5 Keys to Agile Marketing Success (According to 500+ Marketers)

 

Every year for the past five years, we’ve polled a wide range of marketers to learn more about how they use Agile in their organizations. By now, the annual State of Agile Marketing Report has become an industry mainstay, reflecting shifts in how marketers work, the tools they use, and what gets the job done.

This year’s report brought a veritable smorgasbord of insights spanning everything from the most successful Agile marketing tools to what barriers exist towards making a transition to Agile in the first place.

These are hard-earned lessons from hundreds of marketers, and a powerful source of information for anyone interested in Agile marketing.

While we highly recommend you check out the full report, below we’ve broken down five key takeaways on what brings Agile marketing success for busy marketers everywhere.

1. Have a fully Agile marketing department

While we do recommend piloting Agile with a single team or department, ultimately marketers find that working within a marketing department that’s 100% Agile makes all the difference. 

Of those who worked in a 100% Agile department, 45% reported that they had successfully implemented Agile.

By contrast, marketers working in a partially Agile department only felt they had successfully implemented it 16% of the time. That means that taking the entire department Agile roughly triples your chances of Agile success!

 

But beyond that general success metric, fully Agile marketing departments tended to experience many other benefits. They were more likely than not fully Agile departments to:

  • Connect sprint goals to larger strategies or objectives;
  • Feel they can handle fast-paced digital marketing work;
  • Feel it’s clear how their work contributes to the organization’s long-term success;
  • Express confidence that marketing can take advantage of emerging opportunities;
  • Feel satisfied with how their department manages its work;
  • And feel confident they will be able to collaborate with marketing teams regardless of whether they are working remotely, in-person, or a combination.

The 100% Agile teams reported doing better in every single category we asked about by wide margins. This data makes it clear that fully Agile marketing departments simply feel more prepared for whatever comes their way as well as happier with their work overall.

2. Use an Agile project management tool

We asked a lot of questions regarding what tools and techniques marketers use as well as how many found them useful. One major takeaway: Agile project management tools matter.

Just under half of all Agile marketers we polled actually used an Agile project management tool, but of those who did a full 80% found it valuable!

That gap tells us there are a lot of Agile marketers out there who are not getting the most out of their work because they’re failing to use the right tools.

Interestingly, we also found that when Agile is adopted by a marketing department the most common change to accompany it is project management tool standardization. Still, this was only the case 39% of the time. 

As we’ll discuss later, there are a lot of benefits to bringing Agile to other departments within an organization and it seems that finding a standard Agile project management tool for everyone to use can make a big difference.

For example, we recently interviewed a recent convert to Agile email marketing who found that standardizing tools and how everyone in marketing used them made an enormous difference. So whether you’re considering trying Agile or are already using it, be sure to explore your options for Agile project management tools.

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3. Take Agile certification courses

The next major area where we saw a substantial gap between the Agile approaches being used and how much value they provided was in Agile certification courses.

Only 31% of Agile marketers used such courses, but 77% of those who did found them useful.

This was hardly surprising for us, as we’ve seen firsthand just how impactful these courses can be when organizations are implementing Agile for the first time. Proper training helps marketers avoid getting bogged down in “fake Agile,” wondering why they’re not getting the benefits they’d hoped for.

A connected finding was that by far the greatest barrier to implementing Agile was a lack of training or knowledge about Agile approaches, with 58% of marketers listing it as a barrier they experienced. 

The conclusion? Quality training matters.

Not all approaches to Agile are equally effective. In particular, as we’ll discuss more below, adapting Agile to how your marketing department works is strongly correlated with success. A solid foundation in Agile processes is a huge leg up in determining how to adapt Agile to your unique needs.

4. Help expand the use of Agile within their organizations

We mentioned before that 100% of Agile marketing departments felt much better about their work compared to departments that were only partly Agile.

Well, that same finding applies at the organizational level as well.

This year’s survey found that a full 74% of Agile marketers felt it would be easier to work with other departments if they followed an Agile methodology.

Of course, expanding the use of Agile outside of marketing doesn’t just benefit us, marketers. In fact, doing this enables organizations to unlock the power of business agility, expanding the focus on delivering value, iterating on workflows, using rapid planning cycles, and visualizing work to the entire organization.

All of this reinforces the fact that despite all the advantages of business agility, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to transition an entire large organization all at the same time.

Agile is about ditching huge all-or-nothing projects that tend to bog organizations down and create frustrations and inefficiencies all over the place. So making the transition to Agile should follow those same principles.

5. Adapt Agile to how they work

When we asked Agile marketers which frameworks they used, there was an overwhelming winner: hybrids. 61% of the respondents said they used some form of hybrid approach, while the most successful alternative was Scrum at just 17%.

In a quest to make best use of frameworks like Kanban and Scrum that originate in manufacturing and software, respectively, marketers are mixing and matching Agile practices that make sense for their process challenges.

When asked what led them to a hybrid approach, the most common reasons were simple: they tried traditional and ended up adapting it based on what worked and what didn’t or they felt their marketing needs weren’t a fit from the beginning.

Both reasons boil down to the same lesson: while traditional approaches like Scrum or Kanban work great for some teams, most of the time it pays to adapt an approach to your unique needs.

Frankly, all of this fits neatly within the Agile way of thinking: experiment, be flexible, find what works and ditch what doesn’t.

Of course this can go off the rails and result in the kind of ineffective “fake Agile” we mentioned earlier, which is why proper training continues to be important, especially with the expectation that we will need to tailor our approach to Agile.

Your Agile marketing next steps

If you haven’t tried Agile within your organization yet, start with certification courses before trying an Agile pilot.

Then once that is successful, look at getting your marketing department fully Agile.

Then you can consider trying to advocate for business agility within the entire organization.

As you go, consider whether and how you can adapt Agile to your unique needs and put some effort into finding a good Agile project management tool.

If you’re already using Agile, this year’s data shows the value of standardizing project management tools and expanding Agile within your organization. Or, if you’re struggling with Agile, a certification course might be a helpful next step.

Either way, we’re excited to see the benefits of Agile working expanding both within marketing and within wider organizations around the world.

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