What is Agile Marketing?
Agile is a project management style made popular by software development teams, but it has been adopted by other departments because of the benefits to clients and workers alike. The easiest way to conceptualize the Agile system is by comparing it to the traditional project management framework: Waterfall. Under the Waterfall method, a project is completed in one whole block with testing being done once the project is considered complete. Unlike Waterfall, Agile breaks up a project into smaller chunks, completing each chunk during a sprint, with testing being done once each block is complete.
What does this look like for a marketing team? If using the Waterfall model, a marketing team will complete all tasks within a specific project before testing and seeking approval from the client. If using Agile, a main objective, for example advertising for Cyber Monday, would be split up into various smaller initiatives with shorter deadlines and the output would receive feedback each step of the way.
To fully understand the term Agile marketing, the scrum framework must be introduced. When someone is talking about implementing Agile for their marketing team, they are most likely referring to using the scrum framework. While Agile incorporates various frameworks, scrum is the most popular framework under the Agile umbrella.
What is Scrum?
The scrum framework has a simplistic core: collaboration and sprints. The general idea of scrum is the project will involve a cross-functional team that completes one task at a time in a project under very specific deadlines. This work style is known as a sprint. Each day the team will have a meeting to discuss any roadblocks. Once the sprint is complete, they will have a retrospective meeting to discuss what was learned from the sprint. This is scrum in a nutshell, but we will explain each implementation in detail and how to apply it to your marketing team.
How to Implement Agile (Using the Scrum Framework) for Your Marketing Team
1. Establish a Cross-Functional Team and Assign Roles
What tends to happen at marketing agencies is team members become siloed. The advertising team doesn’t know what the SEO team is doing, the SEO team doesn’t know what the Design team is working on, and so forth. This setup is detrimental when trying to use scrum. So, before starting a project, establish the team members that need to work on the project and assign them scrum roles.
Because Agile started with developers, the name has carried over. But the scrum development team is any team member who is responsible for completing work during a sprint.
Marketing Application: Who Should Be the Development Team Members on Your Marketing Team?
Usually a project consists of many different elements, like a graphic design or a piece of content. Under scrum, the graphic designer and copywriter would be part of the development team because they are responsible for delivering work during a sprint. Your development team should consist of members from different departments that will produce the deliverables for the project. On a marketing team, the individuals responsible for development can be more appropriately called a scrum team.
The product owner is responsible for managing the tasks within the project (known as the scrum backlog), interfacing with stakeholders of the project, delivering work completed during the sprint to the stakeholders, and managing feedback. This doesn’t mean the scrum team cannot add tasks to the backlog if they come up, but they should be communicating with the product owner about any changes. The product owner is expected to be the expert on the project and know all details about expectations.
Marketing Application: Who Should Be the Product Owner on Your Marketing Team?
Usually at marketing agencies, this role can be fulfilled by an account manager. The account manager gathers all the information needed from the client including the goal of the project and communicates with the client on a consistent basis. Since this is a normal part of their job responsibilities, they can easily adapt to the product owner scrum role. On a marketing team, the product owner can be more appropriately called a project owner.
The scrum master is responsible for the scrum process and ensuring the development team has all the necessary tools to complete their tasks during a sprint. This means they will work to remove any blockers, lead daily standups and sprint retrospectives, communicate the workload and capacity of the scrum team to the project owner, and generally ensure the scrum team and project owner are completing their work.
Marketing Application: Who Should Be the Scrum Master on Your Marketing Team?
This role can be filled by different individuals based on your company. It can be a marketing lead or marketing manager who doesn’t interface with the client, but instead manages the entire scrum team and project owner. It can be a combination of marketing manager and marketing coordinator – whose role is to gather any assets needed and create tasks for the scrum team (a less experienced marketer who is learning through oversight of the scrum team). Or the project owner can additionally have the role of the scrum master.
2. Create a Sprint Backlog and Plan Sprints
Before starting your work by means of a sprint, your cross-functional team should brainstorm projects or individual tasks within a project to create a scrum backlog of upcoming sprints. The backlog is storage for all projects and things that need to be done to complete a project. This can be done in the form of an excel sheet or a project management system, but wherever the backlog is stored, it should contain a minimum amount of information, including a user story.
What Information Should be in Your Sprint Backlog?
