Agile, Agile Marketing, Marketing Strategy

What is Agile Marketing and Why Should You Use It?

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If you’re like many people, when you hear the term “Agile Marketing” you might wonder if the person is talking about some new dance form or other form of stretching rather than an exciting way to improve the way that you propose, build, and measure your marketing success.

Don’t worry – you can start doing Agile marketing without buying new and expensive tools for your marketing toolbox. Agile marketing can help you define specific goals for your campaigns and find out quickly whether they’re working or not – and give you metrics to decide whether to move on.

Borrowed from the methodology of the Agile software movement that started about 10 years ago, Agile Marketing is a philosophy of getting things done that proposes to shorten the length of marketing campaigns, to get actionable information from those campaigns as soon as possible, and to test these ideas to keep the good ones and spend less time on campaigns that don’t produce results. The goal of this process is to make the marketing process more adaptable to changes in your business. 

The purpose of Agile Marketing is – as Jim Ewel puts it – “to improve the speed, predictability, transparency, and adaptability to change of the marketing function.” The benefit of doing this should be obvious: you should spend more time working on the initiatives that work. If you can find the initiatives that work more quickly, you’ll be able to be more effective. And by communicating the metrics that you find important to the business, you’ll be better at sharing what you’re working on.

Does that sound difficult? It shouldn’t. If you focus on delivering things that work, measuring what you do, and build simple, self organizing teams, you can use these principles to get started with Agile Marketing. You can also take the application of Agile marketing ideas directly into your workplace today with these 13 hacks. You can also find some other great resources here.

Agile Marketing, Innovation, Marketing Strategy

Meeting of the Agile Marketing Minds

John Cass, Brian Hsi, and Scott Brinker sharing Agile thoughts (photo by @grmeyer)

What do you get when you combine 10 marketers, a telepresence system, and some great food? You get the most recent meeting of the Agile Marketing meetup in Seattle – joined by some colleagues from Boston who stayed up after their meeting and shared their insights with us.

On August 29th, the crew at Ant’s Eye View were kind enough to share their space with us and host the latest meeting of the Seattle Agile Marketing interest group. Scott Brinker, Brian Hsi, and John Cass joined us from Boston, and we shared a lively discussion both for newbies (what is Agile Marketing and why would I consider using it?) and more experienced marketers (what does Agile Marketing look like when implemented in a pilot project at a Fortune 500 company?)

Scott shared his principles of Agile Marketing management, and the key takeaways I gleaned from this meeting are that Agile Marketing is still fluid and interesting; that there are amazingly talented people in the field who are pushing it forward, and that there’s still a lot to figure out. Change is at Agile Marketing’s core – one of the tenets of the idea is that you should try (like in Agile Development) to determine whether your idea is good or bad about as fast as possible – which means the challenge of sharing Agile Marketing outside of your core team is a change management task.

Good change management requires an understanding of the people, the processes, and the tools involved. The people are paramount: they are the actors who actually have to change (and who don’t always want to do something different.) The processes can enable or actually hinder change in a change management process – and likewise with the tools. So a good portion of the discussion during our meeting hinged around the idea of lining up the people with new processes and tools that guided them towards the principles of Agile Marketing but didn’t necessarily hew to the orthodoxy of the exact terms.

In other words, successful Agile Marketing deployments aren’t really deployments – the successful individual, team, or project moves a project forward in an Agile way by spreading an ideavirus. If the idea spreads beyond the silo of the team/project/department, then it has the chance to transform the business processes of the organization and help that organization be more nimble and understanding to the change that’s already happening.

But that’s the rub – to spread the idea beyond a small team, you need buy-in (enough space to try the idea), transparency (an experiment where everyone understands the actors involved, the goals and intent, the mechanism for change, and the measurement for tallying results), and the goods: results. If you start with the end in mind in Agile Marketing, you need to deliver a form of results in the language of the organization. And once you get one experiment going, running a hundred others serially or in parallel will get much much easier.

(and thanks to Joann Jen and Steve Alter for being gracious hosts)

Agile, Customer Development, Innovation, Marketing Strategy, Product Thoughts

It’s not enough to build a beautiful site

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“It’s about people.” –Marcus Nelson

Marcus Nelson’s blog post today about the potential for creating a renaissance at familiar names like Flickr, Digg, and Yahoo challenged me to think about the internet services that I actually pay for (and don’t just use as a beta customer) and the critical differences between these “gotta-have-it” products and the rest of the Internet chaff that’s easy to try these days in an almost zero-friction way thanks to the power of social login (which reminds me, I’ve got to clean up my Facebook and Twitter authorization.)

Sorry Design Hackers, Design is Not Enough

Marcus’s axiom that “it’s all about people” is a powerful one because it’s not enough to build a beautiful site (or app) these days – you also have to build a habit that allows people to learn and practice a known process that brings them tangible benefits. Yes, you say, great design is necessary for great apps (I agree). I also think that it’s not sufficient to have a beautiful design where the principal message to new users that don’t get it is “you didn’t do it right.”

