Guest Post: Roadmaps for Agile Marketing

Agile Marketing RoadmapAgile marketing owes the world of software development a debt for the origination of agile methodologies.  Agile software development is quite mature and much thought has gone into modifying its processes to suit the needs of individual teams and organizations.

Though Agile Marketing is relatively new, the benefit of showing up late to the game is that agile marketers get to pick and choose the best moves from the players who’ve been at it longer.  That’s how agile marketing has learned from agile development, but there are still more tricks to be learned from the software world.  This post is inspired by Roman Pichler’s excellent article about roadmaps in agile development

The practice of creating a roadmap for software products is well established and is used in both waterfall and agile development to keep the team focused on the long road ahead, and let stakeholders know what to expect.

Why you need a roadmap for Agile Marketing Projects

Agile marketing is good at being fast, it`s important though to not just do things efficiently, but also to make sure that you are doing the things that really matter. Keeping a roadmap gives you a 5,000 ft view to visualize the terrain ahead and understand the long and winding road to reach your goals.

With a backlog which is constantly having new deliverables added to it, it can be tempting to focus on the most interesting, but not necessarily the most effective, deliverables.

Jim’s recent post “How Not to Do Agile Marketing” tackled this problem by encouraging a focus on marketing and sales metrics. That post recommends using a regularly updated scorecard to track the traffic and conversion numbers right through the marketing and sales funnel.  This practice will help you achieve an objective understanding of your progress, and focus on tactics which will get you the most bang for your buck.

Metrics are important for understanding your progress. However they can also lead to excessive focus on incremental short term gains and a lack of investment in larger picture strategy and innovation. Keeping a roadmap for your marketing efforts will help to balance this out.

The marketing roadmap communicates your longer term goals and strategy to stakeholders outside of the team.  A backlog is full of possibilities, but it can sometimes be too scattered to mean very much to outsiders.  A roadmap makes it clear that you have an idea of where you are headed and sets higher level managers at ease.

Communicating your strategy with a roadmap improves synchronization across the organization, helping to integrate marketing activities with product development on the one hand and sales on the other.

Who should look after the roadmap?

The roadmap is developed with input from all stakeholders, but it would be maintained by the same person who manages the backlog. In Agile Software development this will be the Product Owner, for your marketing team you may have given this responsibility to someone else.

Whoever it is, it’s important that the responsibility of managing the backlog be combined with keeping the roadmap to avoid conflicts.  This will ensure that the backlog is groomed in a way that contributes to the meeting of the roadmap’s milestones.

What does an agile marketing roadmap look like?

In keeping with agile and lean principles, the roadmap needn`t be a lengthy jargon laden document. Your roadmap should look out at least a year, and contain a milestone for each quarter.

Your backlog contains the tactics that you will use to achieve marketing world domination, your roadmap contains the strategy.

Each milestone should be a list of 4 to 5 measurable goals or concrete deliverables.  Each of these items should be summarized in a bullet point, or at most a full sentence.  Any more than that and it becomes a wall of text that no one reads. The bullet points should be related to your reason for existence and major strategic deliverables.

Your roadmap might look something like this:

Goals should include measurable items such as targets for traffic, conversion rates across the funnel and revenue. Consider where you want your numbers to be a year from now. Create your quarterly goals by working backwards, from where you are, to where you want to be.

Deliverables on your roadmap should be things that you are 90% certain that you will do. In agile, nothing is guaranteed, but you need to have some things that matter. Include deliverables like a new website launch or a special campaign. Consult with the product team to align with the delivery of a major feature or a new mobile app. Get feedback from Sales on what they think will help them meet their goals.

Getting the most of your roadmap!

Now that you’ve invested (hopefully not too much) of your valuable time to create a roadmap, let’s make sure that your get value out of the exercise.

First, place the roadmap somewhere visible to the whole team.  If your team is centrally located post it next to your task board.  If you have remote team members, encourage them to print out and post the roadmap in their workspace.

It’s not necessary that your team discuss the roadmap on a daily basis, simply having it visible will remind people what you’re working towards and keep them aware of the bigger picture goals.

It is however important to find a regular opportunity to quickly review and ask and answer these questions:

  • Are the metrics moving in the right direction?

  • Are major deliverables delivered on time or are they being crowded out by work that feels more urgent?

  • Is your roadmap aligned with the product team, the sales team, and the overall organization?

Summary

Agile marketing is a powerful tool which enables greater speed of delivery and collaboration within the agile team. But being efficient doesn’t mean you’re being effective.  It’s entirely possible to pump out lots of stuff with minimal impact. Granular measurement is an important part of addressing this. The roadmap is the counter-balance of measurement at the other end of the scale. It can be a powerful tool not only for keeping your team focused on the WHY, not just the HOW and ensure that each of their efforts fits into the bigger picture.

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John Mardlin is an agile marketer based in Victoria, BC. He has managed marketing teams serving the education sector. His difficulty in finding a tool to serve the needs of collaborating with clients on agile projects has led him to partner in the building of his startup, PMRobot. He is also the co-founder and co-director of TEDxVictoria. His analytical approach to marketing is informed by his Math and Engineering education at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.

 

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