The Meaning of Agility in Marketing

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The Meaning of Agility in Marketing

According to Inc., the four most essential components of an agile marketing team are implementing daily standup meetings, utilizing user stories, holding agile retro meetings, and work-in-progress limits, where only a specific number of projects can be worked on at any given time. Covid-19 has challenged the operating and business models of many companies that have had to adapt to continue operating and thrive. For example, BestBuy had a plan for curbside pickup and delivery that was supposed to take 18 months to implement. However, when the lockdown hit, the company went operational in two days. Detailed information is below.

What is Agile Marketing

  • According to Cleverism, agile marketing is a strategy used by organizations to manage and improve the working of the marketing team by streamlining team structure, communication, workflows, and processes to increase quality and efficiency. It is the long-term, deliberate use of a designated agile methodology in project management for marketing departments.
  • Per Wrike, the agile marketing concept relies on continuous testing and duplication, measuring and quantifying results, and using the data that is available to drive and inform future marketing campaigns.
  • Agile marketing applies the concepts of agile project management like retros and sprints to marketing projects.

What Agile Business Models Look Like Post-pandemic

  • Covid-19 has challenged the operating and business models of many companies. Agile organizations have proven to be more resilient than the average company and are thus better suited to respond to economic shocks posed by the pandemic. Agile companies have had to create new operating models for the next normal.
  • Covid-19 has highlighted the huge variation from one industry to the next and from one geography to the next. The pandemic has also led to the acceleration of the pace and speed of business. For example, BestBuy had a plan for curbside pickup and delivery that was supposed to take 18 months to implement. However, when the lockdown hit, the company went operational in two days.
  • Majid Al Futtaim in the Middle East saw its cinema business hit hard by the pandemic. The company changed its operating model and retrained its ushers and ticket collectors in a matter of days to work in other parts of their business, including the grocery and retail business that was booming. Some luxury goods companies pivoted their operations and changed from running factories that were making perfumes to hand sanitizers.
  • Also, there has been a reduction in decision paths or decision structures in organizations, increasing efficiency. For example, a bank in Australia initially had decisions made through a long process and many committees. In the post-pandemic era, the bank resolved to effectively reduce to a model where three senior executives in the room every morning at 8:00 make these decisions. Decision making has accelerated and has been pushed further down in the organization.

How Brands are Consciously Building for Agile

  • Mckinsey says that agile companies have managed the impact of the COVID-19 crisis better than their peers. In post pandemic times, some similar patterns have been observed, like boundaries and silos being removed, and this has helped to accelerate the pace of decision-making. Different talent teams in companies have come together to focus on the most critical issues, reducing the time that they would have spent trying to get many departments and people aligned.
  • Leaders also connected with teams at personal levels, and collaboration, leadership, new technology, and remote working were adopted overnight. Companies are trying to learn from the change so that the new level of performance doesn’t end during the crisis but is carried into the after-crisis era.
  • Brands in Asia have historically had a very high metabolic rate. This has accelerated further during the pandemic and challenged some beliefs. One belief is the speed at which the organization can work. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, there was the notion that large corporations faced complex decisions that took time. The pandemic made companies focus on a few decisions that matter and make decisions (that typically had to go through many committees) on the fly and with the same level or better in terms of risk and financial scrutiny. Focusing on the most important things allows companies to remove the hierarchy and unnecessary bureaucratic processes, leading to more productivity after quickly adapting and reacting to the crisis.
  • The second belief is efficiency. Many companies have gone after high levels of productivity over the years and getting rid of people they don’t need. The "output of many organizations during the crisis was higher on certain dimensions than before with fewer people. For example, one bank in Southeast Asia found that the number of people that had dialed in via VPN was a third less. However, the productivity in terms of processing requests was 20% higher."
  • Companies that had adopted agile ways of working have weathered the Covid-19 pandemic "better and are coming out of it stronger and faster than those that didn’t." The crisis has demonstrated the value and the amount of performance improvement that an organization can get when it adopts agile ways of working with real clarity of purpose and being dynamic on where and how you allocate resources given an incredibly fluid external environment.
  • Organizations are learning how to embrace agility as it has been proven to help in periods of huge uncertainty and in periods of business as usual. Since no one knows how long the crisis will last, one of the big challenges is how to make it more sustainable. Companies will have to reflect on what has worked for them through the crisis and what elements they want to retain post-pandemic. Some brands had to abandon their standard process of addressing and balancing multiple competing priorities and instead zero in on their most critical objectives.
  • Leaders at one European bank realized that since customers were quarantining and staying at home, it was a big risk for the company as its core services weren’t optimized for online, and customers might decide to leave and join banks that had better digitalization. This bank "kicked its digitalization efforts into high gear and launched fully redigitalized offerings online in just eight weeks. Before the pandemic, it believed that such a full conversion would take years. But when it saw how critical the need was, it delivered the strengthened digital product in record time."
  • When the leader of plasma-derived therapies at Takeda realized that it might "speed the development of plasma-based COVID-19 medicines by partnering with others, it formed a nonprofit alliance with other companies. Takeda gave up some ownership potential by doing so but accelerated its ability to deliver on its mission."
  • Thanks to the pandemic, many companies have embarked on experiments in which they’ve organized around outcomes in flattened structures that replace physical colocation with hybrid models. Barclays is decentralizing decision-making by making local branches satellite offices for more employees, including investment bankers, call-center workers, and people who formerly had to commute to a central office.
  • India’s Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) believes that its "new hybrid model, which frees associates from any need to spend more than 25% of their time in a TCS office, could improve velocity by about 25%, thanks to productivity gains."
  • People are reallocated, re-skilled, and re-energized. Much of the redeployment has been accompanied by retraining that gives employees more options in the long run. SWIFT, a European payments company, launched the "DevSecOps academy, a virtual-training system for employees to strengthen their engineering capabilities and become fit for the future. Verizon created new virtual training programs and retrained more than 20,000 workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of hourly staffers now take at-home customer-service and sales roles."
  • Brands are consciously building for agile by propelling technology to the front lines during the COVID-19 crisis. When the Covid-19 crisis hit, Verizon "suspended in-home installation appointments. Instead, the company developed a new tool designed to help Verizon customers install new equipment and troubleshoot issues at home with remote assistance from a technician. This remote-assistance tool has proved so successful that Verizon believes it will help the company gain access to new markets."

