What do we mean by agile?

Let’s start by looking at what isn’t agile. Then we can see how being agile can improve the process before looking more closely at making your marketing team more agile.

For some kinds of project as the stages of the plan are worked through, progress to the next stage depends on completion of the previous stage so a delay on one stage of the process can threaten the delivery of the whole project. By identifying the components for each stage that can cause a delay, we identify the critical path that has to be navigated to guarantee completion of the project.

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Agile planning means that you may still have to navigate through a critical path but the process is constantly monitored on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Being agile means anticipating and responding to threats to the project completion date and spending plan so as to keep both under control. An agile strategy allows room to change course in response to changes in circumstance and lessons learnt from the process. While a delay at one key stage may prevent some tasks from being worked on, other tasks can still be brought forward from the roadmap and worked on while the problem is addressed.

Who uses an agile approach?

In the world of digital, agile is particularly useful for development projects, especially where they are taking a leap into the unknown to create a brand new app or building a complex website. The project is scoped and a roadmap drawn up which shows how the full product will be delivered over time, and how the various aspects of the project break down into tasks. Rather than one deadline which can easily be overrun, the project is split into a series of timed “sprints” whereby, at the start of each, a portion of work is selected and owned by the development team for completion during that sprint. The team are responsible for the delivery of the project. They decide what can realistically be achieved within the sprint and they monitor progress on a daily basis and collaborate fully with each other to ensure that they are on course for completion. Now let’s see how, using these same principles, being agile can help your marketing team.

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Why have an agile digital marketing team?

We believe the best way of delivering value for our clients is by understanding what they want to achieve and how to deliver on that wish list so we can let them know at the start what work, time and budgets are involved. Every client is different and we have to adjust our offerings according to what is achievable within what timescale, with the amount they want to spend. Once that is done, we can agree on a monthly retainer and the work is scheduled. Our way of working is transparent so our clients can see exactly what we are doing with the time they are paying for, and they can see how we are doing in relation to the agreed key performance indicators.

Just like a development project or the house building scenario that we looked at earlier, it is easy to see how delivering a digital marketing service can run out of control if we just march forward blindly. For a start, if the solutions we want to offer are to be innovative and effective, well thought out and practical, these things take time. In addition to certain standard tasks, there will also be other circumstances that we have to respond to – incoming requests from our clients as well as monitoring the day to day performance of social campaigns for example – and it is important that we can juggle the various demands expertly.

Planning for a digital marketing agency means balancing the working capacity of your team with the execution of the work required to exceed client expectations, responding to time sensitive requests and sticking to agreed budgets. The situation is fluid and to be truly responsive and effective on delivery you need an agile digital marketing approach that incorporates regular monitoring and response to keep your projects on track, within time scales and on budget. You need an agile digital marketing team. It is easy to implement more agile marketing processes however how do you make the marketing team itself more agile?

Planning for an agile marketing team

Simple as it sounds, ensure that the retainer that you offer your clients is fit for purpose. At the start of the relationship before terms, conditions and retainer sizes have been agreed, it is easy to look at the scope of the project realistically and objectively. The problem starts when the question is popped and the proposals are put in the writing. People will have a spend in mind that they have to work with, and it is natural for a digital marketing agency to want to win the business.

Retainer size

Do you want to win client projects that you can barely manage, where it feels like a constant firefight and where creativity is stifled by the battle to fit an ever increasing workload into a smaller amount of time? These kind of projects will keep you very busy and will be more challenging in regard to hitting KPIs and that will make client retention more tricky as well but these type of projects are exactly what you’re going to get if you underquote to win clients. While less spend will mean less time spent and elements of the proposed package may be removed or reduced, having an agile marketing team gives you the flexibility to amend proposals to ensure that what you deliver is delivered well.

Task planning

If you want your team to have real creative input into projects then ensure you are planning in time for thinking and brainstorming. When you plan each sprint you need to account for the core tasks that have to be done on a regular basis and allow for things that turn up ad hoc. If you don’t, you run the risk of your team’s creative time being diverted to deal with events that you should have buffered for.

An environment for agile digital marketing

Company culture makes a massive difference. What is the focus of your digital marketing team – ticking boxes or exceeding expectations with innovative thinking? Are you encouraging creative thinking? Are your team siloed or do you encourage collaboration? Is there an atmosphere of who dares wins or are people terrified of dropping the ball? Micro-management can stifle