Can agile marketing make your life easier?

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One of Axonn’s ever-growing challenges has been finding the best way to deliver a cross-functional service for clients. Over the course of the next few months, I’m going to be keeping a ‘warts and all’ diary of our attempts to overcome this challenge by applying agile principles - also known as ‘agile marketing’ - in what could lead to a full structural revolution for our business.

Axonn has built its foundations on cross-functional services and we define content marketing by our four disciplines - strategy, creative, amplification and data analysis. And yet, despite being set up better than most agencies to deliver a cross-functional service, getting teams with different skills, mindsets, working practices and priorities to work together efficiently and effectively is a constant struggle, straining budgets, resources and (in the worst cases) internal relationships.

Why are agile marketing tactics such a powerful solution in the digital age?

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In its simplest form, agile is about being able to adapt and make the most of your resources. Agile teams aim to deliver the part of the project that provides the most value to users, as early as possible. Often that means the product in use is incomplete, but that’s ok, because an agile approach presumes that anything we deliver will need to be adapted based on feedback and how well it achieves its overall intended purpose. For our diverse range of clients, with varying budgets and technological capabilities, an agile approach could be a very compelling proposition.

Taking an agile approach requires a team working together to measure performance, learning from their achievements and failures and then building on what works. It is a contrast to how marketing has worked traditionally in that it accepts that we cannot predict how well something will work before it's actually being used by the people it's designed for.

Delivering smart marketing in today’s fast-paced, fragmented digital landscape cannot be achieved through the traditional, detailed upfront planning of an entire campaign. We simply don’t know enough about how customers will react to plan everything perfectly, and if we’re wrong, we’ve wasted a lot of time and money and gained very little.

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From Janaka Abeywardhana's presentation "Agile marketing in the Age of Technology"

A recent client kick-off meeting I attended is a great example of how persuasive this kind of thinking can be. Our client was waxing vitriol about their sluggish web development agency, believing that a new landing page had to be built in full before we could start driving leads through our services.

Working on the logic that its better to have something usable in place than nothing at all, we proposed putting together a skeletal landing page in the interim that our developers could set live with minimal work, while simultaneously implementing our other tactics to generate leads. The alternative was to put the whole project on hold, which would achieve nothing, and might still leave us with as of yet unknown problems to fix about the landing page. At least this way we could learn what needed fixing and adapt.

The client left the meeting impressed with our solution, while we’d found a suitable workaround that will enable us to show some ROI despite part of the project not running as we or the client had anticipated when they invested in our service. We’re not applying fully-fledged agile approach to this project by a long stretch. However, we confronted this single problem by finding an alternative that we know is realistic and is capable of achieving the same goals.

We’ve long been working with clients on the principle that responding to performance feedback with changes to marketing strategy is crucial for long-term success. We’re already geared to providing a long-term service, rather than short, fixed-term campaigns. I believe agile is the key to Axonn delivering a truly responsive marketing service, allowing us to avoid situations where highly detailed planning fails to match the reality of how people work and how customers interact with our clients (as is so often the case).

Part two: Is your business ready for agile?