Why Agile Marketing Isn’t Working For You


Agile has arrived from software development and IT and is now flooding the world of marketing. Although many people think the agile method is all about speed, it is really about creating different processes within the company. The main reasons for going agile include increased productivity and innovation, better management of changing priorities and better alignment across the business.

Agile differs from more traditional sequential methods like the waterfall model, for example. Agile is more lightweight and sensitive, as it is based on direct communication with customers and demonstrations of how the product works at different stages. Team workflow is divided into sprints. Additionally, companies hold short daily meetings — these stand-ups increase communication within the team and add transparency. The main principles of agile marketing are customer-focused collaboration, validated learning, iterative campaigns, flexible planning, responding to change and experimentation.

If agile marketing allows us to do all this, why aren’t all marketers implementing it? Survey data shows that the number of companies that have successfully implemented agile is small. That’s because agile can be as mysterious as deep water. So, let’s address the concealed part of the agile iceberg:

• When the marketing department is agile but other parts of the company haven’t implemented the same methodology, it creates a problem. Other departments may believe they don’t need to go agile. For example, the legal team probably doesn’t care about your sprints and deadlines. It’s important to convince all parties to participate and be on the same page. Explain how your process works and what your expectations are.

• If your company doesn’t have streamlined processes, the task fulfillment team will struggle with order and consistency and people won’t understand which tools to use, who they should consult if an issue arises, etc. This is best described as “lipstick agile.” When your company hasn’t adopted an overall agile culture and practices it on local levels only, it may not deliver the results you expect.

• After you have implemented agile processes across your team, you must ensure that leadership doesn’t lag behind. Agile implies that your team is self-organized and works autonomously — this is a core tenet of the agile method. However, there should still be an executive who has overall responsibility for the end result. Lack of oversight is as harmful as too much of it.

• Marketers may be unhappy about the decrease in personal achievements, as agile suggests a team-centered approach. That’s why it is crucial to make sure each team can function and be productive as a unit. As in any team sport, emphasis is placed on collective effort and group collaboration. If this doesn’t suit everyone on your team, you may need to make necessary personnel changes and replace some players when transitioning to agile.

• It is impossible to understand if agile is working for you or not if you don’t measure progress and other vital parameters, you have little to no metrics and KPIs aren’t established. If that’s the case, it may be time to consider using an effective tool for measurement.

• Agile may lead to the big picture getting blurred. In this sense, development and marketing differ greatly. Sprints are made up of small tasks and minor projects. Meanwhile, the overall marketing strategy is being neglected. General strategy and global objectives should not be sacrificed to rapidly changing priorities and customer feedback. Sprints are for short-term tasks and project iterations, whereas major goals should remain prioritized.

When adopting agile, marketers tend to focus on the obvious benefits. This often leads to partial implementation of agile marketing principles, which means disappointing results down the line. Instead, acknowledge that agility is not easy to accomplish and problems may occur along the way. It is better if you fix them up front as you venture into the deep waters of agile marketing.