Great Apps Start with Unmet Needs – and Fill them

A perfect example of a service that’s both well designed, beautiful, and deadly accurate and functional is Sanebox. We all have the problem (or at least most of us do) of having too much email and not enough time to deal with it. And an even greater problem is the inability to know which emails are likely to deserve our attention. Enter Sanebox – it takes this unmet need and addresses it with an elegant solution – categorizing the mails you see into filters that allow you to scan and review your mail (and bacn) easily. Do I have other solutions for this problem? Yes. Do I pay for Sanebox? Yes.

A Great Need, Unmet

As Marcus points out when talking about some of the “original” internet apps like Flickr, Digg, and Yahoo, they have stagnated because their customers still have great, unmet needs, and have moved on to other services that offer adjacent substitutes (and oftentimes leapfrog innovations). I started using Instagram because it was an easy way to share photographs in a social way – and it offered a fun way to manipulate images that was easy and satisfying. I stayed with the service because it’s still a lightweight way to share photographs. I – like Marcus – still subscribe to Flickr Pro – and I’m wondering why I still do. If Instagram were to offer me an easy way to archive photos (perhaps through Dropbox) and gave me a way to upload non-square images, they would have me as a customer (until the next big thing comes along.)

People are Sometimes Stuck, but that Doesn’t mean you should stop innovating

People resist change (or I wouldn’t still be a Flickr Pro member, obviously) for lots of reasons. But that doesn’t mean that your product should stay the same. Keep building the features that people use (and get rid of the ones they stop using) and you’ll be farther along the path of building an innovative, interesting product that people compelled to pay for, even when new and shinier products come along.

Agile, Agile Marketing, Customer Development, Customer Strategy, Marketing Strategy

Agile Marketing in a Nutshell

Jim Ewel invited me to speak tonight at the Agile Marketing meetup in Bellevue, WA, and I was pleased to participate in and help facilitate a discussion around the concept of Agile Marketing.

Agile Marketing is dedicated to the idea of making marketing more like the principles embodied by the Agile software movement. It’s a concept that has gained steam in recent months and discussions like the one we had tonight will help us to refine and enhance our understanding the Agile Marketing concept and get better at putting tools and (light) process in the hands of practitioners who want to enable their projects to get more done faster (and better.)

Here are the slides I shared at the event – I’d love to hear your feedback and get your ideas on how to improve the working definition of Agile Marketing.

Agile, Customer Development, Marketing Strategy

Turkey Soda is the Future of Marketing

Turkey Soda. Ugh. But a unique search term

I sure hope that the future of marketing tastes better than Turkey & Gravy soda. But I got your attention – it was a cheap trick and I was trying to make a point.

What can you do in a Long Tail World to Stand Out?

Turkey Soda stands out because it’s an unexpected term – as a long tail search, it will always be unique because it’s just a little bit weird, and a concatenation of two terms that people search more often – Turkey and Soda. And indeed, the image above has been viewed more than any other piece of content I’ve ever produced, even though it’s just a low-quality shot from five years ago.

In an interruption-driven economy, you can gain attention by interrupting, but the half-life of that interruption is lowering over time to the point where trends on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook decay within hours, if not minutes. So be loud (and unusual.) It’s clear that outrageous things stand about “above the fold”, but what then?

Make it Viral (Yeah, Right!)

At that point if you’re really lucky, the content you’ve shared by interrupting people will become “viral” and spread all over the world. “Viral” might mean means gross / loud / unusual / weird / amazing / heart -rending – amplified emotion presented elegantly and in a wow package. (And easily shareable.)

This doesn’t happen very often. There are plenty of theories, and even a virality coefficient.

So for the vast majority of shares,  that don’t become interesting to a larger public, what should you do?

3 Lessons to Learn about Capitalizing on that Interruption

There are a few lessons that we can glean from the idea of Turkey Soda to gain attention.

  1. Once you’ve interrupted someone and gotten their attention, you need to share relevant and interesting information – or they will leave for something else shiny and new.
  2. It’s not enough to be just weird (or loud, or whatever other maximized attribute) – you also need to provide a great experience. In the case of Jones Soda, it was the ability to offer a limited-time offer that you could share with your friends (and gain your acceptance to try other weird flavors in the future.)
  3. If it’s “on-brand” or really resonates with the customer you’re trying to reach, you have the opportunity to build a long-term relationship.

It almost goes without saying that If you’re concise, write great copy, and have something great to sell, people will always keep coming back. So if your idea or product is not yet great, keep asking people until you find the one thing about it that’s great and sell to that attribute. This means both maximizing your benefits and listening a little bit to the “satisfiers”, or the people when asked say “yeah, it’s ok- I like it.” You’ll get much more bang for your buck in your marketing if the end result is people hating or loving your idea. (Hopefully the latter, but …)

Good luck sharing relevant information that is truly timely and on-brand. (And ask your customer whether it’s working.)

Agile, Marketing Strategy, Productivity

Perfect is the enemy of done

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This is the 12th in a series of posts on Agile Marketing – the working definition of which is to “Create, communicate and deliver unique value to an always-changing consumer (or business) in an always-changing market with an always-changing product.”

“When in doubt, punt rather than wait”

Change is a fact of life, and especially in Agile marketing. Getting used to that change and the pace of change allows you to practice continuous improvement (or continuous pivoting) to match product and market needs.

