Are you Agile or on Autopilot?

Digital continues to put us under pressure to make decisions in real-time. If anything the pace is likely to accelerate. But we marketers are resilient, adaptable and ready to change at short notice, right? Agile marketing is one emerging approach to our fast moving world, but is there still a place for the annual planning cycle?

In a word, yes.  However, we’d like to make the case for a hybrid approach - one that applies certain principles of agile marketing during the annual planning cycle to create an integrated plan that meets business priorities and of course the budget, but factors in a degree of flexibility and measured risk.  

Agile marketing has been much talked about for the past five years. And, when done well its test and learn philosophy can offer huge dividends in terms of profit and productivity.

However, while it offers the promise of increased collaboration, reduced siloes, budgetary efficiencies and responding deftly to market changes, our view is that only a few companies are doing it and of those only a few have achieved a state of nirvana.

The reality is, most companies still rely on a traditional annual planning cycle resulting in a playbook and/or an operational plan. While it is exciting to fly the plane while you’re still building it, plans still need to be pragmatic, signed off and executed.

We’re confident that agile marketing will continue to evolve and gain traction adding an exciting dimension to what we do. But the arrival of 2018 media kits in our inboxes reminds us that established planning processes are very much alive.

A hybrid approach involves applying certain agile principles to traditional marketing and communications planning methods and introducing more flexibility and dynamism;

Transparency and Collaboration

  • Encourage more transparent, cross-functional collaboration during planning helps break down siloes, drives consensus and ensures the annual plan is completely integrated.
  • Be open to trying new ideas, which by the way may come from the intern or the CEO - it’s easy to just rinse and repeat last year’s plan.

Decision Making Based on Data

  • This year’s EMG customer survey revealed that audience segmentation, media consumption habits and finding reliable data is a constant challenge.
  • If you don’t have marketing research resources on tap… a credible, audited data source has been staring you in the face all along.
  • Trade publications invest significant resource collecting and auditing audience data. So don’t write off the humble media kit just yet.
  • If you’re considering trialing continuous planning as part of a campaign, then use media kits as a living reference documents - all year round.

Customer Focus

  • Irrespective if you’re agile or on autopilot – reaching and adding value to your customers and customers’ customers should remain core to what we do.
  • Spend less time navel gazing. Agile marketing offers an outside in approach to decision-making and encourages customer feedback early on – during product or service development and deployment, through to aftercare, post-sale.
  • Whether you commit to formal voice of the customer surveys, or simply do pulse checks on social media, adjust on the fly, all that data and customer insight needs to be woven into customer journey analysis and inform your short, mid and long-term planning.

Continuous Content

  • Some of our clients are already adopting the principles of agile marketing to their content strategy. We’re helping them experiment with new formats, approaches and testing platforms… usually as part of a targeted campaign, mapping to the big picture annual plan.
  • Experimenting within a focused campaign allows client teams to be more flexible, respond to immediate business opportunities, take measured risks with content, fix them if they don’t work, then try again.
  • Again another hybrid approach. We find mixing new content with existing evergreen material enriches messaging and is effective in creating multiple touchpoints, multiple times. It seems this approach resonates well with target audiences.

Planning for 2018 is already well under way, so you might want to start thinking about how agile will play a role for your brand. Get in touch and we’ll be happy to lend a hand.


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