At a recent meeting, a speaker quoted Mike Tyson as saying “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. As the market and our brand’s customers move at ever-increasing rates of speed, marketers must be able to quickly move and adapt their plans to avoid (and hopefully not in reaction to) getting punched in the mouth. Perhaps we should take a lesson from “the Greatest” Muhammed Ali: “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.
Many companies operate using an annual planning cycle, and that’s not likely to change overnight. Boards of Directors and executive leaders need to have confidence that their marketers are not randomly chasing every bright shiny object, and are investing resources wisely. But consumers don’t operate on an annual plan: they are making new choices every day, and are always developing different ways of making those decisions. An annual plan can’t adapt to a new tool like Pinterest, which took off in a 3-6 month period and became an important new source of information for consumers.
By adopting a culture of agile marketing, marketing organizations can respond to market changes in real-time, and increase return for shareholders. Yes, you will plan for the year, but will be always evaluating what is working, what is not, and what new tools and channels are available, so that you can reallocate resources toward the most effective efforts and maintain relevance with your consumer.
How can marketers become more agile?
1. Gain alignment with top management on the high-level objectives and metrics for the year, and only develop detailed plans on a six-week or two-month basis.
2. Focus on what you are doing NOW – not last week or next week. Is it working? How are consumers responding? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, build the systems you need to get you those real-time answers.
3. Hour-long meetings become the exception, not the rule. Change your rhythm: meet more frequently, for shorter periods of time. Many agile marketers use a “daily scrum”: 15 minutes every day or every other day. Longer meetings only happen at the beginning of the project when the team is establishing the goals, and at the end when the team is distilling what they have learned.
4. Most of the marketing budget will go to what you already is working, but set aside a small but specific percentage of the budget for experiments. Be razor-sharp in defining what you are seeking to learn, and establish the success metrics before you begin implementation.
5. Test, test, test. Fail (and learn) fast. Maintain a “backlog” list of ideas that you want to test. Give team members the opportunity to “make a pitch” for funding for a small test of an idea they are passionate about.
Here are links to additional articles about agile marketing: