The Marketing Strategist:

Two Roads to Marketing Agility

June 16, 2016


Marketing leaders have put agility at the top of their agendas. The need for speed is nothing new, but the push for marketing agility is a broader one, with equal attention to flexibility, sense and respond, and breaking down organizational silos. Most of all, it’s about a new mindset and culture for marketing.

But how to get more agile? If we agree on the objective, what’s the best way to get from here to there?

Software-Inspired or Homegrown Approach?

ITSMA recently completed a study on the state of marketing agility in B2B and some of the most interesting findings relate to how marketing leaders interpret and operationalize marketing agility, and what benefits they are seeing with their different approaches.

Generally speaking, there are two roads that lead to agile marketing: software development-inspired agile methodologies and homegrown. Based on these approaches, we can make a distinction between “doing” agile and “being” agile.

  • Doing Agile: Two thirds of the participants in our survey are doing agile by adapting specific processes used for agile software development, most commonly scrum, lean, and design thinking. They are not always adopting these processes wholesale, but taking the spirit of the methodology or multiple methodologies and changing them to fit the way marketing works.
  • Being Agile: One third of survey participants are being agile by implementing homegrown approaches to transform their organizations and processes to increase speed, flexibility, and productivity. These marketers might not even call what they are doing agile. They just know that they have to respond to the corporate and market need for speed.

The most common homegrown marketing agility initiative is restructuring the marketing organization to move resources and decision making closer to the customer, eliminate organizational silos, and create or strengthen cross functional teams. Some organizations are also implementing more flexible staffing models with shared services or outsourcing.

2 roads to agile marketing

Which Road is the Fastest Route?

Which approach is best? ITSMA’s hypothesis upon launching the research was that the companies following the agile software development-inspired methodologies would have the best results. Instead, we were surprised to see that there were no significant differences in approaches between the agile marketing leaders and followers. Marketers using homegrown approaches are just as effective as those using approaches based on scrum or lean.

homegrown, scrum or lean

The Fast Track to Marketing Agility

More important than the overall approach, ITSMA’s research revealed five behaviors that distinguish the agile marketing leaders from the followers. The particular road you take is not as important as ensuring that these five behaviors characterize your marketing organization:

  • Collaboration. The ability to work in cross functional teams within marketing, across the company, and with members of the external ecosystem.
  • Experimentation. A culture that encourages quick iterations, testing, and learning, and tolerates failure (small failures, not catastrophic failure). A culture where data guides decisions, not opinions, volume, or persistence.
  • Digital first. A marketing mindset that treats digital channels as primary and traditional channels as secondary. This enables constant access to the data required to track and analyze campaign effectiveness and make changes in real time, as well as inform content and marketing strategy.
  • Free flow of information. The elimination of internal and external silos to give people access to the information they need to do their jobs and make the right decisions.
  • Continuous measurement. A process to capture and measure the results of experimentation and allocate resources for maximum efficiency and impact.


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