Staying ahead of challenges in agile marketing with Andrea Fryrear

How marketing teams are adopting agile to work better and smarter together

Kelly Drozd By Kelly Drozd
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Marketing teams are moving faster than ever, and yet, many teams struggle to move beyond traditional ways of working. This directly impacts how quickly teams can respond to changes in the market or customer demands.

Enter agile marketing. The original Agile Manifesto introduced a new way of developing software, meant to help teams deliver value to their customers faster. Now, it’s changing how marketing teams approach the end-to-end audience experience.

Andrea Fryrear, co-founder and president of AgileSherpas, shares her insights to help unlock marketing agility with the Atlassian team. Read on for key takeaways, and catch the on-demand interview for the full conversation!

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#1: To stay ahead, agile marketing incorporates data and customer feedback

Agile marketers create a system that empowers their team to deliver value frequently to different audiences, customers, prospects, and internal stakeholders. Borrowing from the values and principles of agile software development, rather than launching a "big-bang" campaign, marketers focus on breaking down projects into smaller experiments that shorten their feedback loop, allowing for more frequent iterations.

The ability to learn quickly using data and customer feedback enables agile marketers to invest more into strategies that work, instead of finding out that a campaign or tactic isn't resonating with audiences or solving customer problems after investing months of time and thousands of dollars. Marketing has been the leading edge of business agility because of the shift to digital. We're no longer working on print ads and billboards, which require long lead times for design, printing, and installation. In this digital world, marketers must run at a pace similar to software development teams so they can not only keep up, but stay ahead.

#2: Developing an agile mindset takes practice

Past experiences shape mindsets - from the companies where we worked to the people we worked with. Building an agile mindset requires making conscious choices and asking yourself questions like:

  • How are we satisfying our audiences or solving problems for our customers?
  • How are we making decisions about what to prioritize?
  • How are we sharing information and insights across the team?
  • Are we executing work efficiently? How can we continue to improve?

You consciously make an effort to work transparently, share openly with the team, and ask for help instead of suffering in silence. It’s most important to respect the team and value delivery, not personal feelings about whether or not you’re pulling your weight. Shifting your mindset doesn't always come naturally; it requires deliberate action to form new habits and adopt practices that encourage a different way of thinking. Being agile is not a list of to-dos or rituals; instead, you think and behave.

#3: Agile marketing teams work together to achieve greatness

Building agile marketing teams around motivated individuals and providing them the environment, support, and trust to get the job done is powerful. Agile team members dramatically help their teammates by working together to better balance work across the team.

For example, let’s consider an event marketing team. Traditionally, members of an event team manage the execution of their own series of events from start to finish. So, during some months, one team member suffers from working 70 hours a week to complete the event that’s coming up in the next week. However, another team member has minimal work because their event is still months away. Since most of the work can be done by anyone on the team, they spread the work for events across the team, instead of assigning the entire event to a single team member. This change balances out everyone’s schedule and helps the team run more efficiently.

#4: Involve the team earlier in the process

Great marketing requires great alignment. Agile marketing team members must involve the “doers” of the more tactical work beyond planning conversations and help them understand the strategy.

Traditionally, you might see the doer of a project, such as a designer, receive day-to-day tasks from the “planner”, who may work in product marketing or management, developing the strategy. Instead of throwing work over the wall, the planner should provide the designer an overview of how the short-term work fits into the bigger picture, and share plans for future work. This allows the designer to take a step back and ask themselves if they are doing the right work. Team members who focus on execution must be allowed to say, “no”. The backlog is not an endless to-do list, it must be prioritized and low-impact work must be identified and removed. When candid conversations between the “doers” and the “planners” of a project happen earlier, the whole team benefits.

#5: Being agile is more than being reactive

Being agile is not about racing around from one crazy idea to another.

Agile team members work strategically and deliberately to deliver value frequently to different audiences, customers, prospects, and internal stakeholders. Establishing practices and processes helps create a space for creativity and excellence. For example, a leader might say, “You’re agile! Take this random idea I heard on a podcast this morning and do it right now.” But, agile marketing is not about agreeing to every random request or jumping from one shiny object to another. Working reactively in this way results in an aimless and overworked team. Instead, working with an agile mindset means teams:

  • estimate the time and resources required for each new project request.
  • proactively prioritize work and make it clear to stakeholders which tasks are included in their sprint.
  • share which projects and tasks fall below the line for sprint priorities.

Individual contributors can start cultivating an agile mindset in their own work. Start by creating a backlog of all the work in progress, who assigned the work, and which part of the organization requested the work. Put it all on your desk or on a digital board so it's visible to the team. This allows you to see your work from a higher level and ask, “What should I say ‘no’ to? What should we do as a team, rather than me, by myself?”. Prioritizing your own tasks and requesting help from your teammates allows you to stay calm and get work done.

In conclusion…

Agile marketing can be your solution to a volatile climate in the marketing industry, from rising audience expectations to the increasing number of channels available. Although unlocking agile in your marketing team may be hard at first, but with the right mindset, practices, processes, tools, and data, you can get there too.