Agile Marketing 101

What’s So Agile About Marketing?

To give you a short answer, marketing–until recently– hasn’t been very agile. Within these last few years, businesses have been following a new marketing mantra that closely follows contemporary startup principles. Lean marketing, based off of Eric Ries’ methodology outlined in his famous book, The Lean Startup, describes a swift process of short powerful campaigns that move companies towards their ultimate marketing goals. Businesses are now moving away from the traditional waterfall production planning and searching for the right market fit. Lean marketing focuses on the unpredictable nature of consumer markets and how marketers can reach your ideal market.

The Old vs.The New

To fully understand this new movement in marketing, let’s take a closer look at how marketing departments used to function. Here we compare the new approach against old marketing practices.

Validated Learning vs. Opinion or Convention

In the past, marketing departments would base market assumptions off of previous campaigns or off their team leader’s professional opinion. While this approach seems reasonable, marketers are discouraged from blindly following convention anymore. Even though you have years of experience, you can never fully predict how people are going to react to your product. For this reason, agile marketers are encouraged to directly interact with their users and get feedback on their product or service. Only by testing market assumptions, will marketers accurately know what works in their product and figure out how to increase traffic towards your brand.

Collaboration vs. Silos or Hierarchy

Agile marketing is about collaboration and working closely in teams, unlike before where departments were kept separate with no crossover in projects. Keeping your marketing, design, sales and other departments separate delays the movement of your product and gives way to office politics. Another reason businesses are more collaborative these days is because with collaborative teams everyone can stay on point with your companys goals, rather than having different, contrasting ideas coming together through departmental projects.

Adaptive or Iterative Campaigns vs. Waterfall Campaigns

This is the major change in marketing. Previously, companies would design and produce a product that they feel is a valuable solution to their customers. The company would then spend months working on this product and then designing marketing campaigns on how to push the product into the market. The problem with this waterfall planning, is that the business is going off assumption and implementing them in grand development projects, not building off of feedback from current reads on their market. Think of when Microsoft first released Windows Vista, Microsoft was surprised when customers were unhappy with product features and software glitches. Microsoft could have saved time and money, if they would’ve tested features before releasing the product. In agile marketing and development, the teams work closely together to test their product on their targeted market. From these market tests, they present users with a features list and ask for their input. This testing stage, allows marketers and product developers to see what people like and, more importantly, what consumers dont like about their product. This gives companies the chance to pivot or go back to the drawing board at this point, keeping inline with current market changes. Utilizing A/B testing, surveys and analytic software into their campaigns, lean marketers can easily track the user interaction and base their next move off accurate reports of their market.

Customer Discovery vs. Static Prediction

Lean marketing enables companies to get out there with their customers and really understand what their users find useful about their product. This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to go and physically meet every one of your customers, but its advised that you engage in conversation with your market through surveys, blog comments, or through social media. Through online interaction, you can present your products basic features and test whether people respond positively towards it. From these small tests, you can get consumer feedback sooner rather than later, when its too late to change the product to meet your consumer needs!

Flexible Planning vs. Rigid Structure

The best part of agile marketing is that it gives you time to change and adapt to suit your market! No longer following predetermined marketing campaigns, agile marketing allows for flexible planning. If Microsoft had taken an agile approach, they could have tested to see what features were valuable in Vista and what customers would want added to the software, but it was too late for them.

Responding to Change vs. Forecasted Reactions

Participating in active conversation with your customers enables companies to respond to their market climate and not waste any time on guessing.

Numerous Small Experiments vs. Big Bets

The lean approach to marketing also reduces risks in your marketing campaigns, as marketers test small features of their product, rather than an item in  post-production. If your campaign is not going as well as you thought, or people aren’t responding well to certain features of your product, a business doesn’t have to go back to square one! Instead, you can easily adapt to your consumer responses and change one feature of your product rather than think of a whole new product itself!

The 8 Principles of Agile Marketing:

  1. Organize Around The Sprint- you can never predict how your target market is going to react or change. Businesses need to make small experiments and test on an audience. Big projects should be split it down into manageable chunks.

  2. Structure Your Teams- team should be self-managing, self-organizing and collaborative!

  3. Keep A Backlog – choose one location to keep all projects and make sure it has the ability to sort or prioritize tasks for you.

  4. Create User Stories – this refers to you organizing the sprint. This helps define the goal, priority of the project, and identify success criteria or metric to track.

  5. Plan A Sprint- non-linear, short-term campaigns that eliminate minute discussions about a project.

  6. Commit Publicly- hold standup meetings in order to keep your teams work transparent, and  keep people honest and accountable.

  7. Commit to Daily Standup- lightweight discussion in order to check-in with team and help with collaboration

  8. Set up Daily Reports- set up project management software to track against daily goals.

Why Lean Marketing?


People Move Fast

The short sprint approach to agile marketing helps companies quickly adapt to their changing markets. People are never the same. So, you cant just assume your market is going to react the same way to your campaign. For this reason, many startups create a short-term goal and test a single feature at a time. This will give your team accurate results of how your customers are responding to your product/ service.

Helps Keep Focus

Following the lean marketing principles will keep your team focused on the goal at hand. With suggestions flying in from clients, co-workers or your boss, its easy for marketers to get lost in the flood of marketing ideas being thrown at them. Constructing a short sprint campaign, will eliminate any tangential ideas and hones in on the significant aspects of the campaign or goal.

Stay Prioritized

When beginning a new campaign, ensure that every project has a clear and distinct goal, success metric, evaluation of effort and priority. This will ensure your campaign is on track and that all requirements are being met.

Tackle Projects with Foresight

The lean methodology forces your team to plan ahead and to expect change from your target market. While expecting things to go wrong doesn’t sound too fun, it is invaluable to a marketer. Rather than making blind guesses about your customers, keeping with the lean approach, your marketing team will know how to roll with the punches and keep moving. Whether or not your sprint was successful, your marketing team is now equipped with accurate knowledge of your market and can build off of that to accomplish the next goal.


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