I recently came across a forum post asking the question: “How effective are agile methodologies for creative projects, specifically for marketing initiatives?” Can agile help marketing teams be more effective? My answer? Yes, definitely.

Over the past few years agile has gained popularity outside the software development fraternity and has become a popular approach for improving the way businesses execute and deliver just about everything – from marketing initiatives, to operations, to boardroom strategy.

While agile has the potential to make teams more effective, the mistake these teams often make is that they become too bogged down in the detail of agile; after all, isn’t the whole idea to make the company more agile?

A clear sign that a company is bogged down in agile theory is when the Agile Manifesto – a document written by 17 really clever software people more than a decade ago – is plastered all over the office walls. Or when the manifesto wording has been altered slightly to fit the domain, resulting in something like: “The Agile Manifesto for Marketing”.

What’s wrong with trying to adapt it to your domain? Simple, you’re getting stuck inside the mental confines of the Agile Manifesto.

The business landscape has changed in the past 14 years, customer delight has become the new bottom line, favouring outcomes over output. A value like “working software over comprehensive documentation” is not enough anymore.

Customers don’t just want a piece of working software, they want a positive outcome. In marketing particularly, it is no different, customers expect positive, measurable outcomes.

It’s not about getting an eBook or white paper done, it’s about improving website traffic, improving lead conversion rates, and improving customer conversion rates. Essentially, customer delight has become the new definition of done in scrum, regardless of what you are delivering.

At Emerge, our sole purpose is to help business owners create great businesses and, along the way, discover the freedom they sought when they became entrepreneurs. To do this, we have to be insanely focused on positive outcomes, while having the agility to quickly adapt to changes in our customers’ business environment.

To this end, we use our own version of agile. One that fits our culture, our purpose, our distributed structure, and, above all, helps us deliver positive outcomes for our customers.

Part of our culture is the idea that we are Digital Distillers, blending elements of digital marketing (content, social media, SEO etc.) to create remarkable marketing cocktails for our customers.

As one would expect we have a distillation process, and yes, it’s agile:

1. Create a Distillation Plan

When starting a new project or customer engagement, our first objective is to be clear on the business goals – the outcomes of the engagement. Once we have these down, we can create an outcomes-based marketing plan – typically a 6 to 12 months plan.

2. Find a Domain Expert

We identify a domain expert, a person our team will work intimately with to ensure we have the depth of knowledge required to deliver the outcomes expected.

3. Create Outcomes

In our marketing plan we define Rocks, quarterly outcomes based priorities, that our entire team is geared toward achieving. We took the idea from the Entrepreneurial Operating System – a great system for helping your team execute better.

Here are some examples of Rocks:

  • Increase website traffic from 1,200 visits a month to 3,000 visits per month in the next 90 days.
  • Drive visitor to contact conversions from 45 to 80 contacts per month in the next 90 days.
  • Improve the Marketing Qualified Lead ratio to 1:3 in the next 90 days.

Based on these outcomes for the quarter we start planning our sprints – or distills in our case.

4. The Distill Team

Our Distillation Team (scrum team) consists of 4 to 5 people – a master distiller, a social media expert, a content strategist, a designer and a content writer. The output of each distill is tightly aligned with that quarters Rocks and measured during a weekly huddle.

5. Distill (Sprint)

Our sprints even have their own flavour, distills – we’re marketers at heart, what can I say? We use Trello to manage sprint tasks creating a card task. Distill cards look something like this:

Using Trello for Agile Marketing - EmergeStudio

6. Distill Planning

The length of our sprints depends on the team, the urgency of the engagement, our domain knowledge. Sometimes we run weekly distills, other times we work on 2 weekly distills.

At the end of a distill we review our progress, identify what needs more work and then plan the next distill. With a team distributed across time zones and continents, we prefer to hold fewer meetings, making those we do have as productive as possible.

7. Stand-up

The same way software delivery teams have a stand-up every morning, our geographically distributed team holds a daily Skype-up, a 15 minute review of the previous days’ progress, identifying any blockers and reviewing the tasks for the day ahead.

Probably the most important thing for our team is consistency. Instead of getting bogged down in the rigors of agile, we use what works for us, after all, we’re agile.

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