The Ultimate Guide to Agile Marketing
Applying an agile workflow to your marketing team will allow you to quickly scale, build and collaborate on campaigns. Here's all you need to know about agile marketing.
In June 2012, 35 marketing enthusiasts met in San Francisco to build the Agile Marketing Manifesto.
Today, that plan guides a marketing approach destined to transform your entire organization. Because who needs physical agility when you can do it in your promotional efforts?
So, in this guide, we’ve set out to answer every single one of your questions about agile marketing. Seriously, all of your questions.
We’ll start with the basics–what agile is, its benefits, and the guiding principles behind it. Then, we’ll go deeper, helping you build out your agile strategy, with the best tools in hand.
- What is Agile Marketing?
- The Benefits of Agile Marketing
- What is an Agile Marketing Team?
- How to Build Your Agile Marketing Team
- The Agile Marketing Process
- Agile Marketing Toolbox
- Kanban Boards
- Scrum Framework
- Sprint Retrospectives for Agile Marketing
- Putting It All Together: The Ideal Agile Workflow
What is Agile Marketing
Agile marketing is a conceptual framework for marketing teams that draws inspiration from workflows typically associated with software development and programming.
This means approaching project and campaign management with short “sprints” of incremental building blocks that lead to more quality assurance and better products.
At scale, a high-functioning agile marketing organization can run hundreds of campaigns simultaneously and multiple new ideas every week.
Sounds promising, right? It’s all about speed and, well, agility. That tends to lead to faster learnings, results, and potential adjustments.
In the marketing world, the same concept is just starting to gain a foothold. Its benefits, though, are just as significant.
The marketing approach most organizations take is linear. You learn about a project, then put a team together, execute it, and evaluate it after the fact.
The problem with this approach is how long it can take. Break a project down into linear steps, and even a simple email campaign can take two months to execute.
How does agile marketing differ? Let’s examine those benefits.
A quick disclaimer: agile marketing is not effective when used as a crutch to avoid thoughtful strategy or planning. It requires just as much planning, strategy, and execution as more linear approaches; the difference is that those steps happen concurrently, in smaller increments, and are supported by evolving data to become more flexible and data-based.
The Marketing Benefits of Going Agile
With increased agility comes increased flexibility; it’s what makes yoga so appealing. While yoga is great for physical agility, going agile can give your marketing efforts these advantages:
- Speed. According to one survey, 36% of agile marketing teams release and publish projects faster than they would otherwise. Speed reduces backlog, as well.
- Strategy. More than 85% of agile marketers feel that they are strategically aligned with their organization, while less than 80% of traditional marketers feel the same way.
- Teamwork. Going agile requires the entire marketing team (more on how to build that team below), increasing project ownership and involvement.
- Adaptability. The ability to change gears quickly is the most frequently cited benefit of going agile. Who are we to disagree?
These advantages don’t even include the benefits carried over from agile software development. The aforementioned increased quality assurance is especially valuable to anyone looking to avoid mistakes in their work.
These benefits aren’t automatic, of course. You need the right infrastructure in place to implement agile marketing strategies (did we mention that a marketing orchestration platform like Content Marketing Platform is a must?).
You also need to make sure that the agile philosophy guides all of your marketing functions. Let’s get into that.
7 Values to Guide Your Agile Approach
Remember that Agile Marketing Manifesto from the SprintZero event in San Francisco? It’s still the best way to examine the details of what actually makes the concept tick and the philosophy behind it.
It’s also not nearly as controversial as some other manifestos out there!
The core piece of the manifesto is its 7 values to guide agile marketers:
- Validated learning over opinions and conventions. In other words, throw out the status quo and focus on the data instead.
- Customer-focused collaboration over silos and hierarchies. The more cross-functional the team, the better. We’ll get to that soon.
- Adaptive and iterative campaigns over Big-Bang campaigns. No more set-and-forget until the budget is gone. Instead, think about it as a constant stream of checkpoints, small adjustments, and feedback loops.
- The process of customer discovery over static prediction. Understanding your audience never ends, and every bit of marketing should contribute to discovering just who your customers are.
- Flexible vs. rigid planning. The best marketing plans are never final. Instead, they constantly change and evolve based on real-world learnings.
- Responding to change over following a plan. Why would you continue running something when the feedback is worse than expected? Adjustments in your workflow are not a bad thing, they should be encouraged.
- Many small experiments over few large bets. Don’t attack with your entire army of marketing tactics. Try to win on many fronts, then continue learning and adjusting based on each iteration and experiment.
