Why Agile Marketing Is Relevant For European Businesses
Agile Marketing has started to gain real traction and momentum as a new philosophy and approach to marketing. As I highlighted in my previous post, this is being driven by the need to more rapidly adapt to rising audience expectations and demands; the explosion of new channels to reach and engage with them; and more sophisticated marketing technology creating greater complexity. According to the 2018 State of Agile Marketing report from AgileSherpas / Kapost, 37% of marketers in the US say they're using some form of Agile, with 61% of traditional marketers planning to start implementing Agile practices within the next twelve months. However, Agile Marketing hasn’t really made it “across the pond” to Europe. Here, you have to say that there’s very little buzz about it and it hasn’t been widely adopted, if at all. I have to question why this is? Yes, Europe is very different to the US, but there are clear advantages to Agile Marketing that address some major considerations when it comes to marketing in Europe:
1. Keeping Up With US Counterparts > Faster-To-Market
For a start, Europe can’t let the other parts of the globe get ahead. Not only in terms of leading with new, cutting-edge marketing thinking and practices, but crucially in the pace at which they’re able to deliver content and campaigns to their audiences. If we’re seeing companies in the US adopt Agile Marketing and thereby accelerate their pace of innovation and campaign delivery, Europe needs to get “up-to-speed” in this regards as well, otherwise brands risk increasingly becoming disconnected from their audiences whose expectations have been raised.
Additionally, a significant number of businesses in Europe are subsidiaries of US-based organisations. This means that in a lot of cases they’re being directed, or at least taking the lead from, their North American head offices. If those central marketing teams are starting to adopt and use Agile Marketing - as we’re seeing is the case from the stats above - then the local European teams of these companies need to be in lock-step with this way-of-working: a) so they can accommodate this new operating model as they interface with their head office teams, and b) so that there isn’t a lag in terms of time-to-market and pace of refresh between centralised global activities and those executed locally.
Typically, Agile Marketing teams see a 600% increase in speed-to-market - McKinsey
93% of Agile CMOs said adopting Agile helped them to improve speed-to-market (ideas, products, or campaigns) - CMG Partners
2. Other Teams Are Using or Transitioning to Agile > Greater Cross-Functional Working
Within organisations, agile is taking over in general. Long since has it moved beyond development and engineering teams to reach the wider commercial parts of the business. We’re seeing agile practices become more and more common as the way that businesses and teams run their projects and ongoing operations; including for businesses across Europe.
European marketing teams though have, to this point, held on to their traditional cycles of planning. We're beholden to the 'Annual Marketing Plan', or at best Quarterly. These are commonly rigid constructs that dictate the actions over that period, with little or no ability to see what results are being delivered, and thereby course correct as necessary.
As we move forward, this approach will jar with other teams who are adopting agile methods and moving at a faster pace, with more fluidity in their actions. Marketing needs to ensure that it is aligned to the business as a whole, and foster tighter collaboration with other departments if it's to be seen as a value and growth driver.
54% of companies confirm that Agile was critical to help foster collaboration between departments that do not actually work together - TechBeacon
3. Fragmented Budgets > Do More With Less
We often see in Europe that marketing budgets are generally smaller than in other regions. In part, this is again because we’re dealing with subsidiaries rather than head offices which control centralised budgets (i.e. research, brand, infrastructure, etc). But also, Europe is fragmented into many separate geographic entities, rather than being seen and treated as one. Unlike the states of the US, European countries have significantly more differences in language, culture, heritage, economies, political systems, legislature, and so on, that lead toward separate strategies for marketing at a local level.
Smaller budgets consequently mean that as marketers we have to do more with less. Every Pound or Euro has to matter, and the ROI proven.
Agile Marketing increases efficiencies by using data and metrics to steer activities over short steps or ‘sprints’. By breaking longer term goals down into shorter segments and then running tests and experiments to understand progress, marketers are able to maximise budgets by constantly modifying tactics to the most effective and efficient routes.
32% of Agile marketers say that they have more effective prioritisation of work and 52% better visibility into project status - AgileSherpas
Agile projects are 28% more successful than traditional projects - PwC
4. Smaller Teams > Increase Productivity
Similarly, European teams are commonly smaller than their US counterparts. As there are more separate territories to be managed, headcount tends to be spread. Also, local teams are primarily focussed on revenue generation, hence teams are aligned to roles and functions that directly drive sales and support customer relationships.
Rapid learning through iteration and testing maximises the productivity of Agile Marketing teams with better, quicker decision-making. Adjusting course on an ongoing basis means that the team focuses its efforts on activities that drive results. Rather than waiting weeks or months to see the fruition of traditional marketing plans, Agile teams are able to see what’s working and what’s not quickly, and then either double down or try new solutions and ideas where necessary.
Agile Marketing teams have seen a 300% increase in the number of marketing tasks completed - Atlassian
87% of Agile CMOs have found their teams to be more productive following the transition to Agile Marketing - CMG Partners
5. Need to Coordinate Across Territories > Better Collaboration
Increasingly, European marketing teams are being required to coordinate and collaborate across territories - within Europe, and with other parts of the world. Marketplaces are becoming more and more globalised as borders are eliminated in the virtual space. Audiences are constantly exposed to brand messages and conversations that cross geographic boundaries, meaning that it’s becoming fundamental to delivering a unified message that teams coordinate internationally. This is easier said than done, especially given the need to also deliver localised experiences that are attuned to local audiences (see point 6 below).
Agile Marketing fosters deep and continuous collaboration between teams. It’s a fallacy, that agile practices only work when teams work in close physical proximity. With modern communication technologies, agile teams are able to work together no matter where they’re based. Agile Marketing is built around bringing teams together from different parts of the function or business to work at things from diverse angles, and then hold each other accountable to ensure things are done. This can work just as well with cross-territory teams who come together to collaboratively solve problems or create new campaigns and initiatives.
62% agree that Agile creates greater collaboration which is a benefit to their firm - Intelliware
6. Need to Deliver a Localised Customer Experience > More Responsive to Customer Needs and Demands
Europe is defined by its differences. Each country has its own nuances, sensibilities and needs which have to be understood and tailored for in our marketing activation and engagement with customers. Delivering localised experiences under the umbrella of an overall global brand architecture is the how you maximise resonance and relevance. However, all too often communications and content are simply distributed without adequate consideration for localisation. This is either because of overly restrictive guidance from the ‘mothership’ or, more likely, a lack of time, resources or appreciation to do the job properly.
The customer is always put at the centre of Agile Marketing; it's fundamentally about optimising marketing activities based on quick and repeated feedback from actual customers. It looks to understand them intimately, and then build solutions - creative, campaigns and activities - that are optimised to meet their needs and wants on an ongoing basis. In this respect, Agile Marketing facilitates local marketing teams to tailor their outputs in order to meet local audience requirements.
26% of senior Agile marketers say they now have a more flexible approach to changing customer needs - Aprimo / Forbes
7. Uncertain and Changing Environment > Able to Change Gears Quicker
The elephant in the room is the level of change and uncertainty that is only increasing in European markets. I’d argue considerably more so than in the US. Brexit and GDPR are only the tips of the iceberg when it comes to the changing political, economic and legislative environments within Europe that we're having to deal with. A climate of constant flux makes it extremely challenging for European marketers to understand where their markets are going to be in the months to come, and hence forward planning to any meaningful degree is based on pure speculation.
Agile Marketing accommodates these moving sands by enabling teams to switch gears more quickly and more effectively. Having an unrelenting view on how customers are thinking, behaving and reacting means that Agile Marketing teams always have that as a guiding reference point. This, combined with short, iterative cycles of planning, execution and testing, enables Agile teams to adjust course quickly and move to address the headwinds faced by prevailing external factors. It's called 'Agile' for a reason.
In all, Agile Marketing affords many advantages to European marketers operating at both pan-Regional and local levels to be able to mitigate some of the challenges faced, as well as maximise the opportunities presented.