100. 5 Steps to Implement Agile Marketing Effectively
Would you like to use your marketing team and resources more effectively? That’s what this episode is all about. Welcome back to another episode of Monetization Nation with Andrea Fryrear, one of the leading agile marketing experts, and the author of Mastering Marketing Agility. In the last episode, we discussed three core principles of agile marketing. In today’s episode, we’ll discuss 5 steps to implement agile marketing effectively.
1. Create Execution Teams
Agile marketing is all about collaboration, so to successfully implement it, we need to create execution teams.
“The execution teams are the people in the trenches. They’re doing the work; they are responsible for delivering concrete stuff that makes up a marketing campaign. They’re making emails, blog posts, landing pages, and social posts,” Andrea said. “They are ideally brought together with an important key purpose [and] reason to work together.”
Each team needs to have a core reason to be in the group together. Often, these groups are determined by the stages in the marketing funnel. For example, one execution team could be focused on demand generation while another could be focused on customer retention. Whatever the case, each team has a specific purpose that drives all of their activity.
All of the team members must learn how to work together efficiently. They should be setting goals together and making sure everyone in the group is on the same page. One way to do this is by constantly measuring their performance. Each team should have KPI measurement systems to help them stay on track with their goals.
“The [teams] work together every single day,” Andrea explained. “They’re a unit — a real team that’s driving towards these goals, and ideally, they have everything they need to be contained in their executive team to get work done so they’re not dependent on a bunch of other groups. They are the people that are staying together and working on these high-level goals.”
Within our teams, we need to distribute different roles. For example, there needs to be a team lead — someone taking all the meeting hits for the team. We have to trust that our team lead will represent our work and bring back what we need to know. It is not a hierarchy, it’s different roles.
However, despite the different roles, it is very important to know what the bigger goals and objectives are, and focus on them.
2. Organize Strategy Groups
“A lot of agile [marketing] takes place at the team level,” Andrea said. “But in marketing, everybody’s really interconnected. So whether you move to cross-functional teams or not, the teams rely heavily on one another to complete any kind of complex campaign or initiative.”
A strategy group is made up of the leaders of the execution teams to make sure everyone is on the same page. They meet together up to five times a week to make sure their teams are aligned, consistent and moving in the same direction. The meeting makes sure there are no issues that go unresolved. They can also meet with other people such as stakeholders, people from sales, and clients who bring in a representation for their business to hear what’s going on.
“[A strategy group] is not necessarily a solution or a feedback meeting. It’s more of, ‘Are there any issues that everybody needs to be aware of? Are we about to do something that’s going to derail everything you guys are working on?’ It’s an alignment meeting that really helps a larger size marketing organization use agile better,” Andrea explained.
Agile marketing only works if there is clear communication within and amongst teams. Strategy groups are essential for aligning the different teams, while execution teams are essential for getting the hard work done.
3. Be Committed and Persistent
Within our teams, we need to be committed and persistent.
When I asked Andrea to share the secret to high-performing execution teams, she told me it is to be persistent. “[We need to] give them that space [and] give them that time to come together, and don’t break them up after three weeks. That’s not a team, in my opinion, that’s a working group,” she said.
A study found that people need to work together consistently for six months before they can really build comfort levels and develop norms. Once a team feels comfortable with each other, efficiency, productivity, trust, and confidence go up (Source: ProSky).
“We always try to have teams write a charter or working agreement so we can say this . . . is how we’re going to behave as a team. And we all commit to having the courage to call one another out if we’re not living up to that. And so, you create this psychological safety — it’s okay to speak up. It’s okay to have crazy ideas; it’s okay to speak your mind in a kind of considerate way,” Andrea said.
In Andrea’s book, Mastering Marketing Agility, she said a perfect agile environment puts emphasis on face-to-face interactions. While COVID-19 has changed things, a perfect environment still relies on the core purpose of what face-to-face interactions do: create connection.
We should set aside times to chat and get to know the other team members. There needs to be communication within our teams. We need to figure out what the connection points are and make sure they are never broken. This is where persistence is key. We have to be persistent in getting to know our team members if we want to find success.
