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The era of agile marketing

Marketing is changing; business leaders expect measurable results from their marketing investment. Marketeers working to deliver maximum impact and engagement in B2B marketing are facing scrutiny and enormous pressure to get things done quickly, with a small team and deliver tangible ROI. Long gone are those halcyon days of large marketing teams, big budgets and long, slow burning campaigns with months spent in planning and a year of execution.

Pushing the boundaries of traditional marketing

The dinosaurs of marketing may be gnashing their teeth at the erosion of their budgets and long lunches. But the dynamic modern marketer is stepping up and rubbing their hands in glee at the opportunity this presents to push the boundaries of traditional marketing and reach audiences in innovative ways.

There is a new way of thinking and working which combines rapid time to market with continual improvement to create the best marketing approach. This in turn will maximise results and, therefore, return on investment – welcome to the era of agile marketing.

A lean approach to marketing

Agile marketing allows you to get back to basics. It enables you to strip out all the unnecessary bells and whistles and instead focuses on experimentation and validated learning through measuring iterative cycles of activity.

The goal is to quickly build a plan based on content and marketing activities that deliver the best marketing outcome. It’s a common sense approach to marketing – based on testing a proposition, idea or campaign and then building on its successful elements.

Too many times in the past I’ve seen marketing fail due to bloated campaigns, with poorly conceived content, and a badly executed marketing mix.

Agile ways of working really helps you to step up a notch and improve the quality of what you’re delivering whilst producing tangible results. As Peter Drucker said “Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing right.”

Having spent 20 years working across both corporate enterprise and dynamic start ups, it’s clear to me that by relaxing some of the marketing planning disciplines, and taking ideas from the Lean methodology, marketers can transform how they go about B2B marketing.

Rather than focusing on the full definition and detailed planning of a marketing campaign at the outset – Bright focus on taking a proposition out to a market with the minimum viable messaging and mix of activities, to test, learn and improve.

This iterative approach means that messages are rapidly sharpened, and the marketing mix can be adjusted and scaled until you have a fully-fledged and measurable approach.

So why should you consider agile marketing?

Often companies begin with an idea for a service proposition or product that they think people will want to buy. Spending months perfecting the positioning, marketing launch and campaign planning without ever sharing the marketing messaging or testing the suitability of key activities (even in a basic form) to a prospective client for feedback. Then they launch the product or service into market and don’t see the traction that they anticipated.

This is often because they didn’t speak with prospects to understand whether or not the product, or service proposition, was positioned in an interesting way; or if the potential benefits help to solve a real business challenge and were clearly articulated.

Ultimately, the audience’s indifference to the offering – shown through a lack of results and poor sales – demonstrates that the target audience either did not understand or did not care about the idea in the first place. The proposition fails, the marketing department gets the blame, and the cycle starts over again…

This is particularly challenging (and expensive!) in B2B professional service and tech marketing since you are often dealing with extremely complex products and services that are very high in value and have a long, costly sales cycle. This means you don’t see marketing return on investment from sales revenue for 6 – 12 months, after the launch of a product or service into market, and that you’re still investing in marketing in the meantime.

Communicate your value proposition to prospects and clients

Effectively communicating a value proposition, and ensuring you convey the value that your solution brings, is hard work. You need to show you understand the challenge your prospective clients are facing, highlight how your proposition will solve them, and showcase tangible value through the benefits that it will bring.

This must all then be backed up with proof points via your credentials. Phew! Exhausting, hard to do and expensive to take to market – not just in terms of money but also in the resources required to work out the best way to position, market and then sell.

Using an iterative agile approach allows you to reduce waste by experimenting and then removing, and/or improving, elements of your marketing plan that do not work as effectively as expected.

Agile marketing the chance to experiment, quickly, and discard things that do not work. Not only does this mean that you can go to market faster, with minimum elements of the marketing mix, but you can also use validated learning to examine the data you collect in order to measure the impact of your campaign and build on its success.

Test, learn and improve

You can start off by validating one or two elements of your marketing. For example, you can test the key messages to ensure they are compelling with a small group of your target audience, test design elements on a web page or social channels, and take forward the best performers and continue to build your plan.

Each agile marketing sprint that you go through improves the mix further and informs on what you need to adjust as you move through different stages of product or service maturity.

This is enormously beneficial in competitive markets, and for enterprise, where marketing may find it hard to break out of reactionary mode and be proactive in order to get propositions out to market fast, build market share and then farm demand.

  • Combined with real time marketing, and the speed and measurability of digital marketing, agile gives you an opportunity to work smarter and build a viable marketing plan, whilst experimenting with market segments, messages and the marketing mix.
  • You also have the advantage that, by the time you’ve iterated through a few sprints, you will have added some early adopter clients that can provide you with established case studies to showcase as you mature your marketing campaign.
  • By taking some of the best ways of working from a startup and entrepreneurial culture, and applying it to your marketing in this controlled framework of agile marketing, you can explore more creative and innovative ideas, test them and add those that work to your marketing plan.
  • The focus on being data driven gives you tangible evidence for the marketing investments being made. This means that you know that they are supporting and contributing to the wider business goals. Peter Drucker was right: “What gets measured gets improved”. Otherwise, how could marketing be held accountable?

I can’t stress enough how important it is to test, learn and improve. If there is one thing that makes embedding agile marketing great it’s that it provides a solid framework for marketing to do just that, and to take the best ideas forward.

It is undoubtedly a lot more satisfying to run campaigns that are effective and deliver results. That’s what I set out to do every time I work with a new client or review the work Bright delivers to our existing ones – agile marketing makes that possible.

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Zoe MerchantThe era of agile marketing

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