Marketing

10 Agile Marketing Leaders Quadrupled Their Productivity With These Exact Steps

We interviewed 10 marketing leaders on the ways they use Agile to get more out of their team. Here is what they said.

Kevin Kononenko on June 19, 2017 • 17 minute read

Converting your team to Agile can be a massive undertaking with plenty of internal skepticism.

Sure, every member of the marketing team may be over-worked, behind schedule and scrambling to meet the monthly deadline. Your boss or client may be breathing down your neck (again).

You know agile marketing is the solution.

But even after all this consistent struggle, it can still be tempting to cut corners, read a couple of blogs, and begin the Agile transition.

In reality, Agile requires a mentality shift for every team member. And if your team does not commit to the new system, you will not be able to see the benefit of Agile: twice the output in half the time.

To help you convince your team this is the right move, we interviewed ten marketing leaders who have been there and done that. They shared their strategies for completing the Agile transition. And they shared the impact too:

  1. They found they could create high-performing marketing campaigns more predictably.
  2. They found it was easier to communicate their hard work to clients.
  3. And they found their team was less stressed along the way.

Table of Contents

  1. What Agile Marketing Really Means
  2. The Steps to Adopting Agile at your Organization
  3. How to Use Data in Agile Process
  4. Benefits Realized by Adopting Agile Marketing

 

What Agile Marketing Really Means

Mikko Seppa
Co-Founder, Advance B2B

“Agile marketing is simply a smarter way to think about marketing. It’s about making sure you’re always aligned with company strategy, you work on things that are most likely to generate the desired impact and last but not least, you don’t end up doing stuff that does not contribute to your goals.

 

Brie Rangel
Strategist, IMPACT

“Agile marketing, in the way I’ve experienced it, means twice the work in half the time with 10x the quality and effectiveness.

 

David Ly Khim
Growth Marketing Manager, HubSpot

“Treating marketing campaigns as experiments”

 

Jeff White
Principal, Kula Partners

“We follow the Scrum genre of Agile. Basically what you have is a small group of experts, managed by a Scrum master who load up their week with a block of user stories. They work together to ship those story points by the end of the week (or whatever sprint they’re working towards).

We’ve added a few other things to our Scrum model:

  • Our Agile planning boards are the main deliverable in our strategy engagements. They show the tactics that will be employed to execute on the strategy.
  • Business value ratings: our clients can go into their planning board and rate the tactics that are in the backlog using T-Shirt sizes (XS-XL). This way we can prioritize the work according to what matters to the client. This doesn’t mean we’ll stray from the strategy, but it may mean we skip a blog post (why is it always blog posts that people want to skip?) in order to deliver a political win.
  • Our Dashboard gives our management team quick access to stats on how the shop is delivering on a day by day, story by story, person by person basis.
  • We use agile for planning our own marketing too, but we need to up our game here.”

 

Eduardo Esparza
President, Market8

“A process to work 80/20 all the time. Pick the most impactful items in your to-do list. Do those first and complete them in a period of 2 weeks. Rinse and repeat. Agile also means better collaboration among the team, and shared goals that we strive to achieve together.”

 

Greg Linnemanstons
President, Weidert Group

“We break Agile into the following categories:

  • Increasing capacity without increasing headcount,
  • Improving quality through autonomous teams,
  • Improving client results by continuous improvement on the work we do for them.”

 

Pete Winter
Head of Digital, Tomorrow People

“Having the ability to react to situational requirements to ensure the optimal delivery of performance and service”

 

Dakota Hersey
Dir. of Sales Enablement, Huify

“Agile marketing is setting specific, measurable goals and crafting a plan to reach those goals, but then being prepared and flexible when the plans need to change. We’ve seen companies come in with beautiful 3 month sprints that are extremely detailed and rock solid…until something doesn’t perform the way they expected. The data doesn’t lie, and sometimes it shows you that your original strategy isn’t cutting it. When hitting your revenue goals are the only priority, being agile is the only way you’re going to make it happen.”

 

Mike Lieberman
Founder, Square 2 Marketing

“It gives us the methodology to prioritize our work around those revenue generating tactics that deliver the biggest impact for the least amount of effort.”

