The 7 Most Common Agile Marketing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

The 7 Most Common Agile Marketing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

Do you want to effectively pivot your marketing tactics based on
incoming data?

What about getting visibility inside and outside the department
into what marketing’s working on?

Or how about figuring out what’s messing up your process
before it’s caused you to miss every single deadline this
quarter?

If any or all of those are appealing, I have good news: the path
to achieving all of those is paved with the exact same substance,
namely Agile marketing. The second annual
State of Agile Marketing Report
from AgileSherpas and
CoSchedule found that these are the top three benefits cited by
Agile marketing teams.

The bad news? It’s a lot easier to get Agile wrong than it is
to get it right.

I spend my days training marketing teams on how to translate
Agile principles and practices to work in our unique world, so
I’ve seen my share of missteps. In the hope of saving you some of
this pain, here are the seven most common Agile marketing mistakes
and how to avoid them.

Agile marketing mistake #1: Organizing around projects

You can hold daily standup meetings religiously, visualize your
work meticulously, and otherwise follow Agile practices to the
letter, but if marketers are sitting on a dozen different project
teams none of it will make a whit of difference.

Rather than rearrange people to suit different types of project
work, flow projects onto the teams best suited to handle them.

I recently coached a team who had heard me say this a dozen
times, and they theoretically agreed with what I was saying.

But once we sat down and mapped out their current team
obligations and compared that to how things would look in an Agile
world, the light bulbs went off all over the place.

5 Reasons Not to Organize by Project for agile marketing mistakes

This marketing group supports multiple software products being
sold around the world, plus they’re responsible for putting on
global and regional events. Pre-Agile, every person on the team was
flitting back and forth amongst 6-60 of these different obligations
on a daily basis.

As you can imagine, it was taking FOREVER to get anything
done.

Instead, we created four Agile teams who would focus on
particular global regions. Whatever marketing work related to the
products and events that matter to those parts of the world would
be worked on by the team responsible for that region.

Agile team for agile marketing mistakes

In this modified version of the Spotify model you can see
another way of looking at it. Here teams are organized by stage of
the funnel.

However you choose to arrange your people, the important thing
is to get out of multi-project purgatory and let groups focus on
certain kinds of work.

Flow work to the right people; don’t force people to chase
dozens of different projects.

Agile marketing mistake #2: Not aligning around strategic
objectives

Agile is often closely associated with speed and efficiency, and
that’s absolutely true. Our Agile Marketing Report shows that 36%
of Agile marketing teams enjoy a faster time to get things
released.

But without good alignment around strategic marketing outcomes,
you’re just spinning the hamster wheel faster.

Ensure
marketing leadership
is creating (and communicating)
marketing’s annual and quarterly objectives. Teams need to be
confident that their daily work aligns to larger priorities.

And once those priorities have been established, don’t change
them on a whim.

There’s nothing worse than coming up with a great project to
support the new initiative and getting really pumped about it, only
to discover that it’s been arbitrarily de-prioritized.

Support your Agile teams by clearly stating and sticking to
big-picture
goals
.

Agile marketing mistake #3: Being rigid in your choice of framework

I often compare Agile
marketing frameworks
to flavors of ice cream:

Everybody has a preference, but in reality, one isn’t
quantitatively better than the other.

The same goes for Agile frameworks in marketing. Most people
have heard of Scrum; it’s nearly ubiquitous inside of software
and IT. But being well known doesn’t make it perfect.

In fact, marketing teams get the most benefit from using a
hybrid framework:

Hybrid framework for agile marketing mistakes

If Agile frameworks are like flavors of ice cream, marketers
should be buying Neapolitan. We benefit from a broad spectrum of
practices, so don’t limit yourself to a rigid implementation.

Agile marketing mistake #4: Assuming Agile marketing means all or
nothing

If a department-wide reorganization is out of the question, and
everyone works on a dozen projects simultaneously, does that mean
Agile marketing is out of your reach? Definitely not.

You can begin by piloting Agile within a subset of the
department, documenting their journey, and using it to inform a
wider rollout.

