Marketing backlogIf you are just getting started with Agile Marketing, it can be quite intimidating to generate your initial Marketing Backlog. When I teach Agile Marketing, I walk teams through a number of exercises to generate the initial marketing backlog.  Here are five exercises to get you started:

8 Ideas in 8 Minutes

I use this as a warm-up exercise.  The idea is to get people to write down top of mind marketing tasks, but in a user story format for the marketing backlog.  I do this exercise immediately after teaching them how to write a marketing user story.  I have them take a piece of 8.5″ x 11″ paper (A4 for those outside the U.S.), fold it in half along the long dimension, half again, then in half vertically along the other dimension.  Open it up, and they have 8 small sections for each story.  The idea is to write down existing commitments, upcoming events and new ideas, and to get at least 8 of them quickly.  No penalties for generating more than 8 ideas.  Each idea has to be written in user story format.

Executive and Sales Interview

I invite in the executive team and the sales team and I ask them a series of questions along the following lines:

  • If marketing were the “secret weapon” of your company, what would that look like?
  • What single thing could marketing do over the next 2-4 weeks that would have the biggest impact on your customers and your company?
  • What could marketing stop doing in order to spend more time on the important stuff?
  • What trends are happening or could happen over the next 1-3 years in your industry that could have a dramatic impact on your business , positively or negatively.
  • What are the perceived barriers that come up in your sales process? Include both the real (logical) and emotional. What misunderstandings do people have about your company?

The answers to these questions always generate several stories for the marketing backlog, often the most important ones for the next few Sprints.

A Day in the Life

I encourage marketing teams to spend a day with one or more customers, and document how they actually use your product and/or service.  What works well for them?  What are their frustrations? Are their unmet needs that you’re not meeting.  Although it may seem like this will mostly generate product development user stories, it can also be revealing in terms of marketing stories.  What marketing materials tell the story about what customers like? What materials can help with what they don’t like?  I find it useful to ask the marketing team to draw up a “storyboard” or two about how customers experience their product and their company.  What’s the experience of your customer in your storefront, either brick and mortar or virtual? What’s their experience with your salespeople? What is their experience as they first use your product? What experiences increase or decrease retention? Answering these questions can generate more stories for the marketing backlog.

DeBono Six Thinking Hats

If you’re not familiar with Dr. Edward DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats, you can learn more here.  I use this exercise to deepen the group’s understanding of one particular user story.  I select one of the meatier stories; one that is a candidate for an Epic, a user story that requires more than one Sprint to complete.  I then ask the group to go through the hats one at a time, looking at the facts that we know and those we need to know (the white hat), the benefits associated with the story (Yellow hat), the cautions and issues around the story (black hat), creative ways of addressing the story (green hat), feelings that the user might have about the story or any intuitions they have about the story (Red hat), and how they organize to complete the story (blue hat), including any tasks that need to be done to complete the task.  The DeBono Six Thinking Hats exercise can deepen your understanding of an Epic, and help divide it up into smaller stories for the marketing backlog.

Buyer’s Journey, Personas and Points of Interaction

I ask the team to first outline their typical buyer’s journey for their product or service.  I then ask them to name the personas involved in the buying decision, and who is involved at each step in the buyer’s journey.  I then ask, for that persona at that step, what are the ways in which they’re likely to interact with the company? If for example, there is a step called Vendor research, do they consult peers, look at web sites, talk to salespeople?  For each of these points of interaction, what marketing materials/events/experiences do they currently have? What are the gaps? Which are successful and which could be better?  This kind of inventory, while it can take some time, can produce some insights and some useful marketing user stories.

Did you find this useful? How would you construct an initial marketing backlog?

Jim Ewel

I love marketing. I think it’s one of the most difficult and one of most exciting jobs in any company. My goal with this blog is to evangelize agile marketing and help marketers increase the speed, predictability, transparency, and adaptability to change of the marketing function.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Rekhila

    clearly explained about Creating Your Initial Marketing Backlog…Its very useful and informative…Keep on bloging..

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