The use of automation and AI in marketing is provoking a lot of debate in the office. Mostly it’s around the insight you can gather from data, the role of experience and gut instinct and, ultimately, a brand’s ability to be agile.

Personally I think of agile marketing is an approach that lets you make small tweaks or radical adjustments to your marketing campaigns as they run. Quickly too.

Agile is just how marketing is

As anyone who has been in marketing for a while knows, there are an infinitive number of factors that can impact the success of your marketing programmes. Monitoring and reporting on campaigns constantly is a must, as is using project scrums that bring together the experts who can influence changes so if things aren’t going as planned you can adapt rapidly and get a better outcome.

To be honest, I’d say this is just how marketing is now whether it’s called agile or not. It’s simply a way for us to discuss the modern approach to marketing and differentiate from a pre-AI world.

Data has made us more agile in marketing

Of course the biggest difference today is the amount of data we have access to now. In the ‘olden days’ we were flying a bit blind. Marketing plans were formed much more on opinion and views rather than founded by data. The availability of data mid-course was also lacking so it was difficult to make well-founded adjustments nor did you have the prompts to meet with your team more often.

With traditional marketing, you often had a ‘big annual marketing kickoff’ usually featuring some awesome 50 slide PowerPoint someone had crafted using data from the previous year. This would be supplemented with quarterly review meetings.

The benefits brough by agile marketing

Modern ‘agile’, if you like, is very different. It’s a high-energy scrum every week using data – in real time. And of course there’s experience to draw on. The more you do the more you are able to follow your instinct and trust the data in front of you, or discount it if you see an anomaly.

In these scenarios, the benefits are clear: you are giving yourself every opportunity to adapt the plan, more often with the aim to achieve better results. You are constantly learning as well. The team picks up new skills, and in my experience, they are quicker at adjusting, as they are more regularly thrown into the deep end. And I think everyone would agree that you create more as well, helping to feed the collateral bucket.

Agile does have its downsides

The downsides are that your work is never done. Goalposts change constantly and so too does the budget – it has to. And with more going on, and more being spent mistakes happen more frequently or there’s a danger to do more things less well, so I always ensure we are ready to counsel the point at which doing less is more.

Agile Marketing the Essential way – an example

Here’s an example of how we do it at Essential, which explains exactly the point on reviewing and ensuring success. For one of the large operators, we found that its partners were not engaging so much with the new collateral marketed to them.

The web traffic we monitored revealed a fairly high bounce rate and low attention span – duration spent on the site. We introduced an interactive quiz to lead partners around the new content. As a result engagement visits, dwell time, downloads and so on increased by over 100% in the short term and further quizzes and other responsive activity has maintained engagement at the higher level solidly for the last 12 months.

Most importantly we didn’t wait for the campaign to run its course to get the full data set. Our experience showed us that we needed to respond sooner rather than later.

Be responsive, curious and impatient – the Agile way

And that sums it all up to me – data, inquisitiveness, impatience if you like and understanding the end customer helped to make the campaign a success. And it won’t stop there, we’ll continue to ensure it keeps momentum with tweaks as necessary.

I’ll be honest that when I started seeing references to #agilemarketing I did think, ‘oh dear here comes another buzz phrase’. But the truth is marketing has changed, the rules have changed (GDPR), your target audience has changed (much more savvy, suspicious and shorter attention spans), technology has changed (AI) and we have access to much more data.

Marketing has to be agile and responsive – the agile marketing approach is now a necessity. Your brand won’t survive without it.

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