Customer expectations rule today’s Digital Age, and your customers are moving faster than you can deliver. Marketers are scrambling for a way to not only catch up to customers, but get in front of their needs with compelling customer experiences—ones that differentiate your brand at every touchpoint. Agile marketing makes transformation possible.
Forward-thinking marketing teams began experimenting with Agile practices back in 2010, and have spent the decade iterating on the tech-oriented Agile practice itself. Agile marketing 1.0 was focused on process and aligning marketing goals and activities with the tech model in order to get to market more quickly. Today’s top Agile marketers have moved on to Agile 2.0.
Agile 2.0 is focused on creating the right structure of marketing talent—a hybrid of internal and external talent, temporary and permanent workers, and expanded skill set combinations—to realize the promise of Agile. The Agile 2.0 talent structure lets your organization innovate quickly and pivot effectively to address changes in landscape and customer expectations.
But First: Agile Marketing 101
Before we dive into the new face of Agile practices, let’s level set on the definition. Agile methodology—including rapid iteration, small releases, and experimentation—lets marketers go to market faster and more effectively. Rather than focusing on huge multi-month campaigns, Agile marketers put small teams on shorter-term projects, iterate quickly on deliverables, review resulting data (use the right metrics!), and optimize based on the data. The result is focused, collaborative teams consistently delivering ever-improving results. For a good overview, see Jim Ewel’s Agile marketing presentation on Moz’s Whiteboard Friday.
What’s important is that Agile methodology works. According to a McKinsey study, 81 percent of respondents in Agile units reported a moderate or significant increase in overall performance since their transformations began. Unfortunately, you can’t just slap Agile methods onto an existing marketing organization with team members who are trained only in traditional marketing.
It’s time for 2.0
Agile 2.0 disrupts top-down marketing organizations by reorganizing talent to act more like a living organism than a rigid machine: flexible, scalable, and fluid. The traditional organizational model was put into place back in the Industrial Revolution to optimize the production and assembly lines.
To move your marketing organization to Agile 2.0, you need to create a new structure of internal and external resources, then align your entire team to processes, tech, and initiatives. Agile methods create efficiencies, so your team makeup will need to do the same. In-house teams of permanent full-time employees are as inefficient as outsourcing every marketing job to agencies. You need to mix your marketing work between in-house permanent employees, temporary/freelance talent, and external resources. This lets you expand and contract your team as the market dictates, and morph skill sets and project foci as customers demand.
Real world success story
Let’s look at an Agile 2.0 marketing team at work. One of our financial clients has seen great success implementing Agile marketing over the last few years as a way to maintain success in the Digital Age. To stay relevant to consumers—especially Millennials—who are doing more of their own financial research online rather than through advisors, they had to switch from mainly B2B marketing and embrace consumers as well. That meant greatly expanding their marketing output and creating it faster.
The company brought in a new CMO from the B2C world who brought in new digital leaders, and set to work restructuring for success. They’ve had two major iterations of their Agile practices:
- Reorganizing the existing staff into a more Agile reporting structure and into a newly collaborative physical environment.
- Restructuring the staff and work-space into initiative-focused pod teams.
The new team structure was created to allow for flexibility, responsiveness, and fluidity:
- Full-time permanent marketing staff consists of mainly senior marketing strategists; and permanent creative roles are being added as they realize ongoing business in those areas.
- As-needed temporary staff include production artists, graphic designers, UX designers, content strategists, and proofreaders.
- Temp-to-perm hiring allows them to bring on hard-to-source talent, like in-demand UX talent and emerging roles, as well as creative talent they’ll likely use full-time but need to be sure before pulling the permanent hire trigger.
- Integrating internal cross-functional members, like a representative from Legal and Compliance teams, into marketing pod teams ensures marketing deliverables are finalized as quickly as possible in this highly-regulated industry.
- External agencies for ongoing templated production, as well as specialized marketing needs like media buying. These agencies are overseen by a permanent employee who acts as an agency liaison.
This revised structure has allowed them to produce significantly more content and cut down on staffing costs.
Three 2.0 practices
Hire broad skill sets
While you will want to hire temporary or external talent for highly specialized per-project roles, permanent team members with two (or even three) valuable skills are essential. For example, you may want to hire a freelance video editor for six months to deliver a set number of projects. However, if you have an individual who can shoot and edit video, write scripts, and also long-form content and blog posts, you can slot that person into many projects. These multi-skilled team members are valuable because they’re able to work on a variety of projects, ensuring their time is always spent moving projects forward.
“Everybody should have an education path and training plan to develop new skills to make your customer experience not like everybody else’s.”
CEO of Enterprise Marketer, and author of Agile Marketing: Building Endurance for Your Content Marketing Team
Mix it up
Let's face it: permanent talent may not be the right fit for every position, and hiring for permanent positions can take a long time. Be flexible. To maintain the ability to deliver quickly and efficiently today and tomorrow, your team needs to be able to quickly change form and pivot focus.
Like the financial company described above, you need to have a foundation of senior strategic team members who are permanent full-time employees. You will also have team members you can keep busy across a multitude of projects. But others have a highly singular set of skills you’ll want to bring in for a specific project. And sometimes you have an ongoing broad need that you outsource, or a highly specialized creative need for which you bring in an agency. Variety isn’t just the spice of life, it’s the life blood of a truly Agile marketing team.
Open a talent pool
Agile came about in the 1990s tech world to solve delivery issues. That focus on delivering quickly has only increased as the world has become a more digital place, and Agile practices have moved throughout organizations.
When you have a six-week project timeline, you can’t spend three to four months staffing up. When it comes to quickly sourcing the right talent for your team, talent pools are a great resource. This is an always-available, ready made group of talent you can dip into whenever your company chooses to zag, or key customers request something not previously on your radar. Use a talent vendor that will build this pool for you, stocked with skilled talent who are handpicked for your team.
Be nimble and quick, Jack
Becoming an Agile marketing team that can work at the speed of digital and keep up with the expectations of a new generation of consumers means rethinking your marketing. And that includes rethinking your team: its members and its structure.
Restructuring your team with broader skill sets, a mix of permanent and temporary staff, and internal and external talent will help you build the marketing team to keep your business relevant and thriving throughout the 21st century.