Marketers need to be agile now more than ever

Agile has been around the software product development space for more than 20 years, but other business areas are beginning to realize that it’s much more than a process for an isolated department. We’ve now entered into the second phase of agile transformation—Business Agility.

“Business Agility is a set of organizational capabilities, behaviors, and ways of working that affords your business the freedom, flexibility, and resilience to achieve its purpose,” according to the Business Agility Institute.

One of the departments that’s leading the charge in agile beyond software is Marketing. In fact, according to the Annual State of Agile Marketing report for 2023, 71 percent of all marketers surveyed either use or plan to use agile.

Marketing is facing a lot of newfound pressures this year including economic pressures that are making marketers do more with less to drive sales, an ever-changing world that’s full of uncertainty making customers’ needs radically changing faster than ever and consumers that have so many mediums to get information that the marketplace is cluttered with businesses’ all vying for attention.

Economic Pressures

When the going gets tough, the marketing staff and budget is the first to get cut. With a recession looming in the United States, companies are making some serious cutbacks. This means that marketers that are lucky enough to keep their jobs are being asked to do more work with fewer people. Plus, the pressure is on for marketing campaigns to drive sales.

The good news is that agile can make the most out of a shrinking team—if set up properly. A well structured agile team has four- to-10 people that have all of the necessary skills to complete work from start to finish. The team works together for the long haul, building efficiencies by nurturing their relationships.

A recent Fortune 100 client was able to accomplish more work with a core team of nine than they ever had when they were functionally organized, which took them more than 25 people. Plus, work is higher quality with more collaboration and no one has to wait for another department to get around to their task.

A World of Uncertainty & Rapidly Changing Customer Expectations

From a global pandemic to raging wars, we’re living in a world of uncertainty. For marketers, this means being able to adapt their strategy and messaging quickly to resonate with customers. Unfortunately, most large corporations have structured marketing in a way that’s the opposite of agile—slow, bureaucratic processes where the mindset is perfection over responsiveness.

In 2020 I worked with a healthcare company that marketed directly to hospital staff. They’d just embarked on their agile journey, and realized the need for it was stronger than ever. The annual marketing plan they created was tossed aside, and they went into a responsive mode, listening intently to customers’ moods and needs each day. They used hospital surge data to inform whether or not a marketing message was warranted, or more of an empathetic greeting.

In a world of uncertainty, marketers must be agile enough to rapidly change direction in order to meet the needs of their customers or they’ll be wasting time and money on ineffective marketing.

A Cluttered Marketplace

Before the internet and social media, marketers had a ton of leverage with consumers to shape messages to the advantage of the company. We’ve come a long way since those days, and today’s consumers see thousands of messages a day, so marketers need to be a lot more savvy. 

With agile marketing, marketers are able to do a lot of micro testing on different elements of marketing—from graphics, to taglines, headlines, calls to action and more to see what really resonates with their target audience. They’re able to set Success Criteria to measure what results they’re looking for and quickly drop underperforming marketing tactics.

Conclusion

Agile marketing isn’t about a new process. It’s about being flexible and adaptable to changing consumer behaviors and responses. There’s no better time for marketers to try agile marketing than right now.

About Stacey Ackerman 1 Article
Stacey Ackerman has helped transform marketers to agile for more than a decade. She’s a global speaker on agile in marketing and writes for Forbes Coaches Council and MarTech on the topic. She’s a partner at NavigateAgile, a consultancy that helps marketing build high-performing teams that drive real results and growth.

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