- Campaign or Project Name
Owner: Who on the marketing team is driving this? This can be the project owner if you have already established your scrum roles.
- Goal: What will this project or campaign accomplish?
- Problem: What is this project or campaign trying to fix or solve?
- User Story: Explains the who, what and why of a project or campaign. This is a fundamental part of forming your individual backlog items. The user story doesn’t have to follow a certain structure, but the most common structure used in Agile resembles the following: “As a [role], I want to [action], so that [benefit].” The [role] represents who the campaign or project will benefit. It’s not a job title. A simple example of a user role is: As a [customer], I want [a shopping cart abandonment email] so that [I am reminded of the items I meant to purchase].
- Hypothesis: This should be used to make a prediction about the outcome of a project or campaign.
- Measurement: Briefly explain how the campaign or project success will be measured
Once the project is complete, the backlog should be updated with results that can be reviewed during the sprint retrospective.
What Information Should be in Your Sprint Backlog After Sprints Are Complete?
- Publish Date: The publish or launch date for the campaign or project.
- Date Analyzed: When were the results of the campaign or project measured?
- Retro Date: When is/was the sprint retrospective?
- Next Steps
Once you have created this backlog, you’ll have a repository of projects that need to be done. The project owner and scrum master can now assign tasks for the scrum team that will complete the tasks in a sprint. Each sprint is a work cycle that is generally two weeks, but should not be longer than a month. If a sprint would take longer than a month to complete, that indicates it needs to be broken down into smaller steps.
3. Attend Daily Standup Meetings and Move Tasks Through the Workflow
Once a sprint starts, your entire scrum team should have daily standup meetings before they begin their work. These meetings are short, 15 minute, concise gatherings meant to remove any roadblocks and give updates on progress. During the standups, the three following questions are asked:
- What did you do yesterday?
- The answer should be concrete actions that were completed.
- What will you do today?
- This should help guide if the team is completing the sprint accurately based on the timelines and metrics in the backlog.
- Is there anything stopping you from getting you work done?
- This is meant to reveal any blockers. When blockers come up, they need to be removed or rectified as soon as possible.
Using the scrum framework, tasks during a sprint move toward completion using three different steps: In Progress, Review, and Complete. The term Kanban goes hand in hand with scrum because it makes it easy to visualize these 3 steps. A Kanban style PM system is made up of cards that are able to be stacked and moved to each stage. The cards represent each individual task.
It’s not necessary to use Kanban to organize your tasks during a sprint if that’s not your preferred working style or if your PM system doesn’t have that functionality. But however you decide to organize a task, there should be a way for team members to easily designate if a task is being worked, ready for feedback or complete. There can also be more stages if needed in your Kanban board. A Kanban style can be easily adapted to what works for your company with the main benefit being a visualization of your task list and where they are in your sprint.
4. Complete Sprint and Attend Sprint Retrospective
Once your sprint is complete, you will hold a sprint retrospective. This is a meeting meant to improve your subsequent sprint. During your retrospective, these questions should be answered:
- What went well
- What didn’t go well
- What could be improved
- What needs to be stopped in order to improve the next sprint
- What needs to be started in order to improve the next sprint
You will also want to update your sprint backlog to keep track of the history of your sprints.
What Are the Next Steps?
While these 4 steps will get your marketing team started with using Agile, there are more elements that make up scrum your team can master. Once these steps are in place, consider assessing scrum metrics like velocity and burndown. The term velocity under Agile is how quickly a team completes work in a sprint and this is calculated using basic math. Each project can be delegated a point value based on your understanding of the project. As the team completes projects during a sprint, they accrue points. Over time the scrum master can see the average velocity of sprints and use that to improve upon the scrum process.
A burndown chart will also help your company’s productivity using Agile. It is a visual representation of how much work has been completed, how much is in progress, and how much is still left to do during the current sprint. If you’re using a project management system, it’s possible this functionality is built in. If that’s not the case, you can come up with a way to track this that makes sense for your company. Using a burndown chart, the scrum master can ensure the sprint is staying on track.
We use Agile to ensure all our digital marketing projects are on track for our clients. If you’re looking for more guidance on structuring your digital marketing team or just digital marketing services in general, please contact us for a free consultation. We’ll help you define bottlenecks in your process or answer any digital marketing related questions you have!