Piloting Cross Functional Teams for agile marketing mistakes

If even that seems like a stretch, individuals can benefit
enormously from using Agile practices in their own day to day work.
In my content
marketing
days, I had a personal kanban board next to my desk,
and I used it to navigate “urgent” incoming requests by showing
everyone what I was already working on.

It’s amazing how visibility can turn “I need this yesterday!
Drop everything you’re doing!” into “Oh, wow, ya…you’re
really busy…and I need that other thing you’re working on. I
can wait until you have time.”

Adopting Agile in an incremental, agile fashion is often just as
effective as going all in.

Agile marketing mistake #5: Not insisting on limited
work-in-progress (WIP)

One of the most paradoxical parts of Agile is its insistence
that working on fewer things will let you get more done, but it’s
a highly documented fact.

Limit the number of things you’re doing at the same time, and
everything you work on will get done faster.

The big time suck here is what’s known as context switching,
or the mental tax we pay every time we jump from one task to
another.

Effects of Context Switching for agile marketing mistakes

Iterative frameworks like Scrum limit a team’s work in
progress (WIP) by forcing them to confine their to-do list to a
limited time box (known as the Sprint).

Flow-based frameworks like Kanban create ceilings on how many
individual items can be in progress inside the team’s workflow,
achieving a similar result.

However you choose to do it, don’t assume that you can dabble
in Agile and get its benefits without somehow limiting your work in
progress.

Agile marketing mistake #6: Dropping meetings without understanding
them

I know just a few paragraphs ago I was telling you not to be
overly rigid in your Agile adoption, but you also shouldn’t throw
the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

If, for instance, your daily standup meetings feel overwhelming
and unhelpful, don’t automatically assume it’s the meeting
that’s the problem and stop having it.

Instead, consider WHY we have daily standup meetings in the
first place, and if the way you’re managing this meeting is true
to that core objective.

Are you spending all your time problem-solving? Do outside
stakeholders butt in and make the meeting go long? Are you *gasp*
only meeting once a week?

Interrogate your process and see if it’s setting you up for
success before you abandon a core Agile meeting.

Agile marketing mistake #7: Leaving BAU work out of the backlog

Ok, this last one is pretty in the weeds, but my Agile coach
soul just wouldn’t let me leave it off the list.

When you’re building your
backlog
(the prioritized to-do list that guides an Agile
team’s work), don’t succumb to the temptation to only document
strategic project work.

You must – and I mean MUST – include all the work that the
team’s committed to.

If you don’t, “dark work” will creep in and derail your
work without you knowing.

This applies to all kinds of teams, both those using Kanban and
those using Scrum.

If you don’t put everything out there, Agile marketers will go
off and put out fires, respond to “urgent” emails, and get
pulled into meetings day in and day out, and your efforts to adopt
Agile practices will all be for naught.

Visualize all the team’s work, even if you know it’s an
absurd amount. Only by putting it all out in the open can you hope
to eventually avoid mistake #5 and not limit your work in
progress.

Avoid Agile marketing mistakes with education

Agile software development has been around for a couple of
decades now, which means there’s no excuse for marketers to
repeat their mistakes.

Sure, marketing and development are drastically different
professions, but marketers at least have some frameworks to build
on; we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Education remains the most commonly cited barrier to greater
Agile marketing adoption, so get a running start and clear it by
committing to ongoing learning. There are online courses, free
webinars, tons of written content, and even a formal
Agile marketing certification
available to you.

No excuses – get out there and get educated so these mistakes
won’t derail your Agile marketing adoption.

Guest author: An early convert to the ways of
Agile marketing, Andrea loves nothing more than seeing a team
evolve from a chaos to high performance. In addition to being
trained as a Scrum Master and Product Owner, Andrea is a Certified
Professional in Agile Coaching (ICP-ACC) and a Certified Agile
Leader (CAL-1). She shares her findings (and failures) regularly
from stages around the world as an international speaker on all
things Agile marketing.

Andrea is a content marketer by trade and functions best when
she’s writing regularly. Her most recent book, Death
of a Marketer
, chronicles marketing’s troubled past and
charts a course to a more agile future for the profession. You can
find more of her writing on the AgileSherpas blog.

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