Today, over 80% of organizations have adopted agile development practices in some parts of their software organizations. Among startups, the percentage applying agile may be even higher.
So what percentage of organizations apply agile methods to marketing?
Who knows? There’s no data. But the total lack of data suggests that only a very small percentage of marketers apply agile methods.
The question is “Why?” This makes no sense.
If you’re applying agile methods to release new features of your software every few weeks (or perhaps every few days or hours if you’re Amazon or SalesForce.com), do you really want marketing that operates on six-month cycles?
I didn’t think so.
OK, so perhaps you agree that marketing needs to operate on shorter cycles and move more quickly. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that the methods of agile development (sprints, scrum user stories, burndown charts, etc.) can be successfully applied to marketing.
Good point, but I disagree. I have found that all of these agile methods, with some minor adaptation, can be applied to marketing, and with excellent results.
OK, this is a no brainer. Daily 15 minute standup meetings encourage communication, impose discipline, uncover potential problems before they spin out of control and improve morale among self-managing teams. The very act of appointing someone (the Scrum Master) who is not the boss, but who is responsible for tracking progress and removing obstacles that are preventing the team from moving forward, can have a huge positive impact on the productivity of the marketing team. Every marketing team can benefit from Marketing scrums and the appointment of a scrum master.
Sprints are simply a way to break down a large project into smaller chunks so that a team can deliver more immediate results and get feedback earlier. Can’t marketing benefit from the same approach? If a marketing program doesn’t work, don’t we want to know after 3-4 weeks, rather than after six months? Don’t we want marketing teams that are implementing programs quickly, measuring the results, and then iterating on what works and what doesn’t?
Sprint planning sessions are also invaluable for marketing, because they force alignment of the marketing team with management and sales, who should attend all sprint planning meetings. Sprint planning also aligns expectations with the resources available, making it much clearer what can be done by when.
Sprint reviews not only serve as a checkpoint to review the commitments made at the sprint planning session, but they also convey to management, sales and the rest of the team marketing’s accomplishments.
Marketing can document user stories in two different ways: first, to document the need for new functionality, and second, to document the roles and the stages of the buying process. Good marketing doesn’t sell, it helps users buy. By writing user stories that describe the different personas in the buying process, and the activities that must occur for a successful sale, as well as the acceptance criteria for material that will help the buyer, the marketing department provides themselves with a “specification” for their marketing.
OK, I’ll admit that I’ve never used a burndown chart for marketing. But if you think about it, any marketing department that implements user stories, as described above, could use burndown charts to track their implementation.
So how about it, marketers? If you agree, how can we move forward in making agile methods more prevalent in marketing? If you disagree, why? I’d really like to know.