Betty Bai
Jul 20, 2016

The 5 elements of an Agile marketer

Agile is more than a process, a set of tools or people management, it is first and foremost a mindset.

Betty Bai
Betty Bai

Hello marketing peers, I’d like to take a stab at predicting what’s on your mind today:

  • How do I create an experience that speaks to my customer segments?
  • My latest email marketing campaign is not generating enough leads, what went wrong?
  • A new product is rolling out in 6 months, how do I go about creating a demand now?
  • The competitor has launched a Snapchat channel, should I too?

Does anything here resonate?

The point I wanted to make here is this: marketing is a profession that is increasingly complex and in a state of flux. Today’s marketer needs to be 'full-stack', with skill sets in data analytics, research, PR, branding, IT, UX and product development. It’s constantly problem-solving. It’s managing multiple stakeholders to achieve a common goal.

Calls for an Agile approach

The change in marketing cannot be isolated from the bigger picture. Truth is, the rules of the game have evolved in business as well. It’s no longer about branding, pricing and channels; instead, it is the customer experience you deliver. Marketers today have to collaborate with other stakeholders and stay faithfully connected with all channels in order to maintain the pulse over critical customer touch points.

Taking a leaf from the world of software development, Agile has been called out again and again as a way of working to help marketers adapt to the speed of innovation required today. I’ve had the first-hand experience of practising and implementing this approach at Text100 and from my point of view, the results are immediate, tangible, scalable and effective.

  • It improves cross-functional team collaboration;
  • It governs the thought process to prioritise tasks by focusing on the end results;
  • Small-scale experiments can be easily and rapidly identified and carried out. It’s ok to fail and fail fast, which minimises the risk of failure;
  • It prohibits assumptions by forcing us to prototype.

To transform your marketing team’s focus into one that’s customer-oriented, and capable of reacting fast to capitalise on new consumer behaviours and trends, each team member should adopt Agile as an approach to working. I strongly believe that there are five key tenets of its application:

The five elements of an Agile marketer

There is no “I” in an Agile environment, for teamwork is essential. An Agile marketer and team leader has to be able to take charge and foster collaboration.

Forming the right team (check out the regional marketing playbook on setting up an Agile cross country team), establishing a culture (the Agile manifesto is a good place to start), and ensuring that your team has the discipline to follow the rigour of Agile tools such as Scrum, Kanban, and the like should be where you start to forge a rewarding and engaging Agile experience.

Being Agile is all about moving fast. To do so, you have to be able to see the signs earlier than others. Marketers can no longer rely on gut feelings. Data-driven insights are your new BFF. 

An Agile marketer has to be savvy in understanding data and mastering the art of leveraging tools like Google Trends, Google Analytics, BuzzSumo, Brandwatch, HubSpot. These are just a glimpse of the huge universe of tools you can tap on to have real-time insights to continuously improve the content, social, search and digital strategy.

While you can build an Agile team from within the organisation, true agile thinking also expands the notion of team beyond its traditional constraints today. The “gig economy” has brought us a stream of quality, talented professional freelancers. They are a valuable and scalable resource. Managing these external talents and seeing them as a flexible, on-demand extension of your team is a mindset and skill required of an Agile marketer. A seamless alignment on strategy, performance and relationship sets the strong foundation leading to the success in maximising the potential of the network.

Apart from freelancers, agencies have been playing the role of an extended talent network to marketers. As a marketing team evolves to be more Agile, the dynamics of the traditional client-agency relationship also should evolve.

Brands will soon require agencies to provide flexible multi-disciplinary specialists to drive on-demand delivery and speed-to-market, and they will want to know each team member’s roles and responsibilities to ensure transparency. Vice versa, to align more closely on goals and strategy, as well as to achieve higher brand immersion, agencies will need direct access to key stakeholders in the business and desire to work with marketers as one team to collectively excel.

In the end, Agile is more than a process, a set of tools or people management, it is first and foremost a mindset. An Agile marketer has to firstly hold a positive attitude. It’s important to see failures not as setbacks, but opportunities to continuously improve. Secondly, an Agile marketer has to have the passion and thirst to learn—you’re always a work in progress. In a cross-functional collaborative environment, you have to be able to at least understand the language of your colleagues in other departments, be it IT or finance, which means constantly acquiring new knowledge.

Betty Bai is a senior consultant and head of learning and personnel development at Text100 Singapore.

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