The Six Pillar Principles of Agile Marketing

According to the recent CMG Partners report, "Agile for Marketing (A4M)," 63 percent of marketing leaders consider agility a high priority, but only 40 percent rate themselves as agile.

Today's marketer faces a new age of engagement where a series of targeted short-term promotions or messages are beginning to outperform more traditional long-term "integrated campaigns." The connected customer—your customer—is just like you: always on. They're switching from screen to screen, device to device, with such limited attention spans that gaining their attention and influencing them is more about putting the needle through the thread when those opportunities present themselves.

And that's the point.

This is an age in which the hare beats the tortoise, in which sprinting a mile is better than jogging a marathon. This is the age of agile marketing.

While there is still a place for long-term campaigns, the truth is that following this approach puts you at risk of being out of date before your campaign is even launched! Conversely, the objective of agile marketing is to constantly prioritize the customer through short iterations of activity that engage them in real time. This generates incremental but still significant results.

As social networking has grown in popularity and mobile Internet technologies have improved, customers now expect to communicate with brands in real time, and will actively avoid those that fail to deliver in today's anytime, anywhere, any-channel world.

I have spent some 27 years as a sales and marketing professional, and for the past 10 years I have prided myself with perfecting the "product marketing discipline," yet I'm here to tell you that job, that role as it has existed, no longer applies. Now today we face another fundamental change, or as we marketers like to say, "a paradigm shift." Marketing pros need to be ready to take more risks, although they're risks backed up by science.

This means that yes, sometimes you just have to seize the moment—carpe diem—and forsake perfection in favor of just getting the message out quickly. While many marketers are still afraid of this always-on communication, the brands that embrace it will ultimately reap the benefits early on. After all, agile marketing is just another way to improve customer connections and shorten your response time when it comes to managing customer needs.

Thus with a tip of the hat to agile marketing evangelist Scott Brinker, here are six Agile Pillar Principles to follow:

Be focused. It is all too easy to confuse responsive agility with short-term thinking and a lack of campaign planning. Have clear goals, KPIs, and metrics you are trying to achieve as you iterate the campaign.

Be adaptable. As a marketer you need to know you can't just expect everything to be mapped out flawlessly every three months. There will always be things that come along, so diversify your plans.

Prioritize the problem. There's no shortage of marketing problems to solve. Know your priority and throw time and energy into your biggest problem first.  

Empower your team. Sometimes the biggest problem is the management barrier. Give your team the right tools and power to tear up processes when they need to, and encourage creativity and execution in real time.

Test relevance. Test fast, fail fast, and learn fast from your data. Success is a process, not an end product.

Bonus: Don't ignore the mix! As with all the tools in a marketers' arsenal, agile marketing is just one (increasingly important) part of a wider marketing mix. Overall, it's about finding a balance between the long and the short term.

Life may be a marathon and not a sprint, but marketing is now a series of sprints as opposed to marathon-long campaigns. Marketers have always needed to reinvent themselves and embrace new tactics; the move to agile marketing presents a tremendous opportunity to do just that. Engaging today's customers requires timely, relevant information—and in the new agile marketing world, there's no time like the present.

James Norwood is executive vice president, strategy, and chief marketing officer for EPiServer. Supported by a network of 880 partners in 30 countries, EPiServer empowers more than 8,800 digital leaders to embrace disruptive, transformational strategies that can deliver standout experiences for their customers—everywhere they engage.

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