Why Now Is The Time To Adopt Agile Marketing

What do IBM, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Santander, Hilton, HubSpot, Travelocity, Salesforce, Kraft, Dell, Adobe, Oracle, Expedia, Pepsi, Fidelity Investments, Kissmetrics, Vistaprint, Xerox, Avaya, Symantec, and Sainsbury’s (to name a few) all have in common? Answer: they’re all moving, or at least trialing, using Agile Marketing practices to plan, execute and optimise their marketing activities (1). In fact, according to the 2018 State of Agile Marketing report from AgileSherpas / Kapost, 37% of marketers report using some form of Agile to manage their work, with nearly two-thirds (61%) of traditional marketers planning to start an Agile implementation within the next twelve months. That said, the last couple of years have been something of a false dawn for the Agile Marketing movement. We’ve seen Agile take-off in other areas of the business and yet, despite a lot of talk, it hasn’t really caught fire in Marketing, at least compared to other disciplines such as Inbound Marketing or Content Marketing. So what’s changing and why is now the time for businesses to adopt Agile Marketing?

1. Rising Audience Expectations

Salesforce’s 2017 State of Marketing report highlighted that 68% of marketing leaders say their company is increasingly competing on the basis of customer experience. Yet the audience expectations upon which those experiences are based are changing dramatically...and rising. The World Economic Forum’s Digital Transformation Initiative highlighted: “Customers across B2C and B2B worlds are developing an insatiable demand for speed, convenience, contextualisation, and non-stop connectivity.” Frankly, companies and brands are struggling to keep up.

It’s a familiar story - look at the recent seismic shift in the digital media landscape where the likes of Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Hulu, and Spotify have transformed the way we consume entertainment, whilst companies including Blockbuster, HMV, and Tower Records weren’t able to see and react to changing audience demands and have consequently been wiped from existence. Companies that can’t adapt to the breakneck pace of changing audience expectations will be quickly left behind, or more likely die. Today, your audience is always just a click away from your competitors (including the ones you aren’t aware of yet!).

Marketing must keep up. We need to gather data fast, learn fast, and act fast if our brands are to stay relevant. The CMO Council reported that 52% of consumers say the most important attribute of a brand experience is fast response times to issues, needs, requests, and suggestions. We therefore simply can’t afford to spend weeks to create new content or campaigns, or months updating our websites. The old ways of planning and executing marketing no longer work. We need a more responsive approach. We need to be more agile.

An Agile Marketing approach allows us to re-adjust, recalculate, and refocus the direction of our marketing on an ongoing basis, at pace. A study by McKinsey concluded that, typically, Agile Marketing teams see a 600% increase in speed-to-market. The ability to plan and act fast in response to emerging audience demands was certainly the experience of Terradata’s CMO Lisa Arthur as her team developed a new brand, website, and go-to-market strategy: “There were 326 moving pieces and parts for that entire launch to be done in six weeks, and we did it! We really focused on being agile in responding to what customers want and need with campaigns, with relevant offers, and with sales programs to take advantage.” (2)

Customer behaviour no longer fits into a predetermined formula that enables you to plan in annual cycles (or quarterly, or half-yearly). Traditional plans may be extensively built and neatly executed, but the results don’t become clear for some time; at which point it’s too late to course correct. Often data that we thought was right six months ago ends up not being right today. Agile Marketing absorbs changes from the rapidly evolving marketplace and redirects actions and activities accordingly to produce marketing that’s relevant to the particular needs and interests of the audience in the here and now.

2. Exploding Channel Complexity

Exploding Channel Complexity

In this dynamic market environment, gaining a single view of the customer is something that is increasingly essential, but also increasingly difficult. This is in no small part due to the continuous emergence of new marketing and communication channels. On average, marketing leaders today say that 34% of their budget is spent on channels they didn’t even know existed five years ago, and this growth isn't likely to slow down anytime soon as they expect it to reach 40% by 2019 (3).