Each team member needs to be 100% committed to their group. There shouldn’t ever be someone who is in multiple execution groups. No man can serve two masters. We need to prioritize people’s time on the most important things. We shouldn’t have people double prioritized — if people are sitting on multiple projects, they end up getting pulled in a million different directions. The whole point of these teams is to prioritize people’s time and energy on the most important things, but when they’re being double or triple prioritized, it destroys the whole focus.
This is the reason we need to watch out for the perils of pilots. Often when people try to implement a pilot, they grab people with the necessary skill sets and put them into that project. They then have to put 10–30% of their time into a pilot program, instead of focusing on their main goals in their execution team. Agile marketing wasn’t meant to work this way. It will only set us up for failure. We have to be committed.
“If you get the basics right, then [the teams] can become something amazing that you would have never anticipated,” Andrea said.
4. Determine Priorities
It is extremely important to know what the bigger goals and objectives are. Once we know our main goal, we can effectively prioritize.
In Andrea’s book, she explains that we need to have queues. Queues are often known as backlogs; however, Andrea wanted to rename it since backlog is often seen as a place where ideas go to die.
“The queue . . . is a prioritized to-do list for the team. It’s not just a brain dump of everything. It’s very strictly prioritized for the work that’s going to deliver outcomes soonest — the things that are of the highest value and highest impact go to the top,” Andrea said.
The queue helps us focus our energy on the most important things. There needs to be a top priority at all times for us to work on. Priority is never plural. If someone suggests we start working on another project, we look at our queue and decide what is more important and valuable. Having this list makes sure we are getting the most important things done first, and not overwhelming ourselves with too many tasks at a time.
A really good way to help visualize the process of prioritization and workflow is using sticky notes. It is a simple visual process to help our teams get organized. There are also simple digital tools that work in a similar way such as Miro and Mural. They both allow you to play around with different ideas like we could with sticky notes or on a whiteboard. This process of planning makes it easy to move things around. Other effective tools are Trello, Monday.com, and Asana.
5. Make Checkpoints
A team that is successful in meeting its goals, doesn’t simply write a goal down and never come back to it. They consistently come back to their goals and evaluate their progress. In our teams, we need to create checkpoints.
“As you’re taking a cross-country road trip, you have to know where you’re going. If you don’t know that you’re trying to get to New York City, and you take off from L.A., driving haphazardly in some sort of direction . . . you’re in big trouble because now you’ve got to redirect and there’s a lot of wasted motion there,” Andrea explained. “That’s what the annual plan is meant to do. It’s meant to say we are trying to get from L.A. to New York. That’s our big goal for the year.”
Every year we should be creating an annual plan for our teams. We need to decide what we want to accomplish within the year and determine our main goal. This plan is there to make sure we know where we are going.
We should also have quarterly planning to make sure we are staying on the right track. These “checkups” help keep the team aligned. “[These plans help us] start from this shared vision, which makes sure that we are driving in the same direction and not having to make these swerves that actually delay our arrival of where we want to be,” Andrea said.
In addition to the annual and quarterly plans, we need to have retrospectives. “Be very diligent about your retrospectives. Don’t skip them; make sure somebody is running them and facilitating them well, and then act on what you learn,” Andrea said.
We should implement retrospectives about every two weeks. Within these meetings, we need to let everybody talk and share their ideas for improvement, and then do something about it. We have to take action, if we don’t our process will stagnate quickly. After each meeting, we should have at least one action item we can start to work on to make the ideas and improvements a reality.
Thank you so much Andrea for sharing your stories and knowledge with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
1. Agile marketing is all about collaboration within and amongst teams. We should create and organize execution teams and strategy groups.
2. We need to be persistent in communication with our teams.
3. We should leverage agile project management software such as Asana or Monday.com.
4. We have to be committed to our teams and to achieving our main goals and objectives.
5. We need to determine priorities and have a queue.
6. We need to make checkpoints to make sure our team stays aligned with our goals.
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