Key Components of an Agile Marketing Team Today

  • According to Inc., there are four most essential components of an agile marketing team:

It Implements Daily Standup Meetings

  • An agile marketing team holds daily standup meetings in the mornings and involves asking all those attending three questions; what they did yesterday, what they will do today, and any roadblocks preventing them from moving forward.
  • Daily standup meetings are among the best ways to improve project visibility and collaboration.
  • Inc. did a survey of marketing teams and found that of the 54% surveyed, 44% regularly engage in standup meetings.
  • Getting all team members in the same room for a brief rundown enables them to be aware of what is going on and help each other overcome any stumbling blocks before they sabotage the project's timeline.

It Utilizes User Stories

  • The second key component of an agile marketing team is that it utilizes user stories. User stories are a customer-centric way for the team to explain what it is doing. User stories ensure that marketers only implement what will benefit the target audience.
  • The marketing team documents the user story in a creative brief or project kickoff notes for reference.
  • In marketing, a user story highlights the content that the target audience would like to have to achieve an outcome.
  • Per Inc., 42% of agile marketers utilize the user stories.

Holds Agile Retro Meetings

  • An agile retro takes place once the project is completed. The retro meetings are limited to an hour and aim to give team members the chance to address the project's successes and any areas that need improvement. This enables the marketing team to continually reiterate and implement better practices for future projects.
  • In the agile retro meeting, the team discusses what went well and celebrates successes. The team also discusses what didn't go well and gets honest about its failures. Lastly, the team brainstorms ways to improve in the future by using failure as an opportunity to do better.
  • A study by Inc. found that 32% of agile marketers choose to use the agile retro feature with their teams.

Work-in-Progress Limits

  • Work-in-progress limits means that only a specific number of projects can be worked on at any given time. It forces the team to complete a project before it can start another one.
  • For example, if a company’s content marketing team is creating three different content items like an eBook and two white papers, setting a work-in-progress limit means that the team cannot start a fourth item until one of the items being worked on is completed.
  • Work-in-Progress limits streamline the process of getting things down, while also increasing the quality of the deliverable.
  • The Inc. study found that 32% of agile marketing teams use the work-in-progress approach when managing their marketing projects.

Team Structure in Agile Marketing

  • Agile marketing teams have a flat structure, where there are no chains of command or siloed departments. Instead, the company encourages team members to collaborate freely on projects and work across departments to deliver results using whichever people and approach they prefer.
  • However, an element of leadership still exists in agile marketing. The senior team members keep making the big decisions on the direction the team should take. A project manager normally oversees the agile project management process and provides advice to team members where necessary.

Steps Involved in Preparing a Team for Agile Marketing

  • There are three key steps involved in preparing a team for agile marketing: Creating an agile team structure, setting up the agile processes and platform, and onboarding.

Creating an Agile Team Structure

  • The first step is creating an agile team structure. It is the most challenging as agile marketing requires a flat, integrated team. Any existing ‘siloes’ within the team may need to be broken down like the SEO or social media departments operating independently will be required to adapt to working on a level playing field with each other and other departments.
  • Switching to agile marketing should be reflected in an update to each team member’s contract, which may involve reduced leadership responsibilities for some team members.

Setting up the Agile Processes and Platform

  • The second step is setting up the agile platform and processes. Once the team members agree to the new agile team structure, the platform and processes that will power the agile marketing should be implemented.
  • Agile marketing is mostly supported with a project management platform. This provides the basis for assigning tasks to team members, documenting progress towards goals, and collaboration on tasks. The platform should enable all three stages of the agile marketing cycle: build, measure, learn.

  • Most agile marketing teams also use software that helps with the data-intensive measure and learn phases of the agile cycle. Widely used examples include media monitoring tools that help identify PR opportunities in real time, and SEO tools that monitor website search performance. Each marketing team should choose a mix of tools to suit its unique strategy, which may evolve quickly through the agile methodology.

  • The marketing team’s leadership will also have some decisions to make on the exact agile marketing setup they will use. The leadership should decide whether the team will use the popular scrum setup for agile working, how progress will be reported to senior stakeholders, and how the team members will be incentivized to fully adopt the agile way of working.

Onboarding

  • Onboarding is the last step in preparing a team for agile marketing. Team members and clients should be onboarded onto the new agile marketing setup. It’s crucial to convey the excitement and opportunity of the moment to secure everyone’s buy-in at this vital early stage. Agile marketing teams often use a project manager to lead the onboarding process and subsequently to oversee the team’s use of the agile methodology.
  • Responsibilities for the project manager typically include training team members in the use of the project management platform, leading agile meetings, and adapting agile processes according to the specific requirements of the team.
  • The project should also consider developing a tailored agile marketing manifesto for the team. This document should combine the principles of agile working with the identity and objectives of the organization, resulting in a message that tells team members how agile marketing will help the team achieve its aims.

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