What does it really mean to be ‘Agile’ when it comes to digital marketing?

15th August 2017

By James Bradbury

Right, first things first – Agile has become a massive buzzword in digital over the last two to three years and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. I actually think by this point you’d be hard-pressed to find an agency that doesn’t practice the Agile Methodology, or at least claim to work in an Agile fashion.

“93% of Agile CMOs said they’re now able to switch gears more quickly and more effectively”

(Source)

So what is the Agile Methodology? Agile was originally created for programming and software development – it let programmers see the long-term objective, and work on different elements without being held up by anything that couldn’t currently be worked on. So how does that translate to digital marketing?

Turn back the clocks a bit. Marketing campaigns were once big, lumbering behemoths that ran for six to 12 months. They were powerful, led by lots of planning and insight, and were a genuinely great way of working when you had a long-term goal to work towards and a long time-frame to do it in. For all that’s great about them, though, they have some major drawbacks. Because of the aforementioned big, lumbering Behemoth nature, they were pretty slow to turn around and difficult to adapt in case of changes.

And that’s the future of marketing. Everything needs to turn on a six-pence, like a nimble little fox, or perhaps an otter. Any nimble animal you can think of really (metaphor over). With customer data and listening tools at our fingertips, we don’t need to wait six months to know if a campaign is working; we can recognise straight away what’s going well, and we need to do more of, and what’s going badly and needs to be put out to pasture.

Mobile technology sits at the heart of a lot of this. Communication is both constant and instantaneous now, so marketing campaigns need to reflect this. The idea of ‘campaigns’ is also rapidly becoming redundant in the digital sphere. To borrow a phrase from Adele Sweetwood, it is no longer about the campaign but about the customer experience. Most of our work is long-term, with long-term goals and objectives, but how we get there is less important than helping the customer get there (so, to horribly distort another great metaphor, it’s actually about the destination, not the journey).

So how does Agile fit into all of this? The method is much less important than the intention. We use elements of Agile to create a framework that allows us to react quickly, adding in new services in place of others to suit the overall needs and objectives of our clients. We use scrums, not in the traditional sense of everyone standing up and saying what they’re doing every day (because, let’s be honest, in an agency this would just descend into pure chaos), but rather to review what our clients are doing and what our clients need. We use sprint planning, to give us shortened timeframes of planned work, so we’re still doing all the thinking, we’re just allowing ourselves more room to manoeuvre.

This is where I think agile has actually become one of our (and the industry’s, but mainly ours) greatest strengths. Gone are the days when a new opportunity must therefore equal a new stream of revenue – now it’s all about making sure we hit the right results for clients by adapting our services accordingly. This doesn’t mean abandoning the data and insight; but, rather than large scale one-off planning, planning is now constantly fed in to new sprints. We’re quicker to market, the work is more relevant and prioritised, and we resolve problems faster (if not in advance).

Interested in a chat about working with an ‘agile’ agency? Or simply hearing more long-winded metaphors? Give us a call on 01273 021 984 or drop us an email at info@cobbdigital.com.

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