Look up agile marketing on the web and you get so few listings it’s hard to believe. Most of the listings don’t even refer to the application of Agile and Scrum as it relates to ongoing marketing operations. They talk about being flexible and adopting a less rigid approach to marketing or using data to decide what to work on—all good ideas, but not really Agile Marketing as I see it.
Not all digital or creative agencies need to work in an agile way, but for the inbound marketing agency, it’s critical in my opinion. When you start researching the Agile or when you read the book, How To Deliver Twice The Work In Half The Time by Jeff Sutherland, the first phrase you hear is how great agile is for complex and creative tasks. Yes, this was meant to describe software development efforts but when I think about inbound marketing engagements, complex and creative are two words at the top of the list.
So as you start to think about how your agency works, consider how applying the Agile Methodology and the rituals from Scrum might just be the difference between 4% net profit and 20% net profit at the end of the year.
Inbound Marketing Needs Flexibility
We used to do 12 months of inbound marketing planning for clients. Why? That’s what we always did, that’s some of the legacy thinking that needs to be trashed when you’re doing inbound. It’s a waste of time. If you’re going to change your tactics based on 30, 60 or 90 days’ worth of data, why spend time planning for something that’s 10 months down the road, instead spend time optimizing and executing based on data.
What happens when you give a client a 12-month plan is they want the plan executed. They want all the “stuff” in that plan, in the months you said they would get that stuff. That’s not inbound. Inbound is about seeing what’s working, analyzing data, responding to data and creating an action plan to improve performance—30 day plans max.
Agile gives you the structure to respond in that way, create work packages for shorter windows, organize your team around this type of working environment and deliver work to clients faster—which by the way gets them better results faster.
You Need To Match Tactics With Performance Data
As I mentioned earlier, how do I know how many blogs a client needs a month? I can guess, based on past experiences with other clients or based on data from the client’s past marketing efforts but honestly I won’t know exactly until I’ve started executing blogs for them and even then it’s probably going to take a good 30 to 60 days to know for sure.
You need a structure, process and methodology that supports this data driven approach to marketing. We might start out blogging weekly, but after we see the data we realize we need to blog three times a week. I don’t want to have to charge the client more, I want the flexibility to reprioritize the tactics based on what’s going to get them the best results. Agile gives you that ability.
Your Teams Need The Freedom To Cycle Faster
The results are in and the faster your team cycles on client programs the faster they get results and the more dramatic the results. No question. If your team works on a client once a month they’re going to get more modest results versus them working on a client four times a month. This becomes problematic with inbound programs because there are so many moving parts. Website, blog, landing pages, content, optimization, social, search, PPC, email—wow that’s a lot of stuff for every client every month.
Giving your team the ability to cycle on client work more frequently allows them to prioritize the most significant tactics and work on those first, getting clients better results. The more times in a month your client teams can cycle the better the results.
Your People Need Wins
Here’s something you might not be aware of yet, especially if you’re new to inbound. Running inbound programs for clients can feel like Groundhog Day. Every day is the same, there are no wins. Get clients leads and they want more leads. Get clients stuff and they want leads. Get clients found and they want to know why they’re not found for more keywords—get it?
It can be very frustrating and when your people get frustrated, they get negative, negativity can grow in your company like a cancer and then eventually people leave. Turnover is one of the hardest aspects of our agencies to manage. You need to try and limit this as much as possible.
Agile gives your teams wins every single week. They’re sprinting, as a team, to deliver on their commitments to ship more work this week than last week, to be more efficient this week as compared to last week and they’re also competing against other teams. The result is wins every week. Yes, they want client wins and those come, but these small wins keep your team members engaged, excited, productive, positive and focused.
In addition, one aspect of Agile is team member happiness. They literally track this weekly and report on it. So you find out right away if a team is degrading or ascending on the happiness scale.
Your Clients Need Results
Boil it all down and no matter what you do, if you don’t get the clients results—you’re fired! If I didn’t think agile and scrum gave us a better opportunity to get clients more results faster, we wouldn’t be doing it.
If you’ve made the decision to go all in on inbound, then you also have to make the decision to rethink everything, including the way you deliver client work, the way your teams are organized and the way your teams estimate work, deliver work and evaluate their own performance. Agile gives you a methodology, that with a bit of intelligence, can be adjusted for any marketing agency, you just have to give it the time it needs to take hold.
Start Today Tip – You need to evaluate how your teams are delivering inbound marketing services to your clients today. Does it feel stilted? Does it feel rigid? Does it prevent you from doing what you think you should be doing? Are you constantly swapping out tactics with clients or asking them to pay more? If this sound like your agency, then you’ve outgrown your current delivery model and need to consider some other options. Take the time to research agile software development and see how you might apply that to what you do on a day to day basis.
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