This exploding channel complexity creates a host of challenges for marketers. Buyers are now spread across several channels and devices, making it difficult to deliver a consistent brand experience, as well as optimise media impact and efficiency. A study by Forrester Research showed, on average, only 36% of companies are confident in their ability to measure ROI of a given marketing channel. With new channels constantly being added to the mix, and growing pressure from customers looking for individualised 1:1 experiences across the many channels that they use, it’s no easy task for marketing teams to reach their customers effectively and build holistic brand experiences. Concerningly, marketing teams admit that 51% of their campaign messages are identical from from one channel to the next (4).

With this rate of change and explosion of new channels, businesses need to adopt an Agile Marketing approach to enable faster testing, measurement, and optimisation of their channel mixes. As audience behaviours change, marketers need to rapidly flex and adapt their tactics quickly enough to address the myriad of new connection points that are arising. To be successful, marketing teams must measure, test, and iterate to know how different audience segments move through their multi-channel experiences, and how each channel, platform, and ad uniquely contributes to their overall objectives. The ability to test and iterate therefore reduces the need for heavy investment in a single idea or campaign where all your eggs are in a single basket.

3. Ever More Sophisticated Marketing Technology Creates Added Complexity and Workload

Just as our audiences and the channels to reach them are becoming increasingly dynamic and complex, so are the marketing technologies we have available to us become more sophisticated.

Looking at the 2017 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic produced by chiefmartec.com, the total number of solutions available to marketers grew by a whopping 39% year-on-year in 2017 to some 5,381 solutions. This is even more astounding when you look at the growth over the last seven years: 

Martc Landscape 2012 to 2017

Alongside this growth in options, what’s key to note is that the barriers to entry into this space are very low, with a significant proportion, some 2,000+ solutions, being offered by private companies that appear to be fully bootstrapped. This is creating a very long-tail of options for marketers to choose from.

The dramatic expansion in the scope of marketing in recent times has made it impossible for any one martech vendor to deliver everything that every marketer needs. Almost all the major providers (Adobe, HubSpot, IBM, Marketo, Oracle, Salesforce, etc.) have consequently shifted their strategies to embrace the ecosystem by making it easier for marketers to plug in a variety of more specialised and vertical solutions, creating a range of centralised platforms. But alternative approaches to platformising martech have also emerged where solutions let companies create distributed platforms which dynamically pipe data between marketing applications and their own independent marketing data lakes. In-between these two extremes, centralised platforms and distributed platforms, you have variants that offer a blend of both: data management platforms (DMPs), customer data platforms (CDPs), and real-time interaction management (RTIM) solutions.

The irony here is that all this technology that we’re bringing into marketing is intended to make it easier and more efficient to understand and then target audiences with relevant content and messaging. Yet what we’re seeing is an exponential explosion of complexity. For marketers, how do you pick the right technologies to adopt because there are simply so many options? How do you decide what you’re going to try and make work for you? And then across all these systems, how do you measure what’s important? All this technology brings a deluge of data that means it’s more and more difficult to see what actually makes a difference and moves the needle.

In this new world, marketing organisations today need to be able to manage through this complexity and the added workloads created by more data and capabilities. Again, Agile Marketing provides us with the answer:

  • 93% of Agile CMOs say that they can switch gears more quickly and more effectively (CMG Partners)
  • 41% of Agile Marketers believe that roadblocks and problems are identified sooner (AgileSherpas)
  • Agile Marketing teams have seen a 300% increase in the number of marketing tasks completed (Atlassian)

In all, with the radical changes that we’re witnessing in rising audience expectations, the explosion of channel complexity, and ever more sophisticated marketing technology, modern marketers need a way-of-working more attuned to the challenges...and opportunities...that these trends present. Companies who’ve adopted Agile Marketing as a process have demonstrated that it allows them to rapidly adapt to changing conditions and environments, dramatically increases speed-to-market, and significantly enhances team productivity and effectiveness. As a consequence, Agile Marketing teams also have higher morale and greater satisfaction for the work that they do (5).

Isn’t it time you made the move to Agile Marketing before your customers and competitors leave you behind?