Small Business Acrobatics: Agile Methodology Applied to Marketing

When you find a way of doing things that works in one area of business, often that methodology can be utilized in other areas. This is true of “agile methodology“. A company's size doesn't matter, either, though the more complex the enterprise the greater benefit it gleans from agile marketing, or agility in any other area of business. You can apply this method to a single project, or even make it a core business tenet.

Agile methodology prioritizes teamwork, using incremental “sprints” where every team member works to achieve specific goals, bringing developers and end users into the process. The philosophy helps empower teams while optimizing products through constantly responding to changes and inspiring best practices. It ensures that not only the team members, but customers too, recognize value in projects, and it's something about which small business owners are beginning to take heed.

Using Agility in All Aspects of Business

Though agile methodology began with software development, its lessons apply to all aspects of business. Top business advisory and IT firm Wavestone US has it right when it suggests that companies of all sizes should promote “multidisciplinary and independent teamwork (and implement) a new management culture.”

Consider these benefits of agile methods:

* Satisfy customers: Whether its software, marketing or any other element of business, creating satisfied customers is key.

* Welcome change: Although development teams despair at last-minute changes, when that change benefits customers, it's a good thing.

* Communicate & deliver regularly: The shorter the delivery time, the sooner mistakes can be corrected. Identifying problems early makes operations more efficient.

* Collaborate: Whether it's HR and IT, or marketing and sales, everyone must work together throughout a project towards the stated goal. This can and should include customers.

* Allow independence: Build projects around self-motivated individuals and give them the support they need so business owners and executives can concentrate on core business aspects.

* Face-to-face communications: Even in this digital age, personal communication matters. While in-person conversations may not always be possible, regular communication makes members feel part of the team.

* Remember goals: It's important for teams to see how far they have progressed in order to keep from getting bogged down in plans and losing sight of objectives.

* Sustainability: Many projects end with almost around-the-clock efforts where everyone works frantically towards the goal. Not only is this hard on individuals, it exhausts a team's energy and ability to sustain other work.

* Simplicity: Cut out things that add no value. Not only can this lighten workloads, it simplifies life for everyone, including your customers.

* Organize: Self-organizing teams make the best designs. Trust your veteran project managers to recognize project priorities.

High-performing teams value interactions and relationships over tools and processes. When you put your trust in people to do what's needed, through constant communication and collaboration, the job will invariably get done and get done well.

Working Agility Into Marketing Plans

Agility translates well into the marketing world, especially when it comes to digital marketing. With technology seeping into every portion of people's lives, those involved in marketing aren't able to use techniques long before someone else starts copying them, and then it becomes commonplace.

Look how everyone markets themselves on Instagram and Facebook, for example. It's no longer novel as a business owner, you need to respond to innovative technologies and customers' expectations. 

Marketing with an agile philosophy regarding the digital world helps companies manage projects and campaigns fluidly. A marketing consultant with a mindset that focuses on agility can help your business survive and thrive in constantly shifting ecosystems. Agility in thinking allows companies to address customers' constantly changing needs as well as technological evolution.

In a nutshell, agile marketing:

* Allows rapid responses to changing tech

* Uses adaptive strategies

* Communicates honestly

Though large corporations would benefit more from agility in business, due to the innate complexities of larger companies, small businesses are actually in a better position to take advantage of this philosophy. Policies, systems, and rules still guide most corporate practices, and larger organizations tend to be more resistant to change.

Agile marketing plans embrace the unexpected. These plans and the teams that implement them listen, respond and adapt to what customers want and to changes in the industry.

How to Use Agile Marketing

So… should you just throw everything you've learned about marketing out the window? In a simple word, no.

Agile marketing complements traditional marketing, and should be woven into your marketing plan. Blogger and agile marketer Saif Abbas provides an excellent breakdown. He focuses this 70:20:10 rule when it comes to marketing:

* 70% should use traditional, planned marketing methods.

* 20% should use automated marketing, for e-mail or social media campaigns.

* 10% should involve agile marketing.

While business owners and marketers may find rapid response and quick adoption difficult, understanding how agility adds to your marketing campaigns will keep your company competitive.

An Example: Mozilla

Now that you're breathing a sigh of relief at not having to completely change your marketing approach, let's look at how agile marketing works in the real world.

Chad Weiner, Senior Director of Marketing Operations at Mozilla did a long-term experiment involving their use of agile marketing. They had a lack of communication between departments, team members hoarding data to make themselves more important, and masses of incoming requests without a way to prioritize work. All this negatively affected quality.

Weiner improved frequency with which members communicated, and found that essentially the organization worked on two gigantic projects over the course of the year. The company essentially made these launches into two huge bets, creating competition and stress that worked against the goals they wished to achieve.

Counteracting this meant creating durable teams of around a half-dozen people each, using as many generalists as possible. This improved Firefox retention, executive support for projects, teams that felt validated, and an educated leader.

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