 

Dylan Nielhoff
Founder, True North Strategy Group

“To our firm, agile marketing means planning for the unexpected. Regardless of the client, we always make sure that we’re working towards a stretch goal while also putting contingency plans in place along the way. Therefore, we believe agile marketing is having the ability to adapt and respond to the market outcomes as they occur while still ensuring we meet expectations.”

 

The Steps to Adopting Agile at Your Organization

Mikko Seppa
Co-Founder, Advance B2B

“We started working with the Agile Marketing Model when we launched our marketing services to SaaS-companies. We basically adapted a customized model that is built on basic principles of Agile. Before using the model for any client work, we first implemented the model for our own marketing. Now we are going to implement the Agile Marketing Model to all of the client work we do (all units).

  1. We work on a sprint basis where one sprint is aligned to each calendar month (12 sprints per year)
  2. Each Sprint starts with a Retrospective where we review and define our learnings from the previous Sprint
  3. This is followed by our Sprint Planning where we decide where to focus our energy and marketing efforts for the coming month – this is heavily influenced on where we stand in relation to our goals
  4. Then we define what specific actions we will take using our Agile Credit model
  5. Weekly Scrums and Reports will ensure we stay on track and everyone is up to date on where we stand
  6. When we reach the end of a Sprint we repeat the process and start again…”

You can read about Mikko’s full process here.

 

Brie Rangel
Strategist, IMPACT

“We first identified all the major issues we had as an agency. These issues came from feedback both internally and from our clients, and we knew agile marketing would solve about 90% of them. We also knew what we wanted to be from a shared agency vision, and it just made sense.

When we decided to make the move to agile marketing, we reached out to a couple other HubSpot partner agencies that we knew were agile to ask them how the transition went for them, how they were structured, etc. We learned of a consultant, Mark Long, who specializes in helping inbound marketing agencies adopt agile and contacted him right away. Over the course of about 2.5 months, we made the switch.

We started with our leadership team to understand our new financial model, to build internal processes and new team structures. We spent 1 month training the rest of the team and getting set up, and then flipped the switch August 1, 2016.

We’ve since iterated a few times as we learn what’s best for our clients and our team, and will continue to do so because that’s what agile is all about.”

You can read about IMPACT’s full process here.

 

David Ly Khim
Growth Marketing Manager, HubSpot

“Rather than look at a project and think, ‘This needs to be huge and perfect the first time we do it,’ we take a step back and ask,

“What’s the smallest version of this we can do to test that it’s worth scaling up?”

Instead of spending weeks or months planning out a campaign, we can spend a couple of hours or days on a minimum viable test, put it out there and collect data. If it flops, we can either try a different test or decide it’s not work spending more time on it. This way we don’t waste months on a big campaign that flops.”

 

Jeff White
Principal, Kula Partners

“We’ve been an agile agency for over three years now. It’s been a pretty major improvement to our processes overall and was a big part in how we doubled our revenue from 2014 to 2015. We flipped the switch in late 2014 and moved all active clients, retainers and projects to a full agile approach at that time. Before that, we were just adding new clients to the agile process, but we started at it in mid 2013. My Project Director Jonathan has led the charge towards more efficiency and team development on the agile front.

We definitely monitor our weekly sprints closely, and the management team meets every Monday morning after the team scrums to look at weekly outcomes, story points shipped, blockers, etc. From there, we adapt, iterate and make decisions about how to better service the clients and improve the agency’s delivery and profitability. ”

 

Eduardo Esparza
President, Market8

“Here are the steps we followed:

  1. Assemble a backlog of deliverables, scrub the files and make a list of all of the things that need to be done. There are usually loads of ideas laying around on everyone’s notebooks.
  2. Conduct a workshop with the team to discuss the adoption of the 2-week sprints.
  3. Establish what we call “focus blocks” – which are blocks of 2 or 3 days in which a team focuses on flushing out a large amount of deliverables. A sprint can contain up to 4 focus blocks.
  4. Involve the client in the focus blocks so that we can receive quick feedback and we are able to push the deliverable over the finish line. We want the client to work on the same time table.
  5. We establish areas of ownership among the team. Different team members became responsible of certain aspects of the program, for instance, traffic, paid programs, conversions, site health, usability, etc. Each aspect or area of ownership has KPIs that they are responsible for improving.
  6. Embrace change – this was a big one. Changing the mindset from “Seeking Approvals” to “Seeking Results” on both the agency and the client side.
  7. Implement the retrospectives, where we talk through team dynamic issues, and recognize achievements.”