That sounds complicated. But it’s worth the investment and philosophy adjustment if you build the right team around you.
How to Build Your Team of Agile Marketing Avengers
Agile, no matter whether we’re talking about marketing or software development, is a team effort. Building the right team around you will increase your chances for success.
Here’s our recommendation: a two-level, collaborative approach that ultimately brings your entire organization into the fold.
- The war-room team plans, learns, and improves. It consists of 6-10 members from all relevant areas of your organization.
- The advocacy team spreads the news across the organization. These are the cheerleaders, aiming to get all levels of the org chart to buy in.
That war-room team is the hub. Team members should include planners, strategists, and members of the creative team.
What is an Agile Marketing Team?
The goal of an agile marketing team is to keep tabs on the ever-changing customer needs, marketing trends, and search engine requirements. This is done to adjust the marketing strategy before its ROI starts dropping.
Large agile marketing teams can run several campaigns simultaneously, analyzing results, and making changes on the go.
Benefits of an agile marketing team include:
- Revenue — according to McKinsey, companies that implement agile marketing see revenue growth of 20% to 40%.
- Speed — projects that usually take months to complete with traditional marketing require only a few weeks.
- Measurability — by dividing projects into smaller sections, it’s much easier to measure the team’s success and make quick adjustments.
- Communication — marketing teams depend on transparent communications with other departments like sales. Regular agile sprints make it easier for other departments to provide input.
Agile marketing allows companies to arrange a much faster delivery and release cycle, allowing your company to create a highly effective campaign.
How to Organize an Agile Marketing Team
Organizing a cross-functional agile marketing team (CFAMT) doesn’t have to be complicated.
As long as the entire marketing department is on the same page, teams come together quickly. It’s up to the managers and senior leaders to set goals, arrange sprints, and analyze the way each team performs.
Choose Team Members
The perfect setup for your CFAMT depends on your goals and the immediate projects the team is working on. The majority of these teams includes:
- Project manager
- Analytics lead
- SEO lead
- UX designer
- Media lead
- HTML developer
Additionally, you may also include:
- Tagging developer
- Art director
- Marketing lead
- Business unit owner
- IT expert
- Legal expert
It’s up to the senior marketing leaders to figure out which experts are required for each CFAMT. The optimal number of team members is 10 +/- 2. While a smaller team can succeed, a larger team can’t reap speed, efficiency, and communication benefits.
The toughest part about organizing a CFAMT is to get everyone on the same page. If your marketing experts have a traditional mindset (which they most likely do after years in traditional marketing), switching to a cross-functional agile mindset can take time.
You need to choose agile leaders, who study their team members, engage with them, and help these people become productive. This may take time. So expecting the CFAMT to start producing results immediately after you assemble it is out of the question.
Training, pairing, and providing the necessary learning resources are integral for the team to function properly. It’s up to the leaders to provide the necessary enablement and guide the team through its initial stages of work.
Don’t forget that a CFAMT needs three core things:
- Autonomy — you must allow it to function autonomously to achieve the set goals. This includes freedom of action and independence from other teams and departments.
- Expertise — when building a CFAMT, you must make sure that the members have the necessary expertise for autonomous functioning.
- Purpose — team members must have full transparency about the purpose of their work and understand how it fits into the bigger marketing picture.
The toughest part about achieving success with CFAMTs is bringing their work together. Figuring out how to do it before you organize your first team can help you structure the work in the future.
When you create a CFAMT, you focus on people with specific skill sets. However, these specialists are used to working in specific departments, sharing responsibilities with like-minded experts.
As they start working in a cross-functional team, these professionals need new explanations of their roles. It’s up to the senior marketing leaders to define them. Otherwise, you may create an “it’s not my job” environment, which is highly detrimental to the team’s success.
Be specific about each member’s responsibilities and your expectations about their work. Even if one of your team members starts working outside their role, they can slow the entire team down. Arrange meetings for new teams specifically to help each person understand their roles.
It’s important that the autonomy a CFAMT team has comes with certain freedoms. That’s why senior leaders must be especially careful about not micromanaging CFAMT members.
If cross-functional agile marketing is a new concept for your team members, you need to be extremely clear with definitions. Besides defining roles, you need to define:
- Business and marketing goals
With CFAMT, vagueness is out of the question. You need to provide full transparency to the team members and enable them to get the job done.
According to Harvard Business Review, 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional. Cross-functional teams working in an agile environment are even more likely to fail without proper organization.
One of the main aspects of this organization is a clear goal definition.
Since cross-functional teams consist of members of other teams, they often have different, or worse, conflicting agendas. If you fail to set clear goals, such differences could lead to a disaster.
