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Agile Marketing: It's just the beginning...

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Richard Tidman is managing director at Space66

Richard Tidman, managing director of Space66 kicks off ‘The Agile Marketing’ series, exploring the tricks of the agile marketing trade…

The word ‘agile’ has been much abused over the past few years. Batted around boardrooms, bandied around marketing conferences, and beloved by bloggers – a vocal majority have warped its meaning. Our aim is to rectify this with a series of clear, concise posts that take the reader from the creation of agile methodology by software developers right through to its application in marketing today. Along the way we’ll discover why agile means far more than using trending hashtags and effective production.

So, what makes agile so special?

Agile is worth getting familiar with because it boosts productivity, increases profits, and reduces time to market – the benefits are such that 41 per cent of marketers use it to manage work, while another 38 per cent plan to implement it over the next 12 months.

Sounds too good to be true, but when you consider the alternative, waterfall methodology, the results aren’t all that surprising. Put simply, waterfall looks at a problem, devises a solution, and organises a series of steps to reach that solution. Seems reasonable, and this process was effective for many years in fact – until the likes of Uber, Amazon and Airbnb showed up and started disrupting markets every few months.

From then on, an inflexible roadmap leading to a solution devised months before no longer looked sensible. Waterfall methodology was no longer a safe bet. It was around this time that tech-savvy people like Scott Brinker began espousing the merits of adopting software development practices within marketing operations.

The agility of agile marketing

So how do you plan for a landscape which is in constant flux? You can’t. The best you can do is adapt your process to respond quickly to change. Years ago, software development companies realised the shortcomings in assuming all requirements for a project will be known in advance. In fact, the realist is that new realisations about a project materialise during its life – things that impact scope, direction, capabilities, design – that simply make it unrealistic to expect perfection right out of the box.

Plus, timing is everything – the market won’t wait for your company to get a product 100 per cent right before emotionally and financially committing to a solution. They need things now. To cope with this, developers created a process that delivered solutions in small and regular pieces, measured their efficacy, and improved them based on the results. These rapid iterative cycles are known as sprints and are the basis of an agile methodology.

Similarly, agile marketing replaces the conventional, linear (or waterfall) development of marketing plans and activity with an iterative process. Rather than spending time and money on annual plans whose relevance decreases throughout the year, marketers work on a shorter cycle. This enables them to answer consumer requirements which are occurring in real time. It also helps them spot the most and least effective campaigns so they can ditch the bad and spend more energy optimising the good.

Standups, scrums, big data and more

While a useful primer, this introduction only scratches the surface of agile methodology – we’ve said nothing of proper testing and means of leveraging data, the famous stand-up meeting, and the sport enthusiast’s favourite; scrum. But never fear – we’ll work through these in periodic installments in the hope that you’ll consider yourself an agile expert by Christmas.

Richard Tidman is managing director at Space66.

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