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Hasse Jansen, 28 Sep '16

The Difference Between Agile Development and Agile Marketing

Agile marketing works. But beware… it is different from agile development in its practical execution. Understanding the differences between the two is crucial for achieving marketing success.

When you think about agile marketing you probably think about its more well-known family member: agile development. To get to grips with agile marketing, knowing about agile development can be an advantage, but it can also be a disadvantage. Although the fundamentals are the same, simply copy-pasting all agile development routines to agile marketing is not going to work.

The two concepts are connected at the roots, but there are some distinct differences in their daily execution. We’ll show you how to boost your agile marketing results by distinguishing between tasks and goals. Or, in other words, between ‘delivering features’ and ‘changing customer behavior’.

The end goal of your business isn’t just to print posters in quick (quick quick) response to a chaotic phone call (or two). As a marketer, your job is to influence customer behavior, drive revenue and to make your business grow.

Here’s how Agile Marketing can help you do just that.

‘Delivering features’ versus ‘changing customer behavior’

If you know about agile development, you’ll have heard about concepts like the product backlog, the sprint, the retrospective… etc. Agile development teams mention these words in every third sentence, skillfully adjusting their course to new insights every sprint.

At the end of every sprint, the fruit of their labor is the delivery of a “Potentially Shippable Product Increment”, which is often just a set of new features. And then that’ll be the end of it. If the product is ‘shipped’, the team can head over to the bar to celebrate. Agile development's success is defined by whether the team delivered all the features planned for that Sprint, according the features’ “Definition of Done.”

Agile marketers, however, should be celebrating entirely different moments. Agile marketing's success is achieved when the team influences customer behavior. What success looks like, exactly, can be specified in what we call the “Definition of Success”.

It’s Friday afternoon and right before their deadline, the agile marketing team has successfully produced and distributed their materials. But they still don’t know if there’s anything to celebrate.

The agile marketing team has produced an output just like the agile development team had, but both teams have different definitions of sprint success.

There’s no way to gauge if the marketing team has successfully changed customer behavior with the materials they produced just now. They’ll have to wait hours/days/weeks (or more) for the market to ‘judge’ their performance. Content delivery alone isn’t good enough; business results is what we need.

Guess we’ll all go home and have a quiet night with the… Oh, the results on last month’s campaign are just in! The materials the marketing team produced six weeks ago have been very well received by the audience. Conversion is up 10%. Customer behavior has changed. Marketing goals have been met. Off to the bar we go!

The difference between a task and a goal

The key difference between agile development and agile marketing is that while the former is task oriented, the latter should be goal oriented.

A task is a piece of work to be performed.

For instance, making a promotional ad for a product launch is a task. But you complete tasks to pursue a goal. And pursuing goals is an entirely different ball game.

A goal is a commercial result you want to achieve.

For instance, improving your brand's social media score is a goal. You are at the mercy of your target audience. Your audience votes on your performance by liking, sharing or, even better, pulling out their wallet.

Agile development is task oriented, while agile marketing should be goal oriented Click To Tweet

Strategically iterate tasks to achieve your goal

The key to strategic success in agile marketing is defining the “why” behind the 'how'. In agile development, developers are given a list of tasks to complete, possibly supported by the functional context, without getting into the commercial rationale behind the tasks. In agile marketing, however, the entire team needs to be briefed about ‘why’ certain tasks need to be done.

In fact, 'how' and 'why' have to go through an iterative cycle to achieve agile marketing success. For instance, let's take the example of 'improving social media score' as our goal, and the “why” behind the whole story. This is our destination. The next question you need to answer is 'how' to achieve that. Which tasks need to be performed to reach the destination.

With the goal in mind, you sit down with your team to come up with the appropriate tasks to be performed. Then, the team produces their materials and the campaign ‘goes live’.

After gauging how your audience reacts to the materials you produced, you find out that they are not engaging with it as well as you would like. The tasks your team has performed did not bring you much closer to achieving your goal. Your “how’s” (tasks) aren’t bringing you much closer to the “why” (goal). But that’s no reason to panic. Not yet, at least.

You bring your team together again. You analyze the market’s reaction to your previous materials and come up with new tasks that should bring you closer to achieving your goal of improving the social media score. You repeat this cycle until you’ve reached your goal. The shorter you make this cycle, the more attempts at hitting the bull’s eye you’ll get in a given timeframe.

Ears open, eyes on the prize

Contrary to quite popular believe, agile marketing is not about jumping aboard any hype train you manage to spot before it’s gone into the distance. It’s not about doing anything and everything but just a lot faster.

It’s about structurally and frequently measuring market response, and being able to quickly and coherently adjust operations to produce an output that’ll bring you closer to achieving your commercial goals with every iteration.

It’s like working in an agile development team, but now you’re in a team with (potential) consumers. Your performance is dependent on how well you can collaborate with them, but none of them is getting paid, they’re always in hurry and they don’t speak your language most of the time.

It’s a difficult job. But with agile marketing you can get it right. And when you do, it feels fan-flipping-tastic.


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