Besides explaining roles to each team member, you need to make sure the entire team understands the goal you’re working toward. With agile marketing, these goals can change quickly. For free-flowing collaboration, a full understanding is a must.
By arranging regular big picture checks, it’s possible to keep all teams on the same page.
While placing the entire CFAMT at one table is ideal for your needs, it’s rarely possible. In the COVID-19 environment, in-person interactions are tough to arrange. Even without the pandemic, many members of a cross-functional team can be located in different parts of the building.
To organize a successful team, it’s imperative to arrange seamless communication. Make sure to give team members access to teamwork and videoconferencing tools like Asana, Trello, Slack, Zoom, Skype, etc., and provide training if necessary.
In many cases, marketers have a superficial understanding of how these tools work, failing to explore their key features. It’s up to the leaders to make sure teams take full advantage of the available communication tools.
The 5 Things You Need to Create an Agile Marketing Process
How do you get that yoga-like agility that truly unlocks the advantages of this modern marketing methodology?
The short answer: implementing an agile approach is complex.
The longer answer goes beyond simple concepts like using a whiteboard or improving your content marketing. Instead, you need 5 things in place to make your agile attempts successful:
- Buy-in at the highest levels
- A clear goal
- The right attitude
- A basic understanding of agile concepts
- Agile-optimized project management tools.
Let’s dig in.
1. Buy-in at the Highest Levels
A truly agile emphasis goes beyond your marketing department. But it also goes beyond those cross-functional teams we mentioned above. You need true buy-in at the highest levels of your organization.
That’s not just your CMO or another marketing leader. It should include as many members of executive leadership as possible.
One way to accomplish that goal: regular check-ins with all relevant stakeholders so they become active participants in the process. They may even become part of that advocacy team that spreads the word about your successes.
2. A Clear Goal (And Then a Few More)
What, exactly, are you trying to accomplish?
At the highest level, you might be looking to improve your digital marketing processes or even pieces of these processes, like social media or content marketing. The most comprehensive approaches, though, aim to reform your entire marketing strategy.
High-level goals are not enough, though. Take some time to define where you need to improve your marketing strategy, and how going agile will accomplish that. This could be any number of things:
- Faster time-to-market for new marketing campaigns.
- More successful product launches.
- Improved creative processes in both quality and timing.
Quantify your goals whenever you can. Attaching a specific timeline and KPIs, such as a percentage reduction in time to market or resource spend, can help you evaluate your agile marketing success – and sell the process to your entire organization once you reach your goals.
3. The Right Attitude
It might sound like a cliché, but attitude is a significant part of the agile philosophy. You need a healthy amount of retrospective, combined with a strict continuous improvement mindset.
Every past campaign, project, or experiment is an opportunity to learn. Nothing is ever perfect, and everything can be improved. Once that attitude settles in across your organization, you’re halfway to agile.
4. A Basic Understanding of Agile Practices
Agile marketing owes much of its heritage to agile software development. Many of the same concepts apply here as well, so your war-room team, at least, should be familiar with at least a few of them. That might include:
- The aforementioned sprints, which are quick, one or two-week periods when small chunks of work or tasks are done.
- Kanban boards, which show projects along with who’s responsible and the progress that’s been made.
- The concept of short, daily stand-up meetings to get the team on the same page and distribute roles for the day.
- Iteration of processes, or repeating core steps of the project with minimal changes to isolate issues and learn from changing results.
Those are just a few concepts key to agile, of course. Familiarize yourself with common agile and scrum glossary terms to learn how they contribute to the larger philosophy.
5. Agile-Optimized Project Management Tools
Finally, you’ll need the right software behind you to execute all those concepts. Above all, that means a project management platform designed to help you collaborate, move quickly, and learn from your sprints and projects.
Which brings us to…
Your Agile Marketing Toolbox
Now, let’s zoom in to explore the various agile marketing tools and practices at your disposal.
Scrum is a key approach used by many agile marketers. You come up with everything that’s needed for your campaign, which is organized into a backlog. Then you take each task and set up a sprint. This is where your team works to get it done as quickly as possible.
Most people see Scrum as central to the agile methodology, but it’s really more heuristic and organic. It started in software development but works for many other things. Including your most complex marketing campaigns.
You put together small Scrum teams, each led by a Scrum Master. These teams work on sprint planning, which goes a bit past saying what the team will work on. Regular communication is vital.
Scrum works well if your team tends to become scattered and needs to be focused on a specific task for a specific period of time.