 

Pete Winter
Head of Digital, Tomorrow People

“We invested in project management technology to provide a more holistic view of agency resources as well as current/planned/projected activity. We made the shift from a team-based structure to a function-based structure.”

 

Dakota Hersey
Dir. of Sales Enablement, Huify

“At Hüify, we always start with understanding and outlining the goals. You can’t make any decisions, let alone quick decisions, without understanding where you’re supposed to be heading. We start every engagement with digging into the historical data, asking the questions people should be asking but aren’t, and documenting specific, measurable, and attainable goals for our clients.

From there we ensure that those goals are constantly being tracked and are visible to the entire team. It doesn’t do anyone any good if the metrics are only being checked by one team member once a month. They need to be reviewed daily to make sure you’re on the right track and to catch the hiccups early on. This way we’re able to identify lack of performance immediately, be transparent about what it means, and quickly recommend and implement a new or revised strategy.

Boom. Agile marketing = goals achieved.”

 

Dylan Nielhoff
Founder, True North Strategy Group

“We first made sure that our internal processes are both flexible and data-driven. This allows us to effectively track progress and focus on the areas where we may be at risk. The other crucial element is understanding the strategy component. For us, this is driven by the unique business objectives and necessary market research.”

 

How To Use Data in the Agile Process

Mikko Seppa
Co-Founder, Advance B2B

“Data (and good analysis) is the foundation of any real agile work. Data plays a central role in our agile marketing model. We monitor closely how we progress against the targets and how well our actions work. We’ve seen by making the data visible & accessible to all, we’re able to react even faster if we see something.”

How Databox supports this goal: Agencies use Alerts and Goals to allow employees and clients to monitor marketing data in real-time. Employees can get custom updates on their KPIs straight to their phones without any effort.

 

Brie Rangel
Strategist, IMPACT

“Marketing data is crucial to effective agile marketing. We changed our entire planning cycle to incorporate more data-driven decisions, and quite frankly, we’re still working on the timing. That’s why we’ve become a Databox partner. We want to ensure our clients are using real-time data as we prioritize our backlogs and decide what’s the most impactful work we could be doing together.”

How Databox supports this goal: When agencies use spreadsheets and screenshots to share data, the client has a hard time following along. Agencies that use KPI dashboards find clients will get involved with their own data and feel connected to performance of marketing initiatives.

 

David Ly Khim
Growth Marketing Manager, HubSpot

“Data plays a huge role and telling us what to test next. However, it’s difficult if you don’t have a lot of data to start with. That’s when it’s even more important to start running tests so you can collect that data quickly and iterate on it.”

 

Jeff White
Principal, Kula Partners

“You can use a spreadsheet to track stories, but that can quickly get out of control. In our shop, our Scrum Master and Inbound Producers enter hundreds of tasks a week into Jira. However, the increased efficiency, responsibility and reporting that we get back as a result have really been worth the investment in time and learning.We’ve built some pretty cool dashboards in JIRA to help us visualize and analyze these sprints.”

 

Eduardo Esparza
President, Market8

“Marketing data is instrumental in helping us decide what the next set priorities will be, and where the focus should be next. Without reliable marketing data we simply cannot make an objective call of what to focus on, the team and the client gravitates towards shiny objects, and ultimately the overall marketing performance metrics suffer.”

 

Dakota Hersey
Dir. of Sales Enablement, Huify

“Having and understanding your marketing data is the only way to be agile. Trying to implement an agile strategy without a way to track and analyze is like trying to navigate with your eyes closed. It will be really disappointing and embarrassing to get to the end of your well-planned journey only to realize you were heading completely the wrong direction without even knowing. You must not only be reviewing your basic data daily for trends, but also know how to recognize issues quickly so you have time to dig in, diagnose the problem, and make adjustments to ensure you hit your goals.”

