Agile Marketing for B2B
In the B2B technology space, marketers are continuously required to do more with less. And we do it! Why?
It’s necessary to keep up with the ever-evolving B2B marketing landscape. Sometimes, we pull off the impossible. Then… we’re asked to do it again. And again. And again. It’s becoming the norm.
No one’s impressed anymore. And it’s becoming a serious problem.
“As marketing teams — and the enterprises around them — grow, so do the demands on marketers in terms of productivity and communication. Too often, this pushes existing tools, processes, and schedules to the breaking point…Without visibility, conflict and misperceptions flourish, team workloads become unbalanced, and marketers work increasingly longer hours.” – The State of Marketing Work
To solve it, marketers resort to one of two options:
(1) Spend more time
(2) Spend more money
In order to continue to meet increasing consumer demands, marketing teams are forced to work longer hours to meet deadlines, and spend more money on outsourced projects. Right?
There’s another way. A new way.
But it requires thinking.
In my experience, I’ve found that… Most people don’t like change. How can people just sit around and accept broken processes and a broken system as the end-all be-all? If you’re still marketing like it’s 2009, it’s time to wake up.
Sure, it’s easier to stick to what you know. And sure, it’s easier to accept things as they are. But where would we be in this world if everyone just settled for the norm?
The bottom line is: Thinking is HARD! But thinking can be so rewarding.
“Having run businesses, worked with people at all stages of their careers in Fortune 500 to start-ups, the biggest deficiency I’ve found is people just don’t think. They operate on autopilot, accepting the status quo. Rarely if ever challenging why things are done, wondering if there is a better way or even considering the idea that maybe they could be wasting time, missing an opportunity or losing money.”
– Keenan, A Sales Guy
The world needs more THINKERS! We need more of the people who WANT to make things better! Who can stand up to the MAN! Who are ready to BUCK the system!
But bucking the system requires a specific type of person – A Rebel! A rebel to fearlessly lead the rebellion.
MY FELLOW MARKETERS! JOIN ME!
Think outside the box: Look at your processes. What do they look like? Choas right?
Don’t get defensive! You’re not alone! The majority of us marketers deal with the same fundamental issues:
We value TIME SPENT on work, instead of the actual WORK we produce
“How a company defines productivity will determine what infrastructure they build to measure and manage it. If they don’t really question the traditional assumptions around productivity, they end up with an industrial-era notion — simply that ‘more output with less input’ is better.”
We’re extremely INEFFICIENT
The goal should be to focus on EFFICIENCY, rather than OUTPUT.
“There’s a trap we fall into of justifying the work by the time and resources put in. ‘I’ve spent 60 hours/4 months/8 years on this. I deserve it to be a success.’”
Our culture doesn’t support CHANGE
“As marketers, I’m sure we’ve all heard sayings that are meant to challenge our line of thinking and productivity. You may be asked to ‘think outside the box’ or be told that the six words that will kill your business are ‘We’ve always done it this way.’
Though these sentiments are meant to challenge employees, they foster the notion that your thinking must be grand in scale and allow for widespread changes.”
Our communication SUCKS
“Very few marketers seem to dodge the proverbial bullet of workplace conflict. The most prominent cause of conflict is lack of communication/miscommunication. Lost productivity, more than any other consequence, seems to be the price that most marketing teams pay for this conflict. It’s worth noting that all of the top sources of conflict are not personal or cultural in nature, but appear to be based on failures to provide adequate structure or communication.”
Read more: The State of Marketing Work
- We’re afraid to FAIL
- Lack of TRUST
- There are no PROCESSES
- We’re not SUPPORTED by the rest of the company
How can we fix all this crap?
WITH AGILE MARKETING
“Agile marketing is an efficient process, meaning that a higher volume of content can be produced without sacrificing quality.” – The Kapost Blog
Agile practices can help put an end to the fundamental problems most marketing teams are faced with today. A fully functioning agile marketing team can not only overcome their day-to-day challenges, but reach a new level of functionality they’ve never seen before.
Problem 1: We Don’t Have Enough Time
Why is time so hard to come by these days? Could it be because we’re so preoccupied with inefficient practices that we’re unable to do any actual work? (The answer is a big fat YES – you just may not know it)
What’s the ROI of the following activities?
- Long email threads
- Talking about what you “think” or “feel” will be a good marketing campaign
- Sitting in meetings
- Making phone calls
- Filling out spreadsheets
- Waiting on approval – from THREE or more people
- Outlining your 6-month “plan”
- Telling people what work you need them to do
- Telling those people they didn’t do the work the way YOU envisioned it
- Making sure those people get it right next time
- Redoing work because of miscommunications
I can go on forever. You may roll your eyes at some of those, but these are detrimental to productivity.
If you’re wasting time, you’re wasting money.
Agile Marketing Helps.
- Excessive Oversight Becomes Clear Visibility: Any agile methodology that you choose will force you to focus on visibility. This should eliminate your higher-ups’ need to babysit all your projects.
