What is Agile Marketing?

24Jan, 2018

In 2001 a bunch of software developers frustrated with the waterfall project management process got together at the Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah to find some common ground on what was the best way to manage software projects.


To everyone amazement, out of this 3 day exercise came what we now know as Agile Software Development and the Agile Manifesto.


If you’ve ever been on a traditional waterfall type project, you will probably understand the frustrations in delays, communications and collaborations that can occur.


Agile is different and I’m certain you will appreciate the main differences that Agile brings to the task of delivering value, whether that’s working software or marketing campaigns.


The Agile Manifesto places value on these four main concepts;


  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan


Since then, this same agile methodology has been applied to marketing projects to create what is now known as Agile Marketing.


At SprintZero, the first conference for agile marketers, a group of practitioners came together with the goal to leverage what was learned in agile software development to help them create the initial framework for Agile Marketing.


Agile Marketing Values


The following are the 7 primary values of agile marketing.


1. Validated learning over opinions and convention


Validated learning is a process of validating our learning through a implement-measure-learnfeedback loop, rather than of following conventions or deciding what’s best based on the opinion of the highest paid person in the room (HIPPO).


2. Customer focused collaboration over silos and hierarchy


Collaboration, focused on the needs of the customer, produces better marketing than siloed, departmental turf wars and strict adherence to hierarchical decision making.


3. Adaptive and Iterative campaigns over Big-Bang campaigns


A non-linear, adaptive approach, which involves starting with a little strategy, implementing it quickly, getting insight into it’s success or failure with customers, adjusting and continuing to learn, is preferable to the conventional, linear big-bang campaigns, where big ideas are built, launched, and often either fail or are justified with metrics designed to tell a story.



The iterative, emergent, agile development process sometimes doesn’t work in the first few iterations and may require a pivot to trying something else entirely different.


4. The process of customer discovery over static prediction


Customers often don’t act in the neat, predictable ways that we assume they’ll act.

Marketing is an act of customer discovery. Understanding customers is hard work, and while it may not quite reach the level of uncertainty of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, it does require constant respect for the customer and consistent engagement.


5. Flexible vs. Rigid Planning


Plans must adapt to change. Planning by itself is not bad.


As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything”.


But Marketing is like war; just as no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, no marketing plan survives contact with the real, constantly changing market.


6. Responding to change over following a plan


This value comes from the original Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Even the best plans are just educated guessing.

7. Many small experiments over a few large bets


Greater emphasis on small, experimental bets that are faster and more iterative.


The real time 24/7 marketing is here to stay, as long as the customers have the power to connect and interact, positive or negative, through social media, whenever they want.


Agile Marketing Principles


The following agile marketing principles build on the above values adding a little more tactical pieces to help better understand how agile fits.


  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of marketing that solves problems
  • We welcome and plan for change. We believe that our ability to quickly respond to change is a source of competitive advantage
  • Deliver marketing programs frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale
  • Great marketing requires close alignment with the business people, sales and development
  • Build marketing programs around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done
  • Learning, through the build-measure-learn feedback loop, is the primary measure of progress
  • Sustainable marketing requires you to keep a constant pace and pipeline
  • Don’t be afraid to fail; just don’t fail the same way twice
  • Continuous attention to marketing fundamentals and good design enhances agility
  • Simplicity is essential


Want more?


Check out HubSpots Go Agile or Go Home presentation below. It digs into more details on how this works.


If your interested in learning more about how your business can take advantage of implementing a more agile marketing process, let’s talk.


We can walk you through the process, help you develop a suitable work flow and help you setup one of the many pragmatic agile project management applications out there like Trello, Jira and many other great agile project management applications.


I’ve also added a list of Agile Marketing Resources from the Agile Marketing main website below for you if you want further reading on the subject.



About The Author
Craig is one of Marketing Stream's co-founders. He's spent 15+ years working with companies to develop and implement digital products & growth strategies. Craig also blogs about online business on his personal blog at CraigCherlet.com.You can also find and follow him on these social sites.