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Agile Marketing: Business Agility’s Patient Zero

If the ultimate objective of business agility is to alter the DNA of an organization so every person and team operates with an Agile mindset, marketing is ideally situated to make this happen.

Agile software development is like a virus. 

It’s a mutation in traditional approaches to work management that infected a small subset of knowledge workers who were doing types of work that were so antithetical to traditional management that they broke, creating a crack through which agile infiltrated these teams. 

Since then, it’s been replicating itself (with varying degrees of fidelity) in team after team after team. And fortunately, agile has turned out to be an enormously powerful and beneficial mutation. 

Now, multiple decades into the infestation, we have enough data to design whole organizations that include the conditions needed to spread the agile virus even further. We can cultivate business agility. 

The question is now, who should be the new patient zero? What group will incubate agility, teach it to adapt to a unique environment, and then transmit it efficiently to the rest of the organization? 

There are few better candidates for infection than marketing. 

Agile marketing teams benefit both the organizations in which they operate and the customers they serve. And, what’s more, marketers as a group could really use the help. 

Organizational benefits

If the ultimate objective of business agility is to alter the DNA of an organization so every person and team operates with an agile mindset, marketing is ideally situated to make this happen. 

Marketing departments collaborate and interface with many other teams, from product to sales to legal to executives. This high level of interactivity means any problems those teams have using agile or working with agile teams will surface quickly. 

And in traditional marketing organizations, these working relationships could use some adaptations of their own. A 2015 study found that 98 percent of marketers experience conflict with other teams; clearly, everyone will benefit from a marketing department that has a more Agile mindset. 

Work also typically flows from marketing to outside the organization as well. Agencies and vendors are integral parts of modern marketing, creating additional complexity that will force innovation and adaption of the agile virus. 

Speaking of innovation, marketers are also ideal patient zeroes because we are likely to draw from a wide range of Agile practices. The 2018 State of Agile Marketing Report showed that hybrid frameworks are the most popular option for marketers at 44 percent; the State of Agile Report from VersionOne of the same year had Scrum as the most popular, coming in at 56 percent. 

In order to survive outside its original environment with software developers, agile will need to evolve. Marketing’s reach and complexity create ideal conditions for it to do so. 

How agile marketing benefits customers 

Business agility can (and should) deliver a better bottom line to organizations, but that’s possible primarily because it puts the customer at the center of the decision-making process. Marketers begin communicating with an audience long before they even become customers, and we keep in touch continually as we try to improve retention and increase customer lifetime value. 

In other words, marketing is a BIG part of how customers experience an organization. Make marketing better, and you provide a vastly improved brand experience. 

Unfortunately, in non-agile marketing departments there’s a tendency to organize around projects or functional silos, a practice that creates a disjointed (and sometimes deeply annoying) customer experience. 

For instance, let’s say we have one group of marketers focused on Product A, and another on Product B. In a traditional marketing department neither group communicates with one another. That means the Product A group may be emailing customers three times a week, and Product B is emailing them four times a week.

In even this simple example it’s easy to see how a customer can get fed up with marketing messages that come from a highly siloed organization. 

Agile marketing departments, on the other hand, organize around customers. They might create teams for acquiring new customers, retaining existing ones, and upselling long-time users. Even those who remain grouped by product increase their visibility and collaboration exponentially with agile, eliminating the over-messaging problem and providing a more coherent brand experience. 

Finally, agile marketing outputs are simply better. 

Quality work is the only way for marketing to compete in our highly connected, easily distracted world. In the survey cited above, over half of marketers cited “Producing higher quality work” as one of their top priorities for 2018. 

Yet, even with this admitted focus on quality, traditional marketing teams get distracted by crises and interruptions. Just 46 percent of those groups say they are able to prioritize quality, while 68 percent of agile marketing teams can keep their focus on delivering outstanding value to their audience. 

“Help us, agile marketing ... you’re our only hope!”

If you’re looking for candidates to rapidly spread the agile virus throughout your organization, look no further than marketing. Improvements in this group can infect other departments quickly, and there is most likely a huge need to mend these interdepartmental relationships. Agile marketing also creates better customer experiences right away, showing positive return on the agile investment very early. 

As a bonus, marketers could really use a hefty dose of agility. We’re a stressed out group (80 percent of us say we’re overloaded with work) with high turnover and low job satisfaction. Agile marketing can deliver the autonomy, mastery, and purpose that’s clearly missing from most marketing teams. 

Marketers are holding out our arms, ready to be infected with the agile virus, so I encourage you to consider launching the next wave of agility in your marketing group. It’s good for the organization, good for the audience, and good for the marketers themselves.