Marketing is broken. As explained in my previous post Do We Need an Agile Marketing Manifesto?, marketers are stressed out and sometimes dysfunctional because of the speed of change, fractured and disrupted channels of communication, customer control of the buying process, balkanized and under-utilized marketing intelligence and limited resources.
Some of us think Agile Marketing is the answer (or at least part of the answer).
If Agile Marketing achieved widespread adoption, what would marketing look like in the year 2022? If the future of marketing is Agile, how is that vision compelling enough to justify adoption of Agile Marketing?
I would describe the future of marketing along six different dimensions.
The Future of Marketing: Low Documentation, High Touch
If Agile Marketing is successful, low-documentation, high-touch methods will replace the semi-annual or annual marketing plans and the endless internal meetings that are held to create and approve these plans. Marketing plans will be replaced by single-page summaries, documenting our current hypotheses about our customers and our markets. User stories and personas replace tag lines and target markets. Marketers spend more time with customers than with each other. Decisions are made not in conference rooms, but by the collection of customer responses to something we’ve tried: it worked or it didn’t.
The Future of Marketing: Momentum-Based, not Campaign-Based
Agile Developers adopted an iterative, short time scale approach to development in order to get something in the user’s hands sooner, so that they could get more immediate feedback and address the business problem early. Agile Marketing delivers the same benefits: more immediate feedback, faster time to market.
Agile Marketing has another potential benefit from an iterative approach – momentum. It’s commonplace today to say that marketing is about relationships, about authenticity, about social media, about two-way communication, about tribes and tribal leadership. This relationship-based approach is incompatible with big launch and big-bang campaign marketing. Think about it: would you stay long in a relationship with someone who every 6-12 months showered you with affection, but in between was completely missing-in-action? You wouldn’t, and neither will customers.
Marketing is about momentum, and an iterative, sprint-based approach to marketing lends itself to creating momentum. The future of marketing requires a process like Agile.
The Future of Marketing: Collaborative and Cross-Functional
Too much marketing today is developed in isolation. Marketing is out of touch with both the sales teams and the business leaders. Even within marketing, there are silos: social media doesn’t talk to the people who are building the web site, who don’t talk to the people who are developing advertising campaigns.
The future of marketing is collaborative and cross-functional, and Agile Marketing can help us get there. Processes like the Sprint Planning session can help ensure alignment and communication with sales and the business leaders. The daily standup can ensure communication happens within the various silos of marketing, breaking down those barriers. A unified view of the customer and the customer experience can lead to more coordinated messaging. The future of marketing is collaborative and cross-functional.
The Future of Marketing: Marketers Become Scientists
As I alluded to above, marketers need to start developing hypotheses about their markets and start taking a scientific approach to marketing. This is already happening in some areas of marketing like landing page design and ecommerce, but it needs to spread to other areas of marketing. Every piece of content should be written with a hypothesis in mind of why that content will be successful, and measured to determine if the hypothesis proves true or not. The same for our tweets, facebook posts, positioning, advertisements. Measurements that are relevant to the business people become the measures of success, not marketing measures like awards or likes or ad recall.
Eric Ries has articulated how startup founders can apply the scientific method (which he calls the build-measure-learn feedback loop) to the extremely uncertain world of Lean Startups. We need to take the same approach to marketing in organizations of all sizes. We need marketing that is Lean, as well as Agile.
The Future of Marketing: Marketers Become Technologists
Scott Brinker of Chief Marketing Technologist is leading this part of the revolution, and he’s right. Marketers must become technologists. If we are to become scientists, and run experiments, we must understand statistics to determine if our tests have statistical validity. The age of big data is upon us, and marketers need to be leading that charge. According to Buyer Zone, in 2012 only about 13% of B2B marketers have adopted marketing automation tools. This has to change. Marketers must get ahead of and adopt new technologies. Today, it’s mobile, tomorrow, it will be something else in addition to mobile.
Just as Agile Developers have benefited from new development tools and from the process imposed by Agile, Agile Marketers will benefit from new marketing tools and by the discipline and process of Scrum.
The Future of Marketing: Customer Experiences, Not Products
The best marketing has at its center the customer experience. Apple knows this, as does Starbucks. More marketers need to focus on the customer experience, and on providing that experience, rather than selling products.
Agile Marketing can help. User stories help us focus on what the customer seeks to accomplish, either through the buying process or in using our products and services to solve their problems. Inbound marketing seeks to provide value to the customer through content, improving the customer experience. And lastly, attention to detail and great design, both things that I advocate as part of Agile Marketing, improve the customer experience.
But Do We Need an Agile Marketing Manifesto?
I’ve tried to identify in this post where we want to go and what I believe to be the future of marketing:
- Low documentation, high touch
- Momentum-based, not campaign based
- Collaborative and cross-functional
- Marketers as scientists
- Marketers as technologists
- Customer experiences, not products
The question remains, do we need an Agile Marketing Manifesto to reach these goals?
I think the answer is YES! I believe we need it for two reasons: we need to inspire the troops who are going to do the hard work of storming the barricades of traditional marketing, and we need a manifesto to articulate our values.
One of the distinguishing features of the Agile Development manifesto is that it made hard choices, hard trade-offs. It wasn’t obvious at the time (and some people still disagree) that throwing out the traditional waterfall deliverables like a feasibility study, cost benefit analysis, risk management plan, functional requirements document, system design document and detailed specifications in favor of 3×5 cards with user stories on the front and acceptance criteria on the back would result in better software.
What is our equivalent? What hard trade offs in values are we making as marketers? I don’t think the current Agile Marketing Manifesto takes us all the way there. Don’t misunderstand me, there’s some good stuff there, but we need to refine it.
I challenge all of us, including myself, to figure out those hard trade-offs, and articulate what we stand for as clearly and simply as possible. I’m looking forward to joining with others to make this happen, through online dialog and a future Sprint One. Let’s revise the Agile Marketing Manifesto, and build a brighter future for marketing.