Adopting an Agile Marketing Approach? Don’t Forget a Few Key Things

Shannon Fitzgerald-Lussier
October 25, 2022

What it takes to adopt an agile approach for your marketing team: proper planning and training and, crucially, a collaborative and centralized planning solution (among other things, of course).

In a Gartner report, the research and advisory firm underscores the importance of centralization, as well as the continued growth of agile practices. According to a survey of more than 400 marketing leaders, almost two-thirds of marketing teams are either “fully or primarily” centralized.

“CMOs are evolving their teams through increased centralization, more functional alignment and continued exploration of agile marketing practices,” Gartner says. “These changes are helping build more scalable, flexible and resilient marketing organizations.”

So, what does it take for marketing leaders to achieve this centralized approach?

A refresher on agile marketing
To begin with, agile marketing is generally defined as “a project management approach originating in product development that has been applied to marketing,” as explained by Bruce Brien, Uptempo’s SVP of global solutions engineering, during a webinar conducted with Demand Gen Report.

In theory, agile marketing deploys small teams—i.e., scrum teams—who are freed from the “traditional structures that stifle innovation and hamper adaptability,” he said. These teams have regularly scheduled planning sessions on objectives they’re looking to meet over a specific time period (otherwise known as sprints). Importantly, during these sprints, agile environments require increased visibility into plans and budgets so that marketers can make informed decisions on changing tactics as needed, adapting better to market dynamics.

Although the idea dates back to World War II, agile is “typically a new concept” for most marketers on a team, Brien said. In turn, it has to be enabled with “the right training, the right insights and the right systems to keep the small teams from crashing.”

A common misconception of agile, according to Brien, is that teams don’t have to plan; rather, they just have to “do.” This sounds great on the surface, he said, but agile is an advanced approach to project management that absolutely requires better visibility into plans.

Accordingly, if you’re looking for improved visibility, you’re not going to get there without centralization.

A centralized approach
In Gartner’s report, Chris Ross, vice president analyst in the firm’s marketing practice, says that marketing leaders—who have “long been chasing the ‘perfect’ marketing organizational structure” in order to “help them realize greater value and scale from their organizations”—are increasingly centralizing their resources into “more scalable shared services to provide support for a well-defined marketing discipline.”

With this “centralized organizational alignment,” according to Ross, comes improvements in three areas:

→ “Efficiency and effectiveness”;

→ Marketing “governance and control”; and

→ The ability to manage “brand, messaging and customer touch strategy.”

Take a centralized calendar, for example: Everyone—including sales and finance—is enabled to have line of sight into what’s happening and what marketing plans are on the horizon. Moreover, when everyone is on the same page, you can eliminate duplicative work and ensure nobody is left in the dust.

Indeed, a blog posted on Martech Today underscores the importance of enabling visibility for more than just marketers when you’re planning in an agile environment.

“You need colleagues who run systems and digital processes at the table,” remarks John Cass, digital strategist and host of the Deep Dive Agile Marketing podcast. “Agile marketing, because of its level of transparency, shows your team and your stakeholders what you are planning to work on in a given period.”

How to get there
Gartner lays out a few recommendations for marketers who want to achieve a centralized structure.

First, look at why centralization would make sense for your organization. Identify exactly why this approach would be justified, and “begin work to evaluate where there are opportunities for greater centralization.”

Additionally, explore what might already be “organically driving” centralization, such as “organizational evolution” or “resource patterns” (e.g., shared services or center of excellence teams). Using “existing organizational momentum,” says Gartner, could help with the transition.

And, of course, don’t forget planning! You can’t adopt centralization (or agile marketing techniques) by waving a magic wand and assuming everyone is on board with the concept.

During the planning part of agile marketing, the Martech Today blog explains, marketers and stakeholders should be discussing topics such as campaign length, any possible disruptions, scheduling and corporate resources to be used.

Importantly, as we described in the agile marketing webinar, you must also plan within the context of your greater business strategy.

After all, your performance is relative to your plan. Things like conversion rates, impressions, responses, leads and opportunities all need to be measured to gauge the success of your new agile marketing approach, but you first need to establish what success even looks like to your organization.

“Agile marketing keeps your stakeholders more informed on what marketers need to be focused on,” added Cass. “And it all starts in the planning process.”

Want better collaboration across your entire team?

A good planning platform is critical when it comes to centralizing your marketing organization and adopting an agile approach. Uptempo provides a platform to build your marketing plan in one place, providing visibility into what’s happening and when.

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