How to Create Agile Marketing Teams

Agile started in the software industry when a group of thought leaders combined their vision and experience to create the Agile Manifesto. This group of individuals created 4 values with the objective of improving the software development process. From a marketing perspective, the agile manifesto was first interpreted to align with marketing teams in 2012 and the content is available on the agile marketing manifesto website. For the purpose of this article, we will go a little deeper to present and discuss the core characteristics of Agile Marketing which postulate the following:

1. Adaptive marketing plans over rigid 12-month plans.

2. Employee autonomy over command-control leadership style.

3. Customer collaboration over the highest paid person’s opinion.

4. Individual interactions over processes and technological tools.

Applying agile to marketing is lauded to bring a whole range of important benefits, most notably:

1. improving customer feedback loop to facilitate effective planning;

2. helping to create adaptive marketing plans;

3. reducing departmental silos;

4. increasing team development through collaboration.

However, in order to enjoy these benefits of a full agile transformation on a departmental scale, first, it is necessary to test out the application of Agile principles in a small, controlled environment: a pilot team. The main responsibility of this team is to plan and execute marketing campaigns from start to finish. For example, a pilot team can be assembled for Search Engine Optimisation, which will include members with skills required for on-page optimization, technical SEO and content marketing, who will work together under the guidance of an experienced agile coach. The number of people on the team will depend on whether or not you have been hiring people with specialist skills or T-shaped marketers.

It is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the pilot team you are assembling because individuals on the team must possess the full range of skills needed to complete end-to-end process of SEO activities. The team leader or the CMO will start the process by performing a skill assessment of the team in a constructive way. This activity is not aimed at undermining the competence of individuals on the team but at getting an overview of what the team will require in terms of skill set and then gather feedback from everyone about the skills they want to improve on and the type of training they wish to attend to develop such skills. For in-house marketing teams, the best way to develop the skills of the pilot team is to collaborate with your existing marketing agency liaisons, who can train every member of the team in the skill they require. These trainings are not the usual two-day training workshops often offered to clients, because such training is not as effective as pair training. Pair training is when the CMO invites people from the agency to come into the office and work on their marketing campaigns, while members of the in-house team watch and learn from these consultants in an interactive and collaborative manner. It is also important to partner individuals on the team so they can learn from each other in an interactive way. These partnerships help to improve interpersonal relationships between team members. For example, someone with a strong skill set in technical SEO can teach the content marketer about web design and other technical SEO stuff, while the technical person can learn about content marketing in return. As a result, the team is now better equipped to deal with marketing challenges in an agile way because this has increased the number of T-shaped marketers (i.e. professionals with multiple marketing skills) in the team. This process, which lasts no less than 3 months, is key in creating high-performance Agile marketing teams.

The next step is to assess the emotional intelligence of the team and their interpersonal skills. Most education and training does not really focus on developing this aspect of a marketer’s skills set and this is often a crucial characteristic that determines the overall success of the team. This is particularly so because teams with high emotional intelligence tend to deal more productively with conflict that can arise within the team. Sure, conflict can be minimized through a skillful allocation of roles within the team. However, team members must be adequately competent in dealing with any issues that might arise, The ability to manage conflicts will directly impact the agility of the team and their contribution to the achievement of the overall business objectives. Imagine a global team with different nationalities and cultural backgrounds working together. As the CMO, are you aware of how these cultural and ethnic differences impact on the individual team member’s ways of working and communicating within the team? Do you know how to motivate and support individuals on the team to develop the soft skills they need, which might be out of their immediate comfort zone?

The decision about which agile framework to choose should be agreed by everyone within the team. Depending on the size and location of team members, it is important to seek clarification about the dependencies between the pilot and the rest of the marketing team, as well as any other external teams that the pilot team might need to work with. This will help to improve communication and reduce wastage in term of time delays and related costs, thus improving efficiency. Marketing teams that tend to cope best are those that are cross-functional and equipped with the skill requirement that allows them to remain cross-functional and autonomous. In a B2B context, in particular, teams have to rely on a combination of qualitative and quantitative customer feedback to prioritise and assign tasks, to ensure their agility impacts on the overall customer satisfaction and, subsequently, the company’s bottom line.

This is just a brief introduction to a series of blog posts I will be sharing over the next few months, looking at how agile works in a marketing context. Agile marketing is relatively easy to adopt and I explained the process in my new book Lean Agile Marketing: How to Become Agile and Deliver Marketing Success. For further information about how to apply agile in marketing, please leave a comment below or contact me directly.

About The Author

Femi Olajiga an Agile Marketing Coach who provides Agile marketing training workshops and coaching that helps CMO’s, Directors and Marketing Teams adopt agile marketing. He is also the author of the book: Lean-Agile Marketing: How to Become Agile and Deliver Marketing Success. Available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. He enables companies to become agile across marketing to drive business growth. For further information, connect or follow me LinkedIn, Twitter or visit my blog CXconversion.com.

If you’d like to learn how to develop an agile mindset or just generally learn more about Agile and Scrum in Non-IT Software teams or about Agile marketing specifically, consider reading the book above — Lean Agile Marketing: How to Become Agile and Deliver Marketing Success.