The Marketing Strategist:

Getting Started with Agile? Read this First

June 15, 2016


ITSMA’s latest research shows that 91% of marketers recognize the importance of marketing agility, yet only 23% have taken steps to make their marketing organizations more agile. The majority of marketers in our study (63%) are planning or currently redesigning marketing processes to improve agility.

If your organization is in the planning stage of your agile journey, selecting the right marketing activities for your pilot program is critical for success.

Agile works best for marketing missions that can be broken down into components that can be iterated, tested, measured, and adapted over time. As ITSMA’s research shows, agile approaches have the greatest impact on marketing activities that fit this criteria, such as campaign development and execution, digital/social marketing, and content marketing.

marketing activities agile methodologies most successful
Figure 1. Success with Agile Marketing


Embracing Agile at Dell Services

At ITSMA’s recent Marketing Leadership Forum, Mona Charif, VP of Marketing & Communications for Dell Services, shared best practices and lessons learned from applying agile processes to campaign execution and content marketing.

Previously, Mona’s team developed and managed marketing campaigns in a multi-phased process that looked a lot like the traditional waterfall approach to software development. (For more details, read ITSMA’s interview with Scott Brinker.) Various stages of the process—planning, creating, implementing—happened sequentially and the whole process took six to eight months.

Unfortunately, this “big splash” approach to executing campaigns had many drawbacks. Most importantly, the team was missing out on opportunities to respond quickly. By the time a campaign hit the market, it was too late or too expensive to make a change. Additionally, their messages were not resonating with their target audience.

“We had to get a lot faster in getting our work done,” explained Mona. “We had to do it in smaller cycles and get to the market sooner. We were also creating things that were maybe too big to consume and not making them snackable and chunkable.”

The team dipped their toes in agile by starting small. In January 2016, the team started using scrum for their new “Problem Meet Solution” campaign. Scrum is an agile management methodology where cross-functional teams work in a series of short cycles called sprints. The campaign involved:

  • Creating a persona for the target audience
  • Developing (or repurposing) content such as blogs, webinars, white papers, and eBooks
  • Promoting engagement with the content via social media

Content, meet agile marketing
Figure 2. Campaign Sprints at Dell Services

In discussing this first effort with agile, Mona reviewed the key success factors for each step in the cycle.

  1. Plan. During the planning process, it is important for the team to decide on a suitable timeline for their sprint cycles.
  2. Create. There are two critical pieces during this step:
    • Know the target audience. The agile manifesto emphasizes people over processes, so it’s important for the team to have a clear idea of the target audience. Defining who you want to create content for ensures that you’re not just spraying content into the world, but actually creating something that will be educational, useful, and helpful to the target audience.
    • Have a SMART goal. It is important to determine the overall objective, and the goal for the end of each sprint and for the end of the scrum. The goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
  3. Build. This is where the hard work happens. It involves determining who is going to create each piece and the specific timelines for each deliverable.
  4. Implement. Engagement with the content is where the campaign touches on social media marketing. For example, this involves promoting the content in Twitter or LinkedIn and aligning it to a blog, which activates a call to action, such as attending a webinar or downloading a piece of thought leadership.
  5. Measure. A powerful aspect of sprints is the focus on constantly monitoring and analyzing your success and making changes based on how the last sprint went. This allows you to experiment and learn what works and what doesn’t work.

The team’s SMART goal for its first agile campaign in January was to increase engagement by 15% per post with their target audience in a 12-week period. The team far surpassed its SMART goal. Results include:

  • 58.4% increase in engagements per post
  • 67.8% increase in engagements
  • 81.3% increase in likes
  • 77.4% increase in new social media followers
  • 36.8% increase in shares
  • 26.5% increase in comments

Based on this initial success, the team is moving aggressively to integrate agile more fully across their programs. As one team member summarized the experience: “All in all, we deliver better content that’s utilized more. Sales teams love it, and the content is more effective for them!”


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