The Role of the Marketing Owner in Agile Marketing

Marketing OwnerEvery time I teach Agile Marketing, I learn something new. Last week, I was teaching a class in Northern Ireland, and one of the students asked me to clarify the difference between the product owner and what she called the “Agile owner”.

I didn’t really understand her question until she clarified that the product owners for the development sprints resided in marketing. She felt, and I think she’s right, that it’s too much to ask these product owners to take on the additional role of setting priorities for the marketing sprints.

Who should take on this role? Let’s call this person the Marketing Owner, to distinguish them from the Product Owner.

Marketing Owner Responsibility 1: The Vision

Just as the Product Owner is responsible for the product vision, the Marketing Owner should articulate a vision of how the product will be marketed.  This should include both a long term vision as well as quarterly and yearly themes for marketing.

The Marketing Vision

The long term marketing vision should include at least these items:

  • Who are you selling to? Which market segments, as well as who within the organization.  Ideally you have personas described for each role in the buying process for each segment.
  • What problems are you solving? What problems does the customer have that they’re looking for you to solve? What aspirations do they aspire to that you can help them reach? What are the implications of solving these problems and fulfilling their aspirations?
  • What is the Brand Promise? This should be a single sentence that distills exactly what you do for the customer.  I’ve previously written about constructing brand promises.
  • Supporting Messages – What are the supporting messages and proof points that make the brand promise believable?
  • Brand Personality – Is your brand formal or informal? Fun or serious? Arrogant or humble? What does your brand voice sound like?
  • Buyer’s Journey – What are the steps in your buyer’s journey?
  • Core Metric – How should marketing be measured? If you were limited to a single, core metric, what would it be?

I’ve created a marketing canvas which you can download to document each of the pieces of the long term marketing vision.  These should be re-examined from time to time, but unless you are a startup and trying to figure these things out, the marketing vision should not change very often.

Quarterly Themes

The Marketing Owner should also publish a one-page summary each quarter of marketing “themes”.  This one-pager answers the question: What are we trying to focus on now? It should be communicated widely, both within the marketing organization and to important stakeholders like Sales and Executive Management.

I encourage Marketing Owners to limit the number of quarterly themes, usually to two or three.  Occasionally I’ve felt it necessary to have four themes, and never more than five.  Each theme should also have some way to measure success.  It’s important to establish the metrics of success up front.

Marketing Owner Responsibility 2: Setting Priorities

Whether your team is practicing Kanban, Scrum or a combination of both, someone needs to set the priorities.  This responsibility falls to the Marketing Owner.

If the team is practicing Kanban, the Marketing Owner manages the work to be done or Ready queue.  He or she decides what goes in to that queue, and what rises to the top.  The team pulls work from the top of the queue, so organizing that queue effectively sets the priorities.

If the team is practicing Scrum, you probably have four ceremonies or meetings: the Sprint Planning session, the daily scrum, the Sprint Review and the Sprint Retrospective.  Increasingly, many Scrum teams are adding a fifth ceremony or meeting, the backlog grooming session.  At this meeting, which can involve the whole team but more frequently involves just the Marketing Owner and the Scrum Master, the attendees groom the marketing backlog, removing stories that are no longer necessary, prioritizing stories to the top of the queue, and making sure that stories are sufficiently detailed that they can be implemented.  The group also looks for and documents any dependencies between stories.

This backlog grooming session greatly improves the efficiency of the Sprint Planning session.  Priorities are already set coming in to Sprint Planning.  The team takes each item off the top of the queue, estimates the item, and deducts the story points from the available points for the Sprint, before going on to the next item.

Marketing Owner Responsibility 3: Allocating Resources

The Marketing owner allocates resources to ensure that the work gets done efficiently, without bottlenecks.  As much as we ask that Agile Marketers have broad skills sets and work in cross-functional teams, there are certain skill sets that are more specialized.  Design skills, for example.  Certain marketing technology skills.  Perhaps deep analytic and database skills.  If these skill sets are not resourced properly, they become a bottleneck to getting the work done.  The Marketing Owner needs to allocate headcount and other resources to eliminate these bottlenecks.

That sums up my thoughts about the role of the Marketing Owner.  What do you think? Is this in line with your practice? I’d love to hear from you.

Comments

  1. Venkata Kuppa says:

    Jim

    I agree. This is an equivalent of ‘Business Owner’ in software projects. Yes this Marketing Owner helps the Product Owner on the ground to set Priorities, Value in Deliverable, Release Planning (usually Quarterly), participate in ‘Reviews’ along with PO, course-correct teams’ understanding etc.,

    Thanks
    Venkat

  2. Hi, thank you for this post I agree with you that The Marketing Owner should also publish a one-page summary each quarter of marketing “themes”. This one-pager answers the question: What are we trying to focus on now?. very useful information

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