Last week the Silicon Valley American Marketing Association and Women In Consulting hosted a joint educational / networking event at the Silicon Valley Innovation Center.  The meeting’s topic was “Get Agile. Get Revenue.”

Adrian Ott, award-winning author and CEO of Exponential Edge Inc., kicked off a discussion of how the agile software development methodology is now being applied to marketing. Many companies including Adobe Systems, Cisco Systems and EMC are experimenting with agile marketing methodologies. Adrian moderated a panel consisting of Associate Professor Sheryl Root, member of the faculty at Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley (where she teaches agile marketing to graduate students) and Dave Lloyd, Senior Manager of Global Search Marketing at Adobe Systems.

1) What “agile” is.
“Agile” refers to breaking down big projects into smaller tasks and then tackling those tasks in a flexible, nimble, and focused manner. In agile software development, projects are typically broken down into two-week “sprints.” Cross-functional “scrum” teams work in parallel and stay focused on specific prioritized tasks during the sprint. The term “scrum” comes from the word “scrummage” in rugby in which front linemen from each team face off against each other and try to gain possession of the ball. A scrum team is self-organizing and can quickly adapt to changes. A “ScrumMaster” keeps the team on track and helps remove obstacles. The benefit of agile software development is that code can be developed in blocks and tested quickly and adjustments made based on customer feedback or other data. It is an efficient and effective process with regular review cycles and communication.

2) How “agile” is applied to marketing.
Marketing has changed significantly over the last several years as digital media and social media became the norm. We now have marketing automation tools and attribution models and marketers must prove that their campaigns and programs are directly impacting the sales pipeline. Because marketing has become more complex, it now lends itself to adopting an agile methodology.

SEO and demand generation campaigns are the perfect place to start experimenting with agile. For example, at Adobe, Dave Lloyd became a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and adopted an agile process to manage global SEO projects. His team’s agile methodology includes a shared spreadsheet for monitoring tasks, 10-25 minute stand-up meetings twice per week and all projects are done in the context of a sprint. There is a kickoff meeting at the beginning of each sprint and then a retrospective meeting at the end of the two weeks. In the stand-up meetings, team members report on 1) their results, 2) what they are working on and 3) any obstacles in their way. Results are emphasized over activities.

Dave spoke about the benefits of a fully mature agile methodology in which you have:

  • full stakeholder alignment,
  • a ScrumMaster leading daily stand-ups,
  • a stakeholder feedback loop, and
  • a prioritized backlog of projects that adjusts over time.

How is the backlog of project requests prioritized? Dave’s team uses “story points” in which requests are made via customer stories or use cases. These requests are then rated on a numbering system to identify how difficult they will be to implement. The team discusses how many points they did that week and it makes the work fun and competitive.

Professor Sheryl Root began her career in software development and was a marketing leader at HP for 20 years and then at Applied Materials. She spoke about the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and how it has been adopted to marketing. The agile marketing manifesto emphasizes:

  1. Validated learning over opinions and conventions
  2. Customer focused collaboration over silos and hierarchy
  3. Adaptive and iterative campaigns over Big-Bang campaigns
  4. The process of customer discovery over static prediction
  5. Flexible vs. rigid planning
  6. Responding to change over following a plan
  7. Many small experiments over a few large bets

Agile marketing planning and budgeting is typically done on a rolling quarterly basis, versus half year or yearly planning. That way funds and programs can be quickly adjusted based on what is working.

3) Why adopting an “agile” marketing approach makes sense.

As marketers, we need to quickly adjust to customers needs, expectations and communication preferences. Adopting an agile marketing methodology can help your organization stay focused, experiment with marketing programs, make adjustments to optimize results, and ultimately maximize results and revenue.

Experimenting with agile marketing? We’d love to hear your stories.

Learn more about agile marketing: