Agile Marketing Momentum: A Dispatch from Sprint One

Five years ago a group of forward thinking marketers gathered to talk about the growing movement of using Agile principles inside marketing departments. At the end of they day they drafted the Agile Marketing Manifesto, whose online home has since been visited by over 50,000 people.

In May 2017 a similar group reconvened. They were hoping to use their collective wisdom and experience to be part of the Agile momentum and identify tactics for driving further adoption of Agile marketing. It was a fast and furious day packed with brilliant discussion and useful insight, which I want to chronicle as best I can as an attendee and co-organizer. As Sprint One came to a close, we had identified several possible routes forward. The one we choose will depend in part on what direction we get from the community, so drop me a comment or email if you want to add your voice to this discussion.

Introductory Remarks

The day began with some introductory ideas presented by several of the organizers. Jim Ewel kicked us off, reminding us what it means for concepts or ideas to cross the chasm, pointing out that Innovators and Early Adopters are fine with trying something out when it’s still incomplete. On the other hand, the Early Majority, the folks who exist “across the chasm,” need more information before they jump on board. In the case of Agile marketing, the Early Majority will want to see a full ecosystem of support -- software, education, consultants, etc. -- to support a transition before they make the leap. The question for the group at Sprint One, then, was how to facilitate the development of that ecosystem and boost the Agile momentum. I contributed a quick look at the current state of Agile marketing, including some statistical evidence for adoption levels. Based on three fairly large surveys conducted in the past 18 months, I think we have a 20-30% level of adoption right now.

Frank Days and Roland Smart closed out the opening session by discussing some of the barriers to adoption that they’ve heard repeated by many of the guests on their Marketing Agility Podcast. While many of their guests report that Agile marketing comes in through an innovative manager, those organizations often abandon Agile practices when that manager leaves. Executive mandates for a transformation seem to succeed more often, but the most successful organizations are those that work from both the bottom-up, grassroots level and top-down from executives:success of agile marketing adoption

Brainstorming and Ideation

Once we were all on the same page, it was time to get to work. We split the room up into four large groups, each of which was tasked with the broad objective of coming up with ideas for increasing adoption of Agile marketing. My group decided to map our ideas to a sort of “buyer’s journey,” breaking possible initiatives into the categories of Awareness, Consideration, Conversion/Adopting, Success, and Advocacy:
my team's agile marketing brainstorm results
This approach turned out to be popular among other groups as well; several created funnels to help organize their ideas. After the small group brainstorms, we presented the outcomes to the larger group for their comment and consideration. There was a considerable amount of overlap of ideas between groups, which made later consensus-building activities easier.

Arriving at Consensus

During lunch we worked together to group all of the sticky notes from each group into similar categories. It was a fascinating exercise in pattern identification and affinity. Here’s a photo of one of the final stages:

wall of agile marketing ideas

While we were sorting and rearranging the stickies, everyone voted on their five favorite ideas. Once the votes were tallied, there were ten general concepts that emerged as the most popular:

  1. Create an event or conference, most likely run by a non-profit or other “entity.”
  2. Identify key personas that would make up the target audience for spreading the word about Agile marketing. (A subset of this idea that you see in the picture below was to write a job description for an Agile marketer.)
  3. Clarify what Agile marketing is and is not, including creating a common lexicon.
    Compile more detailed case studies about Agile marketing adoption.
  4. Figure out ways to deal with organizational culture and its impact on Agile’s chances of success.
  5. Develop a maturity model or checklist to see how Agile a team is.
    Produce certifications and/or standardized trainings for Agile marketers and marketing leaders.
  6. Start a community or forum where we can collect ideas in a single place.
  7. Construct a pitch deck for selling Agile marketing to your boss or teammates.
  8. Gather a list of influencers that could be retained to help persuade organizations and/or act as internal advocates and champions.

After the panels, we broke into groups of two or three to hash out actual next steps that the community could take to turn these ideas into reality. More on that shortly.


Panel Discussions: Methodologies and Scaling

Since we had such an amazing collection of people under one roof, we wanted to spend a little bit of time getting insight into their experiences by running two panel discussions.

The Spectrum of Agile Marketing Methodologies

The first panel was about which methodologies work best for Agile marketing teams, and we had practitioners from the whole spectrum. Alice Merlino, a Senior Program Manager from Atlassian shared her team’s Scrum practices, Anthony Coppedge talked about his use of Scrumban with several marketing teams, and Monica Georgieff from Kanbanize espoused the virtues of Kanban and how they help her team. All the participants were civil and courteous, embracing the potential of other methodologies even as they told us how and why they had come to use their own chosen approach.

For me, the moral of this panel was clear: marketers need a wide array of options to make Agile work for them. Some will follow Scrum to the letter, others could never succeed with that approach.
It may make things complicated, but any Agile marketing guidelines that we issue in the future have to take this need for flexibility into account.

Agile Marketing in the Enterprise

Our final panel, moderated by long time Agile marketing evangelist Jim Ewel, featured insight from Mozilla’s Chad Weiner, AgileSparks’ Yuval Yeret, Oracle’s Roland Smart, and Infer’s Sean Zinsmeister. These guys have all been through the uniquely difficult challenge of working on Agile marketing with large teams and/or inside an enterprise-level organization.

One of the most prevalent themes was the respective benefits and difficulties of functional, siloed marketing teams compared with truly cross-functional teams. While the latter is nearly always the most effective, few organizations have the benefit of working this way. There are multiple lengthy articles to be written about Agile marketing at scale, but let’s just say if you can start breaking down your silos now, you should.

The Final Vote

By the end of the day, it was time to get down to brass tacks (where does that saying come from anyway? Free book to anyone who comments with the answer). We had ten great ideas, but even with the collective brainpower of 35 Agile marketing enthusiasts, there was no way we were going to go out and do them all.
So we returned to our green dots and voted again. Here are the results:

As you can see, the community idea barely edged out influencers/champions/advocates, what Agile marketing is/is not, and case studies. Of course, case studies and a definition of Agile marketing could easily fall within a community website, so that seems like our most valuable future project.

Of course, “make a website” is one of those fun projects that’s jam packed with unseen complexity, so it’s likely to take us a while to navigate the intricacies of what’s really next. But please stay tuned! No doubt we’ll have more exciting news soon.

Join the Agile Momentum

If you want to be part of the Agile momentum and be involved with future efforts to propel Agile marketing to its next level of adoption, please let me know! You can email me at andrea [at] agilesherpas [dot] com or tweet me @andreafryrear. Alternatively, if you have a brilliant idea that didn’t come out at Sprint One, please feel free to share it with me directly or in the comments. Agile on, my friends! Let’s do this.


Click to get the 7th Annual State of Agile Marketing Report delivered to your inbox