Put simply, ‘agile’ is the application of lean principles to the customer acquisition process.
It is no exaggeration to say that old school marketers and sales managers were largely operating in the dark. Marketing communication was expensive, cumbersome and inefficient and, to make matters worse, nobody could be sure what worked or why! Sales managers faced the same problem. They relied for their information on their sales people in the field, who were notoriously economical with what they chose to reveal!
Faced with such an environment, it is hardly surprising that attitudes to marketing investment were characterised by suspicion, reluctance and conservatism. That has all changed. The overwhelming adoption of digital technologies has had a ground-breaking impact.
The response of the market can now be observed and measured with confidence for the first time. We can see what people access, how they access it and how they respond. Customer profiling is much more precise, enabling us to target effectively. And, content can be produced and modified quickly and economically, so we can respond rapidly to what the market tells us.
Agile marketing is an empirical method of optimising and maintaining the efficiency of the customer acquisition process. In other words the effective application of the agile approach substantially reduces costs, whereas the failure to adopt or implement it represents a significant competitive disadvantage.
It provides a platform to test the marketability of new product ideas. The fundamental cornerstone of the lean start-up approach is that the only effective method of generating a commercially viable new product is to constantly test it on the market. That simply cannot be done without having a fully functioning agile marketing system in place.
It offers a fast and reliable approach to identifying and responding to changes in your competitive environment. The way in which ‘the market’ actually reacts to competitor initiatives or other major environmental shifts can be picked up quickly and efficiently.
It offers a major source of genuine competitive advantage to SMEs competing against larger but less agile rivals. It makes your investment in customer acquisition go further!
By using appropriate data and analytics, it provides a structured approach to identifying problems, ‘pain-points’ or gaps within the overall customer acquisition process. The key word here is ‘appropriate.’ A great deal of thought needs to be given to the metrics that are used to avoid confusion and ambiguity, an issue that is examined in Getting The Data Right.
Ideas to address identified issues are formulated and prioritised rapidly. Methods to test these ideas in the real world and the key performance indicators and targets used to measure their effectiveness are then developed.
A series of short (1or 2 week) ‘sprints’ are then run to validate whether or not the idea worked using efficient tracking methods to measure performance against the agreed key performance indicators.
Results are evaluated rapidly and the ideas are then either refined or ditched, depending on the outcome, before deciding on the next sprint.
Complete, proactive and consistent engagement from all decision makers. As the name suggests, the agile approach requires speed and flexibility so all barriers to rapid action need to be eliminated. So, for example, investment and budgetary decisions and approval of the make-up of sprints need to be made within the agile team.
This means that either key decisions on investment levels and the scope of sprints are made in advance or key decision makers form part of the agile team. Decisions cannot be sent ‘upstairs’ for approval!
Objectivity is a key pre-requisite. The agile approach is evidence based so it is important that decisions are made on the basis of what the data says, not on personal preference or a tendency to cling to existing methods and approaches.