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How to Be an Agile Marketer


How can I adopt an agile marketing approach in my organization?

More than ever, marketers need to quickly adapt to consumers' changing needs and wants in a challenging time and ever-complicated tech landscape. COVID-19 completely upended how people live and work, not to mention how businesses connect to consumers.

Agile marketing can provide more effective ways to handle disruptions and turn them into opportunities rather than challenges. Letting go of conventional, somewhat comfortable marketing strategies in favor of more experiments and testing can be difficult to make a business case for, but it is not impossible. If anything, adopting a fast-paced test and learn culture is part of being a true innovator.

Ewan McIntyre, VP Analyst at Gartner, echoed this, stating, "Perhaps the largest obstacle to agile strategy adoption is cultural change. It takes time and diplomacy to transform long-entrenched attitudes."

As a recent Gartner report stated, a "truly agile (or adaptive) strategy focuses less on specific marketing deliverables and more on business outcomes. It considers strategic planning as a process of continual refinement rather than a one-off exercise. But it can be hard to get C-suite buy-in for agile methodologies."

For this to work, a cultural shift needs to happen internally, not just externally. Part of this is using social listening to understand different consumer segments, as well as meeting and understanding employee needs in a remote work environment. 

Charissa Messer, SVP and in-house agency executive of enterprise creative solutions at Bank of America, described how managing remote employees isn't about the tech, but rather, instilling a brand purpose, stating, "Every person has our mission hanging in his or her office, whether they are at home or in the office. The tool we have in place is paperless and allows people to collaborate seamlessly. We have the ability to use WebEx, there are screens in all the conference rooms, and we have Skype."

Below are helpful best practices, examples, and tools.

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Best Practices 

  • Agile Ascending: 3rd Annual State of Agile Marketing Report. AgileSherpas, 2020.
    This report explores trends and best practices in adopting agile marketing and includes sections on:
    • Why Marketers Go Agile
    • Experience vs. Maturity
    • What's Holding Us Back
    • How Marketers Make Agile Work
    • Ad hoc vs. Traditional vs. Agile Marketers

Also from AgileSherpas, see:

  • Unlock the Agile Framework That Will Transform Your Marketing. ANA | Neustar, December 2020.
    In this presentation Neustar's Marc Vermut discussed how marketers can build an agile analytics framework that will help their businesses thrive with confidence.

  • The Messy Middle Ground of Agile Transformation. Business 2 Community, July 2020.
    While moving from waterfall to agile does require a leap of faith, the leap looks like a straight line. And it also looks like going from waterfall to agile is quick. These are not characteristics of agile transformations. There is a messy middle ground of agile transformation, where organizations are striving to achieve business agility, but they are finding it difficult to progress. There are many areas in which organization can get stuck, but they can be lumped into the six categories shown in this diagram and explained in this article:

  • Develop Your Marketing Strategy with an Agile Approach. Gartner, June 2020.
    For marketers in crisis management mode, agile strategic planning offers a more effective way to handle disruptions and seize opportunities. Agile marketing has made inroads into organizations, but only in a desultory way. "Most businesses have adopted a lightweight version of the concept that doesn't accommodate the more strategic pivots recent events may require," says Ewan McIntyre, VP Analyst, Gartner. "Perhaps the largest obstacle to agile strategy adoption is cultural change. It takes time and diplomacy to transform long-entrenched attitudes." A truly agile (or adaptive) strategy focuses less on specific marketing deliverables and more on business outcomes. It considers strategic planning as a process of continual refinement rather than a one-off exercise.

  • Enhancing Your Marketing with an Agile Approach. Smart Insights, May 2020.
    Inspired by the agile software development methodology, an agile approach to marketing allows online businesses to adjust their marketing strategy according to the latest changes in the market to reach potential customers quickly. This approach involves planning, executing, measuring, and reiterating your marketing strategy with the focus on frequent releases, deliberate experimentation, and unending commitment toward customers' satisfaction. This short guide gives you everything there is to know about agile marketing including benefits, examples, key elements, common Q&As, and mistakes to avoid while implementing this approach (Smart Insights also wrote on 7 Agile Marketing Techniques to Help You Deliver Projects More Effectively).

  • Why Cross-Functional Agile Teams Get Campaigns Delivered Earlier. MarTech Today, January 2021.
    Successful agile marketing teams have one important thing in common — cross-functional team members that have the ability to take campaigns from strategy to execution. This allows them to stop waiting and start delivering at a much faster pace than traditional marketing teams. These successful teams have the right combination of people to deliver the work promised to customers and stakeholders, as well as having at least a portion of the team that can dip into one or two areas to help outside of their primary job function. Also see these MarTech Today articles for more insights:
  • 8 Characteristics of High-Performing Agile Teams. CMS Wire, October 2020.
    A high-performing team is the most reliable source of innovative ideas. The right group of people with the potent combination of know-how, rapport, and freedom can solve just about any problem. But it's neither the organizational culture nor individual performance that dictates success. It's the teams those individuals are part of. So how do you create these bottomless fountains of innovation? This identifies eight characteristics that leaders should cultivate to build outstanding, truly Agile teams.


  • The Importance of Team Agility in Uncertain Times. ANA, November 2020.
    Karen Wish, VP/CMO, Mount Sinai Health System, discussed the importance of team agility during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Karen, the marketing and communications team succeeded in becoming agile by:
    • Breaking down silos
    • Learning not to worry over petty concerns
    • Working as a team to discuss and rapidly overcome obstacles
    • Setting up processes so things ran smoothly
    • Taking its cues from stakeholders
  • How 4 Organizations Are Benefiting from Taking an Agile Marketing Approach. CMS Wire, November 2020.
    Rushing headlong into Agile marketing is no guarantee of success. An organization must educate and prepare marketers and their peers in other departments on how to best approach and implement the new methodology, with a particular emphasis on changing existing behaviors and streamlining processes. CMSWire spoke with four organizations that have successfully implemented Agile marketing about how they went about going Agile, the advice they'd offer peers considering Agile, and the benefits they've seen from taking an Agile approach to marketing.
  • Bank of America's In-House Agency Experiments with Agile. ANA, March 2019.
    Bank of America's in-house creative agency, Enterprise Creative Solutions, succeeds because it has the right people, processes, and technology in place. One way the agency has evolved in recent years is through the implementation of an Agile workflow within select teams.


    • Agile Content Marketing Calendar 2021. ANA | Demand Metric, October 2020.
      This presents an Excel calendar to help you organize your content marketing efforts through an agile approach. Use this tool to identify content marketing ideas, track how those ideas are being implemented, and monitor the ways you repurpose content. It was designed around the idea that content formats change constantly, and modern marketers need to be able to easily brainstorm and conceptualize new ways to market content pieces at the drop of a hat.


  • Agile Marketing Playbook. ANA | Demand Metric, April 2018.
    This Playbook is a planning methodology that highlights our premium tools and templates to help you develop an Agile Marketing plan that supports your company's goals and objectives. Our playbooks are step-by-step guides that help you build strategic processes using "Best Practices" and other Demand Metric tools and templates.

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"How to Be an Agile Marketer." ANA, February 2021.