Keep reading — we’ll go deeper into Scrum further on in this guide.
Kanban was invented by Toyota as a way to track parts inventory. It’s a slightly more complicated development of the “reorder now” tags you might see in a store.
Kanban uses a kanban board instead of a typical task board. This board shows each project and task and projects their move across the board as they go through various phases.
As with Scrum, the process starts with a project backlog. You might use phrases such as “content development” or “leadership sign-off.” Then you set up an iterative system.
It helps with time tracking. So you’ll know what parts of the process are taking the longest, and how many projects you tend to have in each stage. Now you know where to focus on when trying to make your team more efficient!
Content Marketing Platform supports the use of kanban boards which provide a visual assessment of a project’s progress. It also involves WIP limits designed to ensure that bottlenecks do not develop and that the marketing team is working on the right projects.
Kanban is good for prioritizing projects and is a useful tool if you tend to start more things than you then finish. Kanban boards can be set up digitally or you can use a whiteboard in the office, or even a corkboard and sticky notes.
Digital kanban boards, however, tend to work better. They are also vital if you have team members who are remote. They can also show you key retrospectives of your past project development and processes.
Like Scrum, it is also sometimes used for agile software development. But applies particularly well to marketing. It is a good tool for rapid iterations and for ensuring that you prioritize campaigns and items properly.
For some teams, a physical kanban board can provide a central touchstone in the office. It encourages people to leave their desks and talk to each other. Obviously, this only works when everyone is entirely or mostly in the office.
Kanban boards can, of course, be combined with the Scrum concept of sprints into a system that works well for many teams.
Daily Standup Meetings
Daily standup meetings are an aspect of Scrum. The purpose is to ensure that each team member gives their current progress every day.
For some teams, these meetings work very well. For others, they may end up interfering in productivity. If you do use these meetings, keep them very strictly time-limited so that they do not spill over and watch how your team uses and does not use them. You need to know your team and understand whether daily (or less frequent) meetings are ideal. Again, these meetings should be short. No more than fifteen minutes and should be timed such that your team finds them easy to attend.
For example, it is a poor idea to schedule standup meetings first thing in the morning. This is because of the risk of a team member being unavoidably late. You might find right before lunch is a better time…and then team members can hang out together during lunch and become friends. Or at least not enemies.
Content Marketing Platform allows you to schedule standup meetings and other brainstorming sessions
The big-bang theory of content marketing is that if you do it right, one piece of content can be used in an explosion of different ways.
It’s clear that content can be repurposed, although not to infinity. However, agile marketing teams will set up a “galaxy” of content that will then give you a variety to pull from. With a proper digital asset management system, modules of content can be inserted into marketing emails, social media posts, etc.
As long as you don’t repurpose the same content too often, your customers will not notice what you are doing. You will find that you are efficiently using content and thus having to make less of it.
As content production (especially images and videos) can be expensive, this can save you a lot of money. It does, though, require the right tools to track all of that content.
Digital Asset Management
We already mentioned this in the context of big-bang campaigns. Digital asset management or marketing asset management involves having a database of already-created content that you can then use to build email blasts, social media posts, blog posts, etc.
Digital asset management is often most useful for images and videos. But it also allows content to be created well ahead of time when team members have downtime and then deployed when it is needed.
Your editorial calendar becomes much more flexible. And imagine you need to put together a press release tomorrow. Could you do it? With digital asset management, it’s much more likely!
Content Marketing Platform includes a digital asset management system that will help you get started on this approach and learn how to use it properly.
Agile Marketing and Communication: The Scrum Framework
If you’re entirely unfamiliar with agile marketing, “scrum” may sound a little odd. However, any team that is going agile should instate a Scrum framework as a way of working together effectively and efficiently.
What is a Scrum Team?
A Scrum Team is a group of cross-functional individuals (in this case, members of your marketing organization) who collaborate to execute on a deliverable(s), which is done in a “sprint.” Each Scrum Team should be led by a “Scrum Master,” someone who ideally has experience in agile marketing and has the ability to lead the team.
To ensure optimal outputs, there must be a balanced set of skills among the members of each Scrum Team. For example, you might have your social media manager, content manager, demand gen director, email marketing manager, and event marketing manager as part of a single Scrum Team to execute on an upcoming event and all of the surrounding deliverables. This framework supports an agile marketing approach as it allows small, pre-determined teams to continually update, optimize, and iterate on the campaigns for which they’re responsible.
