July 10, 2014

The Trouble With Agile Marketing

Okay, that title was click bait. Because the fault with agile marketing is not with Agile but with the people who don't get it.

Garçon, fetch me my soapbox, s'il vous plaît ...

You can recognize these types because they are the ones saying, "we just need to be more Agile" when you have more work than the capacity to do it.

To these types, "Agile" means being ready to drop everything and switch on a dime to the new "highest priority" project that comes along. Oh, and that previous "highest priority" project still has to get done. "Be more Agile, will you?"

And you can recognize them because to them Agile means atomic tasks can be done faster. "Laying out that landing page used to take 4 hours. But we're Agile now, it should take one hour, right?"

Perhaps the worst, though, is that Agile somehow equals "no need to plan or prioritize." Think of something, just do it. "Of course, we're Agile."

"Writing great email copy, researching keywords, or coding an FFT routine aren't ipso facto faster because you're doing these tasks within some overall Agile process.

These ingredients feed a recipe called Chaos. As others have pointed out, Agile is good for Complex environments, but not for Chaotic ones.

Okay, I proved that I can complain. But what do I think Agile Marketing is?  Fair question.

Let's start with the agile part. The agile in Agile is innately about the output. Relative to the pre-Agile universe, the output--be it a software program or a marketing campaign--is flexible & adaptable relative to output in waterfall type planning and execution cycles.

What the agile in Agile is not about is the process speed or the amount of planning and work required to generate any piece of output. It's not really less effort to do any atomic task. Sure, task productivity can be affected by better tools, better languages, and other advances. But writing great email copy, researching keywords, or coding an FFT routine aren't ipso facto faster because you're doing these tasks within some overall Agile process.

And let's not kid ourselves. Agile requires at least as much communication, process and project management. At least. It's not some magical ordered chaos that simply gets work done faster because you say 'agile' three times while you click your heels.

What Agile brings to marketing is the ability to learn and respond quicker than with monolithic planning and execution cycles. Before the recent evolution of tools like marketing automation and channels like search and social media, marketing required big bets that weren't easy to change. Now it's easier to experiment. Easier to kill something that's not working. Agile marketing is using processes that take advantage of these developments. Through these processes, Agile makes it easier to focus on what the end user needs rather than what the marketer wants.

It is still hard work, though.