Getting Ready for Agile Marketing

If you believe the pitch by Adobe at this week’s summit and the legions of digital marketing evangelists filling our industry press, our marketing world is being turned upside down.

It’s hardly surprising, when you consider that the language of marketing — “marketing strategy,” “campaign,” “target audience,” “channel tactics” — originated with 1950 military organizational theory. It was developed to support large organizations: large teams executing large plans, making big bets.

Today’s digital marketing experts talk more about listening to customers, being responsive to market needs, segmented messaging and taking advantage of trends. We need to evolve more than just our language. Our tools and processes also need to change. Our fundamentals — extensive research into customer insights, long review cycles to develop a big idea or concept, and expensive productions to execute on it — must evolve. And this is a good thing. We can be more agile.

Technology development underwent a similar shift 2001 when the manifesto for Agile Software Development was published. The industry has been moving from heavily documented waterfall processes to agile development.

With Agile Marketing, you don’t stop planning, or coming up with ideas, you just do it more quickly and in short sprints using more sophisticated tools and data. The short cycles mean you can respond in a timely manner to customer feedback. No more stubbornly launching what you planned and then collapsing in exhaustion when it’s all over, praying the work is a success. Your big bets are based on the results of smaller ones already conceived, executed and measured.

At this year’s Adobe Summit, Adobe simplified Adobe Marketing Cloud down to five products to help marketers along this agile path:

Whether you want to buy the full suite to get better integration of the tools, and workflow support, the point is each of these areas needs to be covered in your marketing platform.

Analytics – This is the foundation of agile marketing. More than measuring channels, this is about measuring audience clusters and tying them back to lifetime value.
Experience Manager – If you can’t easily deliver rich experiences that engage your audience, you can’t land your message.
Target – Audiences need to be defined by behaviour and variables beyond the content they have chosen.
Social – Being able to listen, publish and measure activity in social channels is critical because of the volume of activity in these channels.
Media Optimizer – When a message is resounding, it is critical to leverage paid media to extend the message through programmatic buying tools.

These are the tools that will enable Agile Marketing.

Adobe believes it can change the world through digital experiences. It has another lofty goal: to bring together art and science in a way that will make marketing more effective than ever. Ambitious, yes, but also a little bit inspiring.

The good news is that like with our technical teams embracing Agile Marketing doesn’t stop mean completely changing what our teams do. Our technical teams haven’t stopped coding, they actually spend more time coding then they do in meetings and reviewing documents.

In marketing we won’t stop finding insights about audiences or coming up with big ideas, in fact planners and creatives should embrace Agile Marketing because it allows more work to be put into market and less decisions based on subjective discussion and more on audience reaction.

Unlike traditional marketing that is “in market” for a campaign and then relegated to marketing archives and awards shows, our digital work is persistent. Display ads can be reserved, campaign sites continue to be served and indexed.

And just like software features, our marketing work can be improved, extended, and iterated based on feedback and measurement. All that it takes is the right mindset and the right toolkit.

Agile marketing implies serious change, to be sure. But with the right tools, partners, and thinking, I know it will deliver results, for our customers and for our business, too.

John Baker, president of dotJWT. Follow John on Twitter

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