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3 Agile Marketing Fails (And How To Fix Them)

While Agile Marketing is not a new practice, it continues to grow in popularity, with 37% of marketers using some form of Agile to manage their work, according to research from Agile Sherpas, a collective of agile marketing coaches.

Going Agile is no easy feat, but when done right, it can boost efficiency and productivity, and according to Andrea Fryrear, Agile Marketing Coach and Trainer, and Co-Founder of Agile Sherpas, it can also fuel innovation and creativity.

“We get those benefits because Agile helps marketers get out of crisis mode,” she said in a past interview with Demand Gen Report. “It allows us the mental space we need to think critically about challenges and get back in touch with our audiences. B2B marketing can’t be generic and boring anymore if we want to have an impact. Agile marketing offers a systematic way to create exceptional experiences.”

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Fryrear has worked with more than 1,000 marketers at dozens of different companies to help them down the path of Agile. During a keynote at Uberflip’s Conex event in Toronto, she shared a variety of Agile “fails” that some of her clients have faced — and some tactical ways to fix them.

Here are three that stood out to me:

Fail #1: The Executive Mic Drop

One of the first teams Fryrear ever coached had a new VP of marketing who laid out a thorough marketing plan with stats, data and campaign launch dates.

“It seemed like the marketing plan just never ended,” said Fryrear. “The last slide in the presentation was the VP saying, ‘We’re doing a lot this year but it’s going to be fine — we’re doing Agile this year.’

What many teams fail to realize is that you can’t just say you’re going Agile and pile on extra things to do because with Agile, it’ll get done. A key challenge there is that most teams are not fully aligned on what it actually means to be Agile.

The Fix: Education & WIIFM (What’s In It For Me)

“There are a couple of things you can do so that you don't end up down this particularly unfortunate path,” said Fryrear. “The first is education. We have to be educated about what Agile really means inside of marketing, because it's not just going faster and faster and faster. There's a lot more to it, we have to deliberately look at the existing Agile frameworks and decide what components of them are going to work for us. But that means we have to take some time upfront to learn about that.

“Once we know that we have to be good marketers about it and get to the WIIFM, or the what's in it for me, for our leaders and executives. Because they are the ones who are going to have to set aside time and budget for us to actually get trained. So, we need the education because there are a lot of misconceptions of what agile really means inside of marketing.”

Fail #2: Agile Hoarding

In another example, Fryrear talked about a long-tenured marketer at a company who didn’t want to share any secret sauces.

“She started to do what we call ‘information hoarding,’ she said. “She didn't want to tell anybody else how to manage all the idiosyncrasies of the WordPress install or where the passwords were kept, or who to ask to get a product update — none of that. She wanted to have it all to herself. And that's just one manifestation of a holdout. But the way that we can get around all of those things is to understand and commit as a team, or as a department or marketing organization, to Agile values. Things like transparency, openness, trust, honesty, visibility, so that we can get and explore these new ways of working together with trust in one another.”

The Fix: Agile Values In Action

According to Fryrear, most Agile marketing teams will hit a road where they won’t be able to improve processes anymore. The fix is to consistently have meetings that are designed to solve specific problems.

“The first [meeting] you need is a ‘daily stand-up meeting,’” she said. “You have this meeting every day for 15 minutes — nice and quick. The team can get together and you will discover things like information hoarding.

“You also need to have a ‘retrospective meeting’ because this is where those issues that come up in the daily stand-up get resolved. This is where the team gets to talk about their process, figure out what's not working and then make it better for the next go round. We need to make sure we're having the right Agile meetings and that they're being used effectively before we call in reinforcements to help the team.”

Fail #3: The Part-Time Pilot

This fail is one that Fryrear sees often. Marketing teams hear about Agile Marketing and want to give it a go, so they pull team members from different departments/areas (such as content, design and marketing automation people) to build an Agile team to pilot the approach.

“The problem is … we build this nice little cross-functional team and realize they still have a day job,” said Fryrear. “They still have regular work that needs to happen outside the Agile process. And so, we say, ‘it's really important for you to be on this pilot, but also you have to keep doing your regular work. So, like 60% of your time, you're on the Agile team and 40% of time, you're not — just do both, and be fine … And basically, no one's doing any work in the system.”

The Fix: Create A Dedicated Pilot Team

“It’s really, really important to create a dedicated pilot team,” said Fryrear. “If we're talking about the base of a mountain as the overworked, stressed-out place where we all start out, and then marketing agility is the summit we want to get to … if you can get a dedicated pilot team going, it's like jumping halfway up the mountain. It sets you up so far ahead of the game that it's worth the difficulty of figuring out how to make it actually happen.”

Fryrear shared some ideas for developing pilot teams:

  • If you've got some new type of work, new project or a new team, don't ever put it into the old process, just do it all through Agile. And that will be a great test case.
  • If you have a mature team that's been together for a while, they might be ready to make some changes.
  • If you've got a team that's already pretty autonomous and they don't rely on a bunch of other people, then you can just take them and put them into an Agile system.

“The point is you’ve got to start somewhere,” she said. “When it's time to start, we can build this cross-functional pilot by bringing people in from the existing groups. So nobody's saying that you have to turn these off — you don't have to stop doing digital marketing, you have to turn off your operations, you have to stop doing any creative work for anyone else while you pilot, but you do need to put the pilot team in their own little box so that they can be dedicated to trying this process out. And then if it works great, you can build some more of these teams.”