The other day I had lunch with Sarah from Unruly Media. We had a great conversation about agile methodologies, in particular agile in marketing. She certainly knows her stuff around agile – her company (of which she is a co-founder) started out in a very different place from where it is today but as the whole company was founded on agile principles, they pivoted to becoming a 100 person company across multiple countries selling a social and viral video enablement software to media agencies and their clients.
Sarah asked a really interesting question that I thought gets to the heart of why marketing should be agile. She wondered, if we already have plans for marketing, in a way we don’t necessarily have for other departments, like number of events or case studies per quarter, why do we need to break marketing’s task down into smaller stories?
My personal answer to that question has to do with the agile idea of continually adding value through numerous small releases. A marketing department can easily spend the quarter working their butts off to produce one fantastic event, however there’s really only one point at which the team delivers business value to other departments or customers – the day of the event. What if agile allowed marketing departments to turn that single event into a series of releases that added value to the business?
By breaking larger tasks down into small stories, each with the aim of adding value to the business, a marketing department can do two things. First, they can see where they need to focus their time in the lead up to a big event (or whitepaper release or new website launch, any activity works here really) because they’ve defined their stories in a way that helps the team understand where they are adding business value. Secondly, they can use these smaller yet valuable “releases” within marketing to delight customers and other departments more regularly throughout the process.
Let’s take, for example, hosting an event for new and prospective customers. One could easily argue that this project is only fit for a waterfall style release (you work on everything until it’s all finished then release all at once) and there is no way to deliver value to the business from this project until the event actually happens.
But look at the assets produced for that one day – handouts, speaker bios, marketing materials, case studies, training documents, video footage, email comms to attendees and event promotion. Why shouldn’t a case study be released to the sales team as soon as it’s produced, delivering value to their sales process? Couldn’t speaker bios be turned into blog posts showing your company’s involvement in supporting individuals in the industry, delivering value to your readers? Post video footage on YouTube early, make marketing materials the content basis for your Tweets, allow sales or support to piggy back on email comms – and most importantly show your company and your team how marketing is continually adding value.
The upshot of this is that marketing gets the recognition for the ongoing work they are doing and the company gains the momentum that comes with having continual access to new marketing and sales materials throughout the quarter.
Do you agree? Why do you think marketing should even bother with being agile?