Willingness to experiment with new and unconventional channels is one of the core attributes of high performing marketing teams because marketing is more art than science; therefore, a certain level of experimentation is necessary to find high performing channels that will give your business the most bang for the buck.
Furthermore, high performing marketing teams need the flexibility to move resources from one channel (or campaign) to another. More specifically, they must be able to quickly move resources from a low-performing campaign to a high-performing one.
A Rigid Marketing Plan Can Backfire
Most organizations only approve the marketing budget after a detailed plan is presented. On the surface this is a reasonable request; however, a very detailed marketing plan has unintended consequences.
Once the budget is approved the tendency is to stick to the tactics in the plan, for better or worse. Also, any major deviation from the original plan is discouraged, because it may lead to another round of approval from the Committee, CEO, Business Owner, etc.
You may argue that these types of checks and balances are necessary, but they often create hesitation and procrastination from the marketing team. For example, if the marketing plan is too rigid, it may result in continuous support for poor performing campaigns, because the marketing team may not be willing to go through another round of approval.
This is especially true if any original assumptions prove to be inaccurate. Put yourself in the shoes of a marketing manager that spent weeks getting sign-off on the marketing plan and budget, and then a month later he/she has to go back to the leadership team and explain why the assumption was wrong, and why another round of approval is necessary.
How To Avoid This Scenario
This is where an Agile approach (mostly used in software development) can help. The idea behind Agile is to move away from a detailed/rigid plan into something more fluid. For example, rather than spending months identifying every possible tactic, campaign, and activity in the marketing plan, instead, only document the overall strategy and short-term tactics (next 4 weeks). After four weeks you would review your progress, check KPIs, and plan out the next four weeks.
Why is this approach advantageous? Because you and your team are not tied to a long-term plan. With the Agile approach, you have the flexibility to make adjustments and corrections quickly (every 4 weeks).
NOTE: we are using 4 weeks as an example, but a typical Agile iteration (block of time) ranges from 1 to 4 weeks.
This flexibility will allow your marketing team to adjust quickly - moving resources from a poorly performing campaign to a high performing one. For example, let's assume that one of your marketing objectives was to increase website leads by +30% in Q1 (+10% per month). In our marketing plan, we outlined that partnering with influencers (strategy) is needed to achieve this growth. However, we don't need to outline who exactly the influencers will be, only their core attributes. This gives us the flexibility to try a particular influencer for a month, review results, and then switch to someone else if their efforts did not meet our expectations (+10% growth). We may even decide to completely abandon our influencer strategy if we don't see any meaningful results after a few months and chose to focus on affiliate marketing instead.
These type of adjustments/changes are much easier with the Agile framework.
What is important to remember is that most CEOs, Presidents, Committees, and Business Owners care more about the results then tactics (how you achieved your results); this is why rigid plans and tactics do not make sense in marketing. In fact, if you can show that you reacted quickly to a new development (e.g. changing market conditions), you will only solidify your value to the organization. That being said, this kind of flexibility is only possible with approaches like Agile that support rapid evolution and changes.
12 Principles Behind the Agile Manifesto
- Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of the solution.
- Welcome changing requirements, even late in the process. Agile processes harness change for the customer's competitive advantage.
- Deliver working solution frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
- Business people and other stakeholders must work together daily throughout the project.
- Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a team is face-to-face conversation.
- Working solution is the primary measure of progress.
- Agile processes promote sustainable solutions. The sponsors, stakeholders, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
- Continuous attention to excellence and good design enhances agility.
- Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
Note: Some principles were modified to make them less development centric.
If your marketing team is not performing to its full potential, then understanding "why" is the first step. From our experience, rigidity and inability to make decisions is often the case. The Agile framework can address many of these issues and help your marketing team become more productive.
Finally, it is fair to say that we only scratched the surface of the Agile framework in this post, so here are additional resources to help you understand and implement Agile.
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