Responsibilities of a Scrum Team
As we discussed above, when practicing agile marketing, each member will have their own responsibilities that tie to the larger purpose of the group. The “Scrum Master” holds the most authority, as they are responsible for setting priorities, delegating stories (known as “tasks” in the marketing world) managing the backlog (meaning a prioritized to-do list), identifying necessary resources, and managing sprints.
It is the overall responsibility of the Scrum Team to execute on the specified sprint — in marketing, this would equate to a campaign (e.g. product launch, event, eBook, etc.). As explained by agile training agency AgileSherpas, these are the 4 actions that a Scrum Team needs to take throughout the duration of a sprint:
- Sprint planning: Determine the primary objective and a plan to reach it
- Daily Scrum: Use a daily standup to provide quick updates on the sprint
- Sprint review: Once the work is completed for the sprint, present it to your Scrum Team
- Sprint retrospective: Discuss what went well, what could be done better, and what should be changed. (More details on this later on.)
Scrum Team Best Practices for Agile Marketing
- Use a backlog to determine the focus for your next sprint
- Sprints should last less than 4 weeks
- Limit Daily Scrums to 15 minutes for maximum time efficiency
- Use sprint reviews as a time to update your backlog and iterate based on sprint (i.e. campaign) success
- Make sure your retrospective results in an actionable takeaway for your next sprint
- Measure time spent on stories (i.e. tasks) to ensure operational efficiency
- Integration, communication, and collaboration are the keys to Scrum success
Centralized Briefs and Calendars
Centralized briefs, shared calendars, and a way to post comments and insights are all important for agile marketing and from a Scrum Team perspective.
When Lisa Camerlengo, marketing leader at StoneTurn, a global advisory firm, led her team through a rebrand in 2017, there were a million moving parts from a communications perspective, both internally and externally. “We managed it successfully — with an extremely lean team — by establishing a solid agile marketing management plan at the outset,” she says.
The plan not only included regular Daily Scrum meetings (both in-person and through phone calls), but also frequent communications via e-mail, spreadsheets, calendar notices, and data maintained through a project management tool with shared access for the entire team. “This helped to keep us all informed of upcoming deadlines and action items. Without this communication and close collaboration, it would have been impossible to complete the project within the tight timeline of approximately nine months,” says Camerlengo.
Clear Deadlines and Change Notifications
Not only does your Scrum Team need to be able to refer to the marketing brief and deadline schedule as specified during the sprint planning stage, but when things change, everyone has to get the memo. This is key to successful agile marketing.
“In the professional services world, direction can change on a dime, so it’s critical to ensure that all team members are connected,” says Camerlengo. In addition to daily standups, natural checkpoints are built into the project lifecycle and embedded in the project management tool her team uses as well. “These check-ins during the process and final reviews before distribution provide a record to refresh our memories when necessary, or work as a way to coordinate if someone is unavailable and needs to catch up later,” she says.
A Commitment to Integration
It can be challenging for a marketing team to communicate if everyone is working in their own tech or spreadsheets. For instance, the social media team is in one platform, the content marketing in another, and the demand gen group is working in a CRM. Having the opportunity to work in the same system is an integration — and agile marketing — win.
“Integration is the name of the game when it comes to marketing today,” says Ahmed. “Especially for buyer’s journeys that can last more than 18-20 months, prospects need to feel like they are interacting with one company,” he adds. “The marketing and sales teams need to be able to stitch together all those micro-interactions to have a broader impact of driving sales,” he says. That’s why he calls silos “anti-marketing.”
Camerlengo agrees, noting that when teams are operating in silos, it forces everyone to update information in multiple places. “That’s an extremely bad use of time,” she says. And even worse, sometimes the information isn’t shared at all, which greatly inhibits teams’ abilities to execute agile marketing and continually optimize campaigns.
Adoption of Purpose-Built Agile Marketing Tools
Some cloud technology platforms are starting to pull together marketing automation software, CRM, social tools, creative suites, and more. The marketer’s job is to figure out which platforms are best for workflow, collaboration, and reporting. Keep in mind that just being centralized isn’t enough. For example, Google Docs is centralized, but it doesn’t necessarily enable agile marketing.
Communication to Avoid Campaign Mistakes
Poor communication often leads to mistakes, particularly on the content side. “For example, when a communication is distributed before it has been reviewed by all of the appropriate parties or hasn’t been properly proofread, it can damage a firm’s reputation if the information is inaccurate or positioned incorrectly,” says Camerlengo.
Even with a robust campaign strategy, it’s hard to predict and plan out every action and outcome, which is why good communication and an agile marketing approach is so important as things evolve and change, says Ahmed. By using the Scrum framework, your team will have a concrete plan for reviewing, optimizing, and retrospecting — all of which are critical components of communication throughout the integrated campaign process. “A great campaign strategy still matters a lot, but you should be listening to the campaign data, and be able to quickly respond to tweaks in-market.”
