I had an interesting conversation with Femi Olajiga last Friday. He is working on a book about agile marketing and called to ask about my experience. Unlike Femi, I never trained as an agile coach. Instead, my experience comes from working with agile product development teams, a fair amount of reading, and some trial and error. During our discussion, Femi asked thought-provoking questions, so I thought to share parts of our conversation with you. I hope you find it helpful, and I'm sure he'll these questions in more detail in his upcoming book.
How did I get started with agile marketing?
I first applied agile to marketing while developing a new software application in the US. The product design and software development teams were working really well, but there seemed to be a disconnect with marketing. We brought the marketing team into our scrum planning and started treating marketing task as scrum stories. The experiment was a success and started focusing on using agile techniques to improve our marketing engagements.
Marketing has changed a lot in the past decade. It has become far more data-driven and by using the data correctly, small businesses can really derive value from their marketing investment. This excites me. It means that without spending large sums of money and by being agile, small companies can take on the incumbents in a market.
Tip: Read The Elements of Scrum when you get started.
Do you follow Scrum or Kanban or another approach?
No, not really. I would say we've blended elements of both these methods into our approach. Our goal is to be as efficient as possible. Over the past 3-4 years, we've found a method that works well for us and our clients. We strive to create high performing agile marketing teams.
How closely do marketers follow the agile approach?
Being a creative bunch. We tend to bend the rules to suit our needs. I'm sure you'll see varying degrees of Agile adoption at companies, even amongst product and software development teams. Often resources are limited in small companies, and roles often get blurred. I often work with 'marketing teams of one' following some degree of agile adoption.
How do you train your clients to use agile?
Like most things in marketing, it's about consistency. We're usually working with high-tech companies, so their people have already been exposed to agile and scrum. It's not difficult to get marketers at these businesses used to following an agile approach. However, in larger, more conventional organizations it can be more difficult. They often have very entrenched marketing process and this necessitates a degree of cultural shift.
In most cases, we run a 2-day workshop with our clients and afterwards provide coaching for about 3-months until they are comfortable to go it alone.
Do you have stand-ups every day?
It depends on the client and what we are working on at the time. Our teams consist of copywriters, business consultants, sales consultant, designers, and marketers dispersed around the globe. Virtual stand-ups help us to connect for 15-minutes every day and make sure we're moving forward without any obstacles. We also use it as an opportunity to accept and handover work –– for instance a team in Toronto may take over an email send campaign from the team in Romanian and in turn, make sure they have everything they need to start the next day. It's very much a follow the sun marketing team.
Another trend we see in high-growth teams is a shift away from email and meetings toward using tools like Slack. Instead of daily stand-ups, there is a constant flow of information on the #Marketing channel and perhaps only a 30-minute weekly meeting.
How do you plan?
We offer a combination of sales, marketing and operational consulting. Typically helping companies of 10 to 100 people break through to the next level. This means going beyond defining a marketing strategy. Often these companies still need to define their vision and long-term goals. We use tools like the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) to help them create a long-term plan. Once that's in place, we focus on goals for the coming 12-months and how marketing can support these goals –– breaking them into quarterly goals, then into tasks that can go into sprints.
We define quarterly marketing campaigns geared toward attaining the 12-month goal. Continually assessing all the elements of a campaign to evaluate what is working and what isn't working. If something isn't delivering the results, we change it.
Tip: Read Get a Grip on implementing an operating system at your business.
How flexible are your sprints?
Typically we work on two-week sprints. Once we've decided on the tasks for a sprint, we don't often change them or add a new task. There's always pressure from sales and executives to quickly produce a presentation, or, create a 1-2 page brochure. You need a strong lead to deal with these requests; otherwise the team can become distracted. We do leave some capacity for emergency tasks if they arise. Over the years we've used sprint points to estimate how much work a task takes. For example, a blog post is 3 points, we don't measure in hours. We use the point system as part of our pricing model to ensure clients always get the value for every dollar, pound or euro spent.
What about sales teams?
Do sales teams follow the agile methodology? None that I have encountered. Sales people still thrive on chaos. It keeps them on their toes. Honestly, we haven't had sales people join the stand-ups, after all, these are busy people. However, they occasionally get involved in the planning sessions, which is great because they know their customers well.
Marketing and sales teams do need to work closer. Even in small companies marketing and sales teams are often be working in different directions. Agile aside, owners and CEOs must do everything they can to bring these teams together. Especially given the nature of the modern consumer. By the time they get to talking to a sales person, they likely know more about the product than the salesperson does.
Tip: Read The Sales Acceleration Formula on using data, technology, and inbound sales.
I'm looking forward to reading Femi's book soon. I'm sure it will bring some excellent insights to companies considering agile marketing. In the meantime, feel free to download a copy of our eBook on Scrum for Marketing. And feel free to share, we'd love to hear your thoughts on agile marketing.