- Lack of Standard Process Becomes Agile Rituals: Whether they are event-driven triggers in Kanban or Sprint meetings, agile practices created repeatable, standardized processes.
- Lack of Collaboration Becomes Cross Functional Teams: Agile teams succeed or fail as a unit. You don’t need a team of experts in everything, but you do need to be able to support one another’s projects in times of crisis.
- Poor Prioritization Becomes a Well-Tended Backlog: Backlogs are a clear list of what’s up next. They’re maintained by stakeholders and/or product owners, and they should be constantly kept in prioritized order. Better priorities, better communication, all in one place.
- Excessive Delegation Becomes Sacred Sprint Space: No more executive delegation derailing your carefully planned workday. You know what you’re supposed to do and when, and every member of the organization has to respect it.
- Poor Alignment Becomes Constant Backlog Communication: Goals changing? No problem. Update the prioritization of the backlog, and we’ll take it into account during our next planning meeting.
Problem 2: We Don’t Have a Personal Life
Whether you love the “hustle” or you hate it, there’s one thing that’s very real about being dedicated to your work. By working outside of normal business hours, we hurt our personal happiness and relationships. If you have a “do what it takes” attitude – sorry – it can also negatively impact your productivity and creativity during the week.
Agile Marketing Helps.
The solution seems very clear: we need to have better control over how much we have to do and the amount of time to get it done. Scrum can be the perfect solution to this, because it creates finite spaces for work and calls for teams to precisely estimate how much they’ll do in that time period.
On an agile team, you can expect these kinds of transformations:
- Trying to Get Ahead Becomes Confidence in Stability:You’re not worried about trying to get ahead if you confidently know exactly what you’re responsible for each sprint, that you’re backed by a committed team, and that priorities won’t turn on a dime.
- Too Much Work Becomes Accurate Task Estimation:The team should not be allowed to commit to more work than they have hours to complete in a sprint. Tasks and team bandwidth should be accurately estimated so that each team member and the team as a whole can state with confidence that they will reach their goals in an allotted amount of time.
- Inefficient Use of Time Gets Addressed in Standup Meetings:If you have to report to your teammates what you did yesterday, what you plan to do today, and what blocks are preventing you from reaching your goals, it forces you to be utterly clear about how you’re spending your time.
But let’s be clear: team members who consistently over promise and under deliver will need to figure out why.
Problem 3: Blocking Issues
Regardless of your situation, you’re bound to run into inefficiencies at some point. But you can limit them with agile principles.
“A recent study found that, ‘although most marketers cite excessive emails and wasteful meetings as the two biggest obstacles to their work, both email and meetings were rated highest in terms of communication effectiveness.’
Dealing with email overflow can sometimes be a personal issue, but when teams use it as a primary means of communication that can contribute to inbox rage. The same goes for things like status meetings, or other meetings whose only purpose is to communicate information to other people.” – The State of Marketing
Agile Marketing Helps.
Daily stand up meetings can go a long way towards eliminating the need for both of these.
10-12-minute daily meetings keep communication fresh, and give team members visibility into what everyone else is working on. This is how it works: Every team member reports on three simple things:
- What they did yesterday
- What they plan to do today
- Any impediments or blocking issues
You be AMAZED on how this one simple communication method streamlines processes, and initiates conversations that uncover the underlying issues before they even start.
Problem 4: Interdepartmental Conflict
According to Workfront, 98% of marketers experience conflict with another department, group or team.
How can we be expected to work for a team that’s always against us?
Agile Marketing Helps.
With improved visibility, all departments know exactly what marketing is working on at any given time. If that doesn’t help, start trying to improve communication. Start by having face-to-face conversations with other teams. Build relationships with them. Every two weeks, evaluate how things are going and what can be done to make things better.
Ready to give it a try? Start with the basics:
- Establish basic parameters
- Start and end date of sprint
- Availability of team members (plan for vacations, training, conflicts)
- Resources available (budget)
- Desired scope
- Business owners state their desired goals (leads, incremental revenue, visitors to web site, etc.).
- Players and business owners list projects on sticky notes that contribute to goals; post them on a board and rank them.
- The group also discusses any assumptions contained in the marketing model, and decides which ones to test.
- 10-20% of resources are set aside for the unexpected.
- Estimates of both time and money are stated by the players for each project in rank order.
- Projects are accepted until no more resources are available for current sprint.
- Remaining projects are placed in the backlog.
- Players and owners revisit the desired goals and negotiate what is realistic, given the accepted projects in the estimation section above.
- Players are assigned responsibilities and interim due dates.
- Agreement– The goals and list of committed projects are confirmed in writing between the players and the business owners.
At the end of a sprint planning meeting, you should have a board with a list of tasks all under a “to do” column. As the sprint progresses the tasks will move from “to do” to “in progress” to “complete.”