Ultimately, marketers need to ensure that all boxes have been checked before pressing ‘go’ on a new launch and be able to make ongoing iterations throughout a campaign, says Camerlengo. Having the technology and agile marketing processes in place can help set your team up for success.
Sprint Retrospectives for Agile Marketing
So, your team has gotten the ball rolling with agile marketing, and you’re starting to get the hang of things.
But now, you guys are supposed to hold an agile sprint retrospective at the end of a sprint, and you really don’t know much about it.
- What is an agile sprint retrospective?
- Why is it important?
- What is its role in the agile methodology?
- How can our marketing team perform one of these?
If there are questions keeping you up at night while enabling your coffee addiction, these are probably half of them.
What is an Agile Sprint Retrospective?
An agile sprint retrospective is a stage at the end or middle of a scrum where the team measures progress, reflects on the work you’ve done so far and decides on the way forward.
There are more similarities between an agile sprint and the pep-talk at a Super Bowl halftime than you may think. The main goal of an agile sprint in marketing is to replace the finalized assessment in typical project planning with iterative, continuous evaluation and planning.
Biases In Typical Planning an Agile Sprint Retrospective Comes To Fix
You can agree that these three words best define conventional marketing campaign projects: tiring, ineffective and inefficient. Only three because we leave out the swearing.
However, have you ever wondered why? In his book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, Jeff Sutherland explores cognitive biases that make conventional projecting difficult. They include:
1. The Planning Fallacy
How many weeks into the future can you plan ahead? Imagine if you meticulously planned three months in January 2020; put in dates, tours, road trips, objectives, and if that’s not enough, given yourself a deadline to have achieved this.
Well, too bad, because then Covid hits.
This is called the planning fallacy. It represents the “absolutist” nature of traditional project planning where the marketing leader’s knowledge transcends even space and time. Eventually, there’s one answer you start often hearing even in content marketing: “stick to plan.”
- What If there’s a better way to do this— “stick to plan.”
- There’s an error here—”stick to plan.”
- There’s another way— “stick to plan.”
- Things are not going according to plan— “stick to plan.”
Eventually, the project is no longer a living thing but a set of stale preset objectives that your team members have no personal connection to.
2. Status Quo Bias
Next time you have whiskey and cola, try adding in the cola first, then the Jim Beam or Jack Daniels. If that’s the craziest thing you’ve ever heard, then Content Marketing Platform to the status quo bias.
This is the resistance to change. Like a wise woman once said, habits once started are hard to break, and this is as true in marketing project planning as in other aspects of life.
If you’re a project planner who creates a plan well ahead of time, perfects it, and then presents your best works to your team, you’ll be resistant to change.
This not only means that you miss out on improvement that you could have made the other day but also end up demotivating your team.
How Does an Agile Sprint Retrospective Address These Biases?
Due to our limitations as human marketing teams, these cognitive biases can’t be eliminated. However, we can mitigate them. This is where the sprint retrospective comes in.
The main aim of a sprint retrospective is to eliminate the finality and absolutism of traditional planning. Thus, this process introduces iteration and continuous improvement into your agile approach.
Agile marketers are no longer married to a plan; neither is the plan a non-living object. A sprint retrospective promises to bring your project to life and create an ideal agile marketing workflow.
What Sets Agile Sprint Retrospectives Apart?
There are many other evaluative strategies outside the agile methodology. What sets the retrospective apart?
Look around. There are a lot of options. You could have a pre-project evaluation, where you try to seal loopholes at the beginning. Better yet, you could have a post-project evaluation after the project. Why retrospective sprint?
Continuous Evaluation Instead of Final Evaluation
First, with the agile sprint retrospective, your team can leverage continuous evaluation. This means that you can make decisive decisions and changes while the project is still a work in progress.
These small adjustments give your marketing team adaptability to changing metrics instead of the stiff and almost non-existence leg room traditional marketing strategy offers.
Short Small Goals Instead of Distant Deadlines
A sprint retrospective replaces the distant deadline with small iterative goals and improvements. It brings the final goal nearer by embracing small actionable steps that take you closer.
These small building blocks and progressive iteration motivates your team members. Subsequently, it reduces the goal or deadline from something big they’re afraid of to small, simple steps they relate with.
Active Planning Instead of Passive Planning
In a sprint retrospective, the project planning is active and not passive. You improve your marketing plan and workflows since the plan adjusts to the team and external conditions instead of the other way round.
