canoe moving through agile marketing waters

Reflections on 5+ Years Of Agile Marketing

The days are long, and the years are short. This is true for raising a family and for much of our working lives. I found this to be especially true as I sat down to reflect on the journey of doing agile marketing for New North. Our “agile” has evolved from the company’s early days in 08’ to a full-blow agile methodology back in 2017.

But as time keeps moving on, we find ourselves five years since we started talking about our agile marketing process by going public with our clients about the process. With many wins and losses along the way, I decided to write this piece to reflect on our learnings that could help you in your journey of going agile.

1. Unadulterated Change

The most significant advantage that agile will give to your company will be the ability to respond quickly to change.

This can be a blessing and a curse (as I’ll explore in the next point), but overall, the ability of your organization to quickly adapt to the changing needs of the client and market can be a huge win. To qualify this statement, it would be best to think about the speed of change in the size of the organization. As we have grown, maintaining speed has been a real challenge in light growth. A single person can change in a moment, but in an organization of ten, twenty, or even one hundred, it takes much more energy and coordination to make that change happen quickly.

Agile gives you speed because it allows you to work inside a framework that focuses on importance as a key priority and has the supporting structure to enable that change to happen quickly.

With daily standups and weekly sprints, you maintain an edge by allowing change into the system in a controlled way. This, in effect, gives you speed to change and fosters the environment for its growth and adoption.

2. The Cost of Change

The counterbalance to the last point about speed and change is that change does have cost. We have all been in situations in our lives, usually when significant changes come about, like a new home, getting married, or having kids, where the change puts your previous stability off-kilter. At the same time, we adjust to the new situation. This can be stressful to many people, us included! Yet having no change in your life would be a path to feeling unfulfilled.

So I believe we all seek stability in balance with constant change. We need change to grow, yet we need stability for our mental health and relaxation. The issue that can arise, and has at times at New North, is having changes that happen so quickly and rapidly that it can undermine a sense of stability. When this happens, the team can feel the stress of the change in forms of burnout, complaining, and generally feeling exhausted, even though it’s all mental, not physical. And that is the point, that change does not always impact us physically; it’s the emotional and spiritual cost of change that an organization must weigh.

Changing too much too fast can take a toll if not moderated. The beauty of agile is that everything can change; the danger is that if you open that throttle, you could stall the engine by giving it too much change.

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3. The Book

Another highlight of the last years was writing the book, Ride the Tornado.

From the inception of our agile process, we have been refining our way of doing agile in the professional services model. My goal in writing the book was to share the agile method with as many people as possible that could benefit from the transformation that agile marketing could bring to their organization. But right as we moved to publish, this thing called Coronavirus 19 popped up in China, and we thought we might wait it out. A year later, we published the book in one of the fastest-changing and most unstable markets I’ve seen in my professional career.

The book, in essence, is a behind-the-scenes on how we run agile marketing in our organization. I wanted it to be a DIY implementation guide for companies looking to turn their organization into an agile marketing team.

Ride the Tornado has templates, agendas, and the thinking behind how to turn the process into a reality for your organization. If you want to bring agile into your marketing, buy a copy here.

4. Sticking To It

Now that you have heard some of the ups and downs with agile, one of the core necessities of an agile organization is the ability to persevere. Simply “sticking to it” is a challenging proposition for many organizations.

The project management trend of the day seems to sweep through organizations and managers. Or another tool or piece of software seems to be the flashy, new solution to help solve the problem, yet in the end, it just feels like moving around deck chairs on the Titanic.

The journey to being an agile company never ends. I hope that is not a discouraging statement but one that should help you persevere through the hard times. Agile is not a set of tools or processes but a state of mind.

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Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.

Tom Peters

Never stop investing. Never stop improving. Never stop doing something new. Make it your goal to be better every day, in some small way. Remember the Japanese concept of Kaizen. Small daily improvements eventually result in huge advantages.

Bob Parsons

You must always seek to improve the processes, systems, and products around you in an agile workforce. This is the core of the philosophy at the heart of the movement. Your relentless approach to change, in small and meaningful ways, is the path to the greatest overall change – if you can stick to it. And I would say 100% it is worth it.

5. Scaling Agile Marketing

Lastly, I would say that our company’s ability to scale has been dramatically impacted and helped by being agile. With the right mindset of being agile in spirit and always seeking to improve, we have handled scaling in very good and healthy ways in the past years. Growing 50% in one year was not as painful as that might seem to many other companies.

With the relentless approach to improvement, the team continually seeks to improve and solve problems, especially in the light of challenges that come with scaling. Imagine your whole team is on the lookout for ways to improve your processes and methods of working to accommodate your new growth pains! A consultant once told me there are three types of employees, those who drive the wagon, those who ride the wagon, and those who drag their feet behind the wagon. Hopefully, you get the metaphor, but ultimately you want to eliminate the feet draggers at any cost.

Being a fast-scaling agile company, those feet draggers typically don’t make it through the interview process. When they see the laser focus and demand for everyone to be a part of the solutions, they fade away and hopefully work at your competitor. Agile creates a culture that embraces change and thus embraces scaling with unparalleled excitement from the team, in my experience.

Starting Today

The saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago or today.

The road to agile marketing is one full of challenge and work, but the rewards are great. If you are wondering how to start, I would say you are already on the journey.

Start by taking one step. Start by seeking to improve your understanding of agile. Seek to train your team on the agile processes and get them excited about being agile.

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