How Can Inbound Marketers Be Agile?

Like “brand storytelling,” “disruption” and “growth hacking” before it, “agile” is a catch-cry fresh on the lips of marketing professionals around the world. 

However, agile inbound marketing is far from just another buzzword. Traditionally a work process used in software development, agile is transforming marketing teams into hyper-productive, iterative and adaptive revenue accelerants. 

In this article, we outline how inbound marketers can slash inefficiencies, master their data and deliver positive ROI by using agile systems and processes. 

What is Agile Marketing?

Agile marketing, as the name suggests, is a structural methodology based on change and adaptivity. It relies on data and analytics to put marketing initiatives under a constant microscope, and relies on teams with the flexibility to act on this data as it is collected. 

The core values of agile marketing include: 

  • Responding to change over following a plan
  • Rapid iterations over ‘big bang’ campaigns
  • Testing and data over opinions and conventions
  • Many small experiments over a few large bets
  • Individuals and interactions over one size fits all
  • Collaboration over silos and hierarchy. 

The products of successful agile practices are speed, transparency, and rapid optimisation. McKinsey report that in adopting agile processes, some organisations have achieved a 40% increase in revenue.

Before we outline the mechanics of employing agile marketing in your organisation, let’s study how the process can enrich the inbound marketing methodology. 

Why Should Inbound Marketers Be Agile?

Whereas inbound marketing describes a strategic approach to attracting and converting customers, agile marketing is about the systems and processes used to implement these strategies. However, inbound and agile marketing both share a reliance on data. 

Successful inbound marketing is fuelled by customer data, whether that be how they interact with a website, or how they search online. Adopting agile processes empowers inbound marketers to respond to this data in the most efficient way possible.

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Agility has never been more necessary in all areas of business, however for marketers, it is essential. The way prospects engage with businesses has changed astronomically in the past few years alone. The current challenge for marketers is not identifying these changes (as can be done through countless analytics tools), but adapting to these changes in real-time.

An Example of a Non-Agile Marketing Team 

Agency A is an inbound marketing agency that does not use agile processes. They are halfway through implementing a six-month campaign, and are not enjoying the results they had planned for. They have access to analytics data that highlights the content offers that are underperforming, and have used heat-mapping tool Hotjar to discover the areas of their website that are receiving minimal engagement. 

In spite of this data being available to them, Agency A is struggling to use it to make improvements during the campaign period. They were confident in their keyword targeting, their choice of content formats, and their structure of landing pages in the ideation phase of the campaign, however new data is showing that their audience are searching, consuming and engaging differently this quarter.

Thus Agency A is relegated to only using these valuable insights to guide their following campaign efforts, not during the current campaign. 

An Example of an Agile Marketing Team

Agency B on the other hand, is an inbound marketing agency that uses agile processes. They are experiencing an underperforming campaign and have a regular flow of analytics data, which is disseminated among the marketing team at regular intervals. As opposed to taking a six-month picture like Agency A, Agency B have decided to implement two-week ‘sprints’ of work, with ongoing performance analysis to guide the following allotment of work.

Their team is structured in a way that allows for data to be acted on while the campaign is in progress. Optimisation is fluid and issues are successfully addressed as they appear. Furthermore, the status of each individual aspect of the campaign is transparent to all employees, meaning productivity is dramatically increased.

As you can see, inbound marketing relies on data and analytics, but agile marketing provides systems and processes that support its use in an efficient way. Without an agile working structure, inbound marketers may have all the data but no flexibility to use it. In agile marketing, failure is embraced but not repeated.  

How an Agile Marketing Structure Works

Creating an environment where rapid optimisation is possible requires careful planning and a systems overhaul. An agile structure is based on three pillars:

  1. Sprints: Sprints are short allotments of work, usually ranging from one to four weeks. Sprints are used to provide a strategic timeframe for an agile marketing team, and carefully take into consideration the workload and capacity of team members. Sprints are carefully designed by a scrum master, who draws individual tasks from a ‘backlog’, manages barriers as they appear, and ensures each team member has the resources they need to complete their assigned tasks.
  1. Communication: Collaboration is essential to a successful agile structure. Agile teams in larger organisations often conduct daily ‘stand ups’; brief meetings that summarise the current status of the sprint and flag any barriers that need addressing. However, for smaller organisations where team members work in close proximity to each other, constant communication is more easily achieved without the need for daily stand up meetings.
  1. A progress board: Sprints, tasks and backlogs must be documented in a centralised location. Jira is an industry-leading software used by agile teams of multiple descriptions, and is the cornerstone of your agile structure. Without a centralised location where the progress of your sprint is transparent to all team members, your agile marketing efforts will fail.

Agile Website Design

As a structure that was born from software development, it is no surprise that agile systems and processes play well into the design and development of websites. Dividing development tasks into bite-size chunks to ensure accuracy and transparency across the team has obvious benefits, but the agile methodology can also be applied to a website once it is live.

Traditional approaches to web design and development can be sluggish; investing a disproportionate amount of time into development than into testing and analysis. What can result is a website built around data that was gathered six months or even a year prior to its launch.

In using an agile process to design and develop a website, (sometimes called growth-driven design), marketers can ensure the product is constantly evolving to adapt to real-time customer data. An agile website design process may look like:

  1. Design a ‘launchpad’ website, which satisfies the basic essential functions, including lead generation.
  2. Go-live with the launchpad website significantly faster than a traditional design.
  3. Use constant analysis of the launchpad website to optimise rapidly.

This approach can also minimise the initial investment of a website design, which can be unsustainable for smaller organisations. 

An agile work structure gives marketing teams an exciting opportunity to improve their performance across the board. Removing inefficiencies, boosting productivity, and harnessing real-time data effectively should be enough to convince any business to explore how agile structures may work within their organisation.

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