Agile marketing processes make changes in real-time as the project progresses.
In some cases, an agile marketing team does not require a deadline, but in most cases, they finish projects faster than traditional teams.
Agile Sprint Retrospective Best Practices
There is no perfect way to perform a sprint retrospective. Like everything else with the agile methodology, finality is discouraged.
However, these few steps will go a long way in making your agile sprint more of a walk in the park.
If you ever drew a graph for opportunity and success, they will meet at preparation. For a successful sprint retrospective, you have to be well prepared.
Get everything you need. These include everything from pens, Kanban boards, and sticky notes to even whiteboards. In case you’re planning to have your weekly or daily standup meetings, ensure that you remove the chairs in advance (if that’s necessary).
After preparation, you can then actively begin your sprint retrospective. But first, you have to bring everyone up to date with everything.
If there are reports to handle, results to give, or opinions to share, this is the perfect time to do it. Set the stage to ensure that nobody feels left out and all stakeholders feel comfortable sharing.
What Went Well
Next is to look back at the previous sprint, the scrum objectives, and results, then focus on the positives. However difficult the last sprint or portion of the project was, there must have been a few positives.
This could be someone who stepped up, collaborative improvements, or excellent displays of teamwork.
What Needs Improvement
Every sprint week comes with its share of shortcomings. In this case, encourage your team members to pick out who, what, and when something went wrong, and what needs to be done.
Ensure that you made it clear during the stage setting that team members are free to air their opinions and similarly should take the opinions others air in stride.
Where To Go From Here
At the tail end of the sprint retrospective, your team should leverage the knowledge about what went right and what needs improvement to come up with future objectives.
You and your team will apply these objectives and agile practices in your next sprint.
How to Use Templates to Perfect This Strategy
You can perfect this strategy by using templates, sticky notes, and a whiteboard. Use the following steps in your daily standup meetings:
- Give each team member a sticky note and a pen
- Ask the stakeholders to write their opinions about the previous sprint
- Take the pen and divide the whiteboard into four sections
- These sections should be what went well, what went wrong, and where to go now
- Take the sticky notes and find a place on the board for each
Common Agile Marketing Process Mistakes During Retrospectives
An agile retrospective may seem like a straightforward process. However, continuous improvement is easier said than done, and making mistakes is easy on this side of efficient marketing. Ensure to look out for:
If scrum objectives are not met, you may find your team looking for an individual to blame. It’s clever because if the spotlight is on somebody else, it’s not on them.
Scapegoating is an easy way to kill the team spirit, create team silos and overlook other key issues that may be holding back your agile marketing.
A sprint retrospective should be collaborative. The moment a single person is giving all the opinions or running the retrospective, it loses significance.
Not Using Question Words
Sprint retrospectives run the risk of becoming vague. To prevent this from happening, always ensure that resolutions are actionable by implementing the use of question words such as who, what, when, and where.
Not Leveraging Relativity
Remember that you embraced the agile methodology to remove absolutism, not add to it. Ensure objectivity in your agile methodology by looking at plans, people, and objectives relatively. Use words like “better than” or “worse than” instead of “good” and “bad”.
Putting It All Together: The Ideal Agile Workflow
Now that you’re an agile expert, let’s put it into action with a deeper dive into establishing your ideal agile marketing workflow. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the following topics:
- What is an agile marketing workflow?
- The benefits of outlining your workflow
- An example of the ideal comprehensive workflow steps
- How to map out your workflow
- The ideal agile approach for marketers
- Why you should use a project management tool for your marketing team or marketing department
Let’s start by defining what we mean when we say “workflow.”
What is an Agile Marketing Workflow?
Your client comes to you at 4:45 p.m. on a Friday. You’re all set for the weekend, but you now have your marching orders: they need a social media campaign to promote their new product, and they need it fast.
Your first instinct is to panic. Where do you go from here? How do you ensure you not only complete this project but complete it in a high-quality, comprehensive way?
The first thing you’ll want to do is identify what team members you need, what each team member is responsible for, and the order in which everything is done.
These steps to complete your project, or actionable items, are known as your “workflow.” An agile marketing workflow refers to the process you establish to move a project from conception to execution, with a focus on flexibility and timeliness.
Here’s a general overview of what a typical workflow might look like:
- Your team is either assigned or identifies a project or task.
- You list out all the steps needed to complete it (AKA your “sprints“).
- Your team completes each step.
- Bring the team together daily for a “standup” meeting to discuss your progress as well as identify any obstacles to your progress.