 

Dylan Nielhoff
Founder, True North Strategy Group

“It’s everything. You can’t respond to performance or effectively manage outcomes if you’re not properly tracking the KPI’s of the entire process. Without the facts, you’re no longer making informed decisions and now the team is responding based on emotion. ”

 

Benefits Realized By Adopting Agile Marketing

Mikko Seppa
Co-Founder, Advance B2B

“We are always super aligned with top business priorities.

  • No meaningless work.
  • Really tight focus on the stuff that actually matters.
  • Better transparency on what & how we do (we use Agile credits model, that gives full transparency on what we do).

Here’s an example: One of our customers had a delay in their up-coming product launch. If we had operated with the traditional model, we would have been in serious trouble. Now we were able to react fast, change the plan accordingly and not miss a single beat. Clients are super happy about the model, since pretty much all SaaS-companies already know Scrum or other agile / lean methodologies.”

 

Brie Rangel
Strategist, IMPACT

“Back in the old days of 2014, we made long-term plans within our sales cycle that become obsolete within 3 months. Today we can continually maximize the strategic strengths of our team members and guide our clients on making the right decisions for their business.

In addition to how work is planned, we can also have candid conversations with our clients in a joint retrospective to get/give the feedback we need to fix any bubbling issues. Our clients get higher quality work from us in half the time and our relationships are stronger than ever.”

 

David Ly Khim
Growth Marketing Manager, HubSpot

“We can push out small versions of campaigns more quickly than most marketing teams and pick and choose which ideas to scale up. In one quarter, we were able to test five large campaigns that could’ve taken more than six months to roll out if we had tried to do everything perfectly. From those campaigns, we collected data and reviewed learnings and we have a much better idea of what projects to focus on.”

 

Jeff White
Principal, Kula Partners

“We love that ~50 times a year we get to tweak and iterate our processes to make improvements. We’re also constantly adjusting how our teams operate as we integrate new people, clients, etc. It has helped massively.”

 

Eduardo Esparza
President, Market8

“Better, measurable results in a shorter period of time. Better team dynamics and better morale overall. Higher overall client satisfaction which had led to increased retainers and upselling / cross selling opportunities.”

 

Greg Linnemanstons
President, Weidert Group

“Instant impact on culture, and a renewed energy around improving internal processes across teams and between individuals.”

 

Dakota Hersey
Dir. of Sales Enablement, Huify

“We live and breathe agile marketing, and our clients do the same. The main and most important benefit is that we simply hit our goals. And for the rare times that we don’t, we are able to point to the exact reason for not achieving the goal and formulate a new strategy for improvement.

For us, this means we are able to build trust into our partnerships with our clients and continue to prove our value. For our clients, this means that they are never caught off guard or unprepared when reporting on their metrics in a board meeting. We’re always able to stay one step ahead of the game and make adjustments in real-time rather than waiting for the final results.”

 

Mike Lieberman
Founder, Square 2 Marketing

“It’s made all our engagements more collaborative. Clients are much more involved in the co-creation of our 30 day plans. It’s allowed us to be focus our energy and produce much better results in a shorter amount of time.”

 

Dylan Nielhoff
Founder, True North Strategy Group

“Agile marketing has proven to be one of the most crucial elements for consistent results and client satisfaction. Applying this framework allows us to build trust by reducing uncertainty and providing security at every step of the delivery.”

 

Get Agile Marketing Started at Your Agency

You can build momentum within your organization by converting just one team to agile. They can test out the best way to apply the system to your company culture. If you are an agency, you can begin using it on your internal marketing team before rolling out to clients. If you are client-side, you can try it out with one marketing discipline and then roll out to the rest of your teams.

You can easily measure the impact of Agile. You can use surveys to gauge employee satisfaction, a point system to monitor internal productivity, and Databox to track your marketing performance each week.

About the author
Kevin Kononenko Growth Marketer @ Databox. Making it easy for marketers to tell the story of their success. Everton FC supporter. Startup guy.
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