Agile marketing: Is the nimble approach right for your business?

The phrase agile marketing was first coined by marketers in 2010. The concept came out of Silicon Valley where it was used to encourage a more agile, fast-paced approach to developing software.

Since then a myriad of agencies have jumped on the agile bandwagon, but has it lived up to the hype? Or have the negatives won out against the positives? Here we have a look at the pros and cons of being a bit more nimble when it comes to online marketing.

So what is agile marketing?

Agile marketing in practice is when you adapt to piggyback popular, topical content or news to give your activity more clout. Econsultancy have a great round up of 26 examples of agile marketing in action. I especially love the number of brands who responded to the blackout at last year's Super Bowl – a year on people were still talking about Oreo’s ‘You can still dunk in the dark’ tweet

It’s only natural that a generation of Twitterers thought that the joys of responding immediately and being a part of #trending events could be translated into quick campaigns.

However, when it comes to an agency approach, agile marketing becomes a bit of a dark art. Complexity and processes turn brainstorms into sprints, and demands daily roll calls to ensure everyone is reaching their goals as fast as possible.

What are the good bits about agile marketing?

They create great manifestos. My favourite is from Jim Ewel which sums up some modern working practices which any business could learn:

Responding to change over following a plan.
Rapid iterations over Big-Bang campaigns.
Testing and data over opinions and conventions.
Numerous small experiments over a few large bets.
Individuals and interactions over target markets.
Collaboration over silos and hierarchy.

You are less afraid to fail. It frees you to create campaigns and activity that are anarchic, experimental and that have a laissez-faire attitude towards failure (and we all know fear of failure is the biggest barrier to creative success).

You get things done. The agile marketing method of ‘sprinting’ to achieve set goals quickly is an organised way to be productive. Any business can benefit by assigning clear tasks, goals and timelines to their team.

It is iterative, in a kind of ‘if at first you don’t succeed’ way. I like the practice of continual improvement; refining an idea is a better approach than being too scared to tweak anything once it’s out the door.

Giving your staff creative license can be a good thing. Oreo’s marketing team clearly have permission to create and post campaigns out of office hours without approval from on high in order to capture the right moment.

Where agile marketing falls down (for me)

It is over intellectualised, with a language all of its own. I think you can embrace the theory without having to know your scrums from your sprints, or your chickens from your pigs!

I am a big fan of not procrastinating, but the relentless fast pace of agile marketing must be exhausting. Especially if you are trying to run a business or don’t have a dedicated marketing team. Factoring it into your online marketing plan you could follow the 80:20 rule; where 80% is traditional communication, and 20% is agile.

Is it satisfying? Riding off the back of others people’s news and achievements might get big results. However it won’t build the same satisfaction as consciously creating a campaign, with purpose that you commit to for a long time.

Does it build your brand? You are constantly diluting your brand by partnering with other content which is why I believe it is an approach for the big established brands rather than the start-ups (although it can’t hurt for the smaller guys to use it now and again).

What can we learn from the agile marketing approach?

Be relevant. Don’t participate in anything that doesn’t match your brand personality.

Be iterative. Adjust and tweak your activity, if it’s not as good as it could be, change it, if you want to test something new, try it.

Be in tune. Make sure you set up alerts to notify you when anything topical comes up that you could ‘agilely’ respond to.

Be flexible. Don’t pin yourself in with too many rules and be willing to change.

Be realistic. Don’t set yourself goals to respond to everything in an agile way, unless you want to invest some serious effort learning the dark art of agile marketing.

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