- Once the sprint is complete, your team submits the project.
Sounds easy enough, right? While this may not make the actual work that goes into your project any easier, it will help you stay organized and up to date. Having clarity of purpose at each stage of the process is invaluable to helping your marketing team stay on target.
The Benefits of Outlining Your Workflow
The benefits of outlining your workflow may be patently obvious to anyone who has tried to execute a marketing strategy without an outline or plan in the past. It’s not just a nice-to-have feature of your project, it’s effectively a necessity for any successful marketing team.
Here’s why you should outline your workflow to benefit your team:
- An outline sets up clear roles and responsibilities. No one on your team will wonder what they should be doing or what the next step in the process is. It keeps everyone on task and in the right lane, reducing overlap and encouraging teamwork.
- It establishes deadlines to keep everyone organized. Each stage of the process will have an end date in mind, letting you know when you can move from one stage to another. There are some tasks you can’t complete until an earlier one is finished; having deadlines allows you to track progress.
- You can envision the finish line. Sometimes teams are in such a rush to get started on a project, they don’t stop to reflect on where they want to go with it. An agile marketing workflow helps you define your finish line so that your entire team can envision your campaign goal from the outset.
Planning and Outlining Your Comprehensive Workflow
Let’s use an example to identify what an ideal agile marketing workflow looks like, say a social media campaign. Here’s how you’d outline that process:
- Hold a kickoff meeting to discuss the goals of the project, assign tasks, develop a schedule, timeline, list of deliverables, and determine which metrics you’ll use to measure success.
- Have the social media team or content marketing team draft the content. Draw up a posting schedule that aligns your content with the most effective time frame for the delivery of each post.
- Hold daily standup meetings to talk about progress and get feedback from your content creators on how the process is going, including and any roadblocks they’ve encountered. This will help you prevent silos and bottlenecks, helping everyone maintain awareness of the project’s status.
- Have your strategists or leadership review the content to ensure it checks the boxes you need checking.
- Do a quality assurance check on the copy, so it’s free of errors and matches your campaign’s tone and style.
- Meet with your client to review and give them a chance to provide feedback.
- Incorporate the client’s feedback.
- Deliver the content as a final product.
How to Map Out Your Workflow
Your team’s workflow will vary depending on the type of work you do. But on a macro level, every process will incorporate three major steps:
Let’s take a closer look at each phase:
This might be the most crucial step; comprehensive project planning is crucial to lay the groundwork for your success later on. Initially, you’ll meet with your team, identify your overarching goal, and outline how you plan to get there.
This stage requires you to roll up your sleeves and put in work. Your team members will need to provide solutions to the challenges you’ve identified during the planning process.
This stage also encompasses the quality review process. Have different members of the team weigh in on the project overall, examining if it hit the mark or still needs refining.
You may also need to pull the client or original project requestor in at this stage of the game. Quality review at this stage of the agile process is what makes agile marketing strategies particularly effective, allowing you to pivot when necessary for continuous improvement.
Once your team has completed the project, it’s time to launch! This is when you’re rewarded for your efforts, and you can begin evaluating your campaign based on the metrics you’ve defined.
The Ideal Agile Workflow for Marketers
The ideal agile marketing workflow for marketers includes all the steps outlined above. But what else can help make the process effective? What helps keep agile marketing teams sharp and moving quickly?
Here are some additional tip, tricks, and tools you may want to include in your agile marketing workflow:
- Checklists. When you have multiple tasks, you’ll want to keep them assembled in one place, marking them complete as you go.
- A schedule, timeline, or calendar. Do you know when your project needs to be completed? A timeline will keep each part of the process in its proper context and aligned with related deadlines or concurrent tasks.
- Visualization tools. Tools like whiteboards or Kanban boards put each stage of your workflow in front of your team members and can streamline the agile process further.
- Project management software. Documenting everything is critical to an organized workflow, so you’ll need reliable tools. Using software to keep every task stored and managed in one place will help maintain your peace of mind.
Use a Project Management Tool for the Ideal Agile Marketing Strategy
In short, adopting an agile marketing workflow will leave your team feeling less stressed and more prepared for potential roadblocks. However, embarking on the agile path of marketing can be overwhelming without the right tools to align your efforts with your goals.
Any team leader worth her salt understands this difficulty and understands the importance of organization and team alignment to productivity. That’s why you’ll want to have a platform in place to facilitate and execute your new agile marketing campaign.
Content Marketing Platform is that project management platform. We take every aspect of your workflow and help you track, manage, and account for each step of the process, all from one dashboard.