Perfect is the enemy of done – one of the tenets of the Cult of Done is a great way to think about your role as an Agile marketer within a big or a small company. You can always find more work, and you will be measured on both how well you get things done, and by how many things you can do. So if you try to get more things done faster, you’ll at the very least have more chances to do those things well?

So, how can I put this into practice?

What are some of the ways that you can get more done and declare things done rather than perfect? This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a grab-bag of things you can do today to get started.

Here are a few ideas borrowed from many disciplines:

  • get much better at guarding your time – You can “time-box” your work by declaring a unit of time that you’ll devote to the task and try to get as much out of it as possible. Then, at the end of the time period, be done. If it’s a collaborative project, make sure that you share with your co-workers a few sentences (like 3) on what you did, where you need help, and what you think is next (and by when do you need their work completed.) Jason Womack’s blog and book Your Best Just Got Better is only one of a number of resources that can help you manage your time (especially if you remember that you only get 96 blocks of 15 minutes of time in a day, and you ought to be using 28-32 of those for sleep.)
  • make all of your meetings go away or get shorter – whenever anyone asks you for a meeting, set the minimum time possible for the meeting (try 20-30 minutes, and see how you do.) It can help to identify pre-work so that your meeting time can be maximized
  • get smarter at things you do a lot – get better (maniacally so) at mass customizing the things that you do that take a lot of time if done otherwise. Learn how to write a 3 sentence email; batch your email; take better notes using Evernote; and be present so that the time you spend on your tasks is worthwhile. If at all possible, don’t multitask (yes, it feels near-impossible some days). If you must do a lot of small tasks, try to lump them together into a batch
  • take some time offthis is essential – and whether time off to you means spending time with your kids or significant other, taking a walk in the middle of the day, working out, or whatever counts for you – make sure you do some of that every day and every week. It’s far too easy to burn out and time is short – so enjoy it more.
  • do good for other people – talk to people inside your discipline and outside, and make some time every day to help someone (just because.) Whether you call it “Customer Wow” or just doing a favor for a friend in need, it’s good for your brain, will open you to new ideas, and will help you make more connections – which will help you get more done faster.

How do you know when you’re done?

It may seem like a paradox, but you’re both immediately done and … never done. So get started today and make sure the things you are doing get done faster. Write them down and take some time every so often to reflect on what you did. And keep pushing.

Agile, Innovation, Marketing Strategy, Productivity

“Spot it, got it!” – Begin with the answer in mind

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This is the 11th in a series of posts on Agile Marketing – the working definition of which is to “Create, communicate and deliver unique value to an always-changing consumer (or business) in an always-changing market with an always-changing product.” (See the the original post here.) One of the main tenets of the Agile philosophy is the idea of knocking down barriers that exist around the project – and that the knocking down of barriers alone can often be the difference between an unsuccessful project and a successful one. You can get better at identfying and removing barriers by adopting a mindset affectionately nicknamed “spot it, got it.”

“Spot it, got it” – begin with the Answer in Mind

Quick – what’s the difference between a successful team and one that flounders when faced with a challenge? It’s likely that the successful team contains people with a “spot it, got it” mentality who are willing to identify the tasks that need to get done, determine what needs to be done to solve them, and then just knocks those tasks out. Notice that I didn’t say “the best team” but “a successful team.” It’s hard to know what the best team is going to be before they become the best team, but a successful team has a good shot at being “the best team”

What does it mean to “spot it, got it”? Let’s start by thinking about what it doesn’t mean. “Spot it, got it” doesn’t mean pointing out all of the problems that the team has and never will have time to solve. It also doesn’t mean dumping the laundry list on your boss’s doorstep without a solution. And “spot it, got it” doesn’t mean pointing out a problem and then stepping away.

“Spot it, got it” means making yourself a valuable member of the successful team by identifying an issue, clarifying what it means and how important it is to solve, and then proposing a solution for the issue. If nobody responds, then Just Do It and let people know what you did and why. You might get yelled at but – as my ex-military friends often say – it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. Identify some barrier, explain to the team why you’re knocking them down, and then go and do it and you’ve created a blueprint for everyone on the team to be the CEO of their own job.

“Spot it, got it” also means clearing the decks for the rest of your team by clearly communicating ownership and resolution of an issue. If you reassure your teammate that you are going to solve her problem, it’s also your responsibility to go do it and to tell her at the appointed time that you are ready to deliver what you promised. And there’s an important corollary here: sometimes you can’t just do it. So when you hit roadblocks you’ll do much better if you inform your co-workers and your boss that you need help. The daily scrum (if you run one of these) is a great place to say what you’re doing, what you’ve done, and where you need help. And a phone call or IM to your team can also uncover the help you need.

What’s the takeaway for the “Spot it, got it” idea? You can make life better for your team by suggesting a solution, not just pointing out a problem. Your guess is as good as anyone’e on the team, and provides a “straw answer” for everyone else to test. So get cracking – find the things that bug you about your workflow and the work you’re doing, propose and broadcast a solution, JFDI, and then tell people you did it. You’ll be happy you did.