Digital technologies and the digitization of the global economy has fundamentally (and perhaps permanently) altered the marketing landscape. While the goal of marketing—to help sell products and services to customers—largely remains the same, everything else has undergone radical change:

  • Customers are more empowered, connected and have higher expectations
  • Tools are smarter, powered by AI, and provide dizzying amounts of data
  • Competition is fiercer, with both traditional contenders and upstarts employing innovative approaches to win

This new, fast-paced world, ruled by complexity, unpredictability and volatility poses challenging questions to marketing leaders: How do you differentiate yourself in an increasingly crowded marketplace? How do you best connect, communicate and engage with customers? How do you prioritize work to maximize productivity and achieve business outcomes faster?

To succeed, marketing departments must rethink how they work—discarding legacy approaches and adopting an agile marketing model.

What Is Agile Marketing?

An approach to marketing that drives growth and maximizes the value delivered to customers with increased speed, flexibility and effectiveness by using empowered, cross-functional teams with a strong sense of individual accountability, regular short meetings, short delivery cycles, continuous measuring and a ‘fail fast and learn’ philosophy.

Why Agile?

The rapid rise of digital connectivity has ushered in a dramatic period of change and caused a generational shift in how consumers live, work, shop and play. Globally, there are now more than 3.8 billion internet users who are producing and consuming a mind-boggling amount of data each day. In the United States alone, adults spend more than five hours daily connected to media across multiple devices including computers, smartphones and tablets. 1

Source: Domo’s seventh annual Data Never Sleeps Infographic

With this robust and growing data ecosystem, the dynamics of marketing have fundamentally changed. It has given rapid rise to new technologies, products and services and altered consumer behavior, needs and expectations. To survive and thrive, companies must assemble the right people, processes and tools, and build nimble, adaptive teams with the right capabilities in order to achieve growth and fend off competitive threats.

Leveraging agile teams is the best way to approach a market that cannot be stabilized, structured and predicted. Static, locked in and inflexible organizations will not be able to survive. Agile methods are useful because they serve to simplify complex business processes in the face of uncertainty to maximize throughput, increase flexibility and enable continuous improvement.

The right people for the job

Small, multi-disciplinary, independent teams are the organizational units through which agile, project-based work gets done. When implemented correctly, they are more productive, higher in morale and faster to market. The ability to move quickly and access the right people, skills, and expertise at the right time has never been more imperative.

CMOs must become unencumbered by outdated structural hierarchies and bureaucratic requirements and evolve their thinking from talent acquisition to talent access. They must direct teams to the best opportunities, arm them with the best people (sourced internally and externally), equip them with the right tools and give them the autonomy they need to move fast, while overseeing their work with a light but consistent touch.

Embrace an iterative way of working

Agile teams work in short, flexible bursts and favor continual measuring, review, feedback and ongoing adaptation—exactly what is needed for marketers to meet the demands of today’s fast-paced digital environment. There are a variety of practices (e.g. user stories, frequent releases, retrospectives) and methodologies (e.g. Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, Lean). Adopt the ones that allow you to change gears quickly, deliver higher quality work and provide team-wide visibility into workloads and efficiency.

Modernize your technology stack

Freed from the bureaucratic burden of hierarchy, decisions on agile marketing teams are based on data—not opinions, position or habit. To operate successfully, teams need to be supported by an array of modern tools and technologies that they can trust to help them make the best decisions for their customers. Additionally, with the need to master addressability and data activation at scale, they require sophisticated tools and platforms that provide real-time customer engagement, intelligent analytic insight, and a cohesive view of customer data.

Foster collaboration & trust

The technology stack must also be very effective at delivering increased collaboration—not only across marketing functions, but the entire organization. One of the best benefits of this emphasis on close collaboration, comes in the form of greater transparency and accountability. Everyone involved in the team knows everything they need to know about the project at all times. Creating such an ultra-transparent and open environment leaves little room for miscommunication.

Systems and workflows are integrated, briefs are centralized, calendars shared, and roles, responsibilities and priorities made clear. Importantly, time is set aside to reflect and improve processes, removing any wasted steps to keep workflows efficient and proactively addressing any issues or bottlenecks.

Be relentlessly customer centric

Today’s companies compete on the basis of customer experience. Traditional marketing departments that are stuck in organizational and technological silos cannot deliver on the connected experiences that customers have come to expect. To meet ever-rising standards, agile marketing teams embrace strategies that consider customers’ entire journeys, and therefore enable truly personalized engagement.

80% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.

With the right people, tools and processes, agile marketing teams can attract, acquire and continually engage with customers. Using data and analytics, they develop a clear view of customer behavior and intentions and can thus measure value through their eyes and align marketing strategies to their needs. As a result, they set themselves apart by not only delivering the right message on the right channel at the right time, but by leading customer experience initiatives across their broader organizations.

1Nielsen's Total Audience Report Q1 2019