace of the game is faster, the intensity level is higher and the stakes are dramatic. You need the right team, the right culture and the perfect set of processes to deliver.

learn-inbound-secret-recipe Start Today Tip – Think carefully before you jump in with both feet. Moving to Agile requires solid planning, support from experts and a long-term time frame. Wait until you feel like you’re great at inbound. Trying to learn both at the same time could be problematic and impact your team’s ability to generate leads for your business. Next, make sure you understand the differences between Agile for software development (where it was born) and Agile for marketing. There are variances, and you need to plan accordingly. When you’re ready, make sure you go ALL IN. There should be no turning back.

Square 2 Marketing – Inbound Results Start With ME!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.