Agile is synonymous with the software development world, so how does this apply to marketing and why should you adopt it as a better way of providing value to your customers.
During my time at Lonely Planet, there was a big push to digitise the content that had been amassed by the publisher for many years. An external company called ThoughtWorks was charged with helping us do this in the most efficient manner. ThoughtWorks came in and fundamentally changed the way many of us had been working previously by coaching us all to work with Agile processes. Agile has been around in the software development world for a long time and sat neatly with our engineering teams. However, many of the teams involved, from design to legal, also started to adopt the processes as a better way of working. I was involved in the development of the Lonely Planet Images website and worked first hand with the team at ThoughtWorks to create a better online library experience. As many of my colleagues and I discovered, an Agile methodology could also be applied to many other parts of the business that needed to quickly adapt and lead change.
What is Agile?
If you work in the technology world you may be very familiar with Agile, if you don't this handy infographic by Mia Kolmodin at Dandy. may be able to illustrate the key benefits of Agile against a more traditional way of working. Here we can see the difference between the process we may be all familiar with if we've ever had a website built called waterfall; spending a lot of time planning everything upfront and then implementing it in one big bang, against Agile development (where planning and decisions are made continuously along the development so they can be tested and validated).
Agile vs Waterfall (the old way of working)
Let's use the example of building a website which you should be pretty familiar with. Many marketing and web design companies will use the waterfall approach. The company will analyse and plan (with you as the client involved) without testing and changing the plan. This approach often means that there are late developments that hold the project up as they discover problems and is solely focused on the goals of the business, rather than the needs of the customer/user. The Agile approach delivers a much better way of developing the project, focuses on incremental changes that can be tested with customers to validate value and usability and involved multi-disciplinary teams working together on developing a website that meets the needs of the business and the customer.
If you know us well, you know that using a human centred approach to marketing is fundamental to our business. Agile is a perfect fit for the way that we work.
The Agile process doesn't just have to be used in the digital sense. We have adopted an Agile methodology for our whole agency, and for delivering our human centred marketing strategy and services to our clients. It means that we can respond to change swiftly and efficiently, we always have the needs of our customers aligned with the business goals, and it ensures that the marketing efforts constantly provide value. Marketing is no longer static and we help our clients stay relevant and create better experiences for their customers. An added bonus to using Agile for your marketing is that it usually saves you money in the long run; you focus your efforts on the tactics that get the best ROI and constantly optimise your customer touchpoints for better conversions. We use this for both digital and traditional marketing services and operationally as a business, helping us to reduce costs to clients and focus on providing value to all.
Whilst Agile may sit traditionally in the software development world, we have found it also works amazingly well at empowering our highly functioning team to focus on getting results with everything we do and be informed by data. However, Agile works beautifully when it comes to website design.
Growth Driven Design for Web Development
HubSpot, the leading sales and marketing automation software company, talks about Growth Driven Design, which has it's roots in Agile, for web design and development. They too believe that the old way of designing a wesbite doesn't work. With Growth Driven Design you can launch quickly and improve your website, spread the cost of investment over a period of time, and optimise results as you go. Instead of spending two years and a lot of money developing a website for it only to need redesigning or developing in another two years, you grow month by month creating incremental changes that have been tested, validated and optimised building a stronger and more powerfully relevant website for your customers.
Growth Driven Design Model (dpa of HubSpot)
Applying Agile To Your Marketing Efforts
One of the key steps to making this work for you is to truly understand your own objectives, where you provide value and to whom, and to truly understand your customers. But the most important part is to just start. I once heard someone say that 'Even badly implemented Agile works' and applying just a little bit of Agile to the way that you work will start to make a difference. It takes a while to change mindsets, but you can start by understanding that doing anything will help you fail fast to succeed sooner. Try by creating a landing page, A/B test it, review your results and refine the page based on your insights. Let us know how you go, we'd love to hear your feedback.
If you are interested in reading further about how Lonely Planet worked with ThoughtWorks to transform the business you can read the case study.
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by Samantha Hurley
Written by Samantha Hurley
Sam co-founded Marketing Entourage after spending 18 years in senior sales & marketing positions for companies such as Lonely Planet and The Press Association in Melbourne, New York and London. Sam started out in a design agency and used design thinking to help develop a product that went on to revolutionise the media industry in 2002. Sam also teaches Digital Marketing and Data Driven Marketing at General Assembly. The daughter of an engineer and a designer, she learned to code and design at a young age. She feels she has the mind of a scientist and the heart of an artist and likes to sit in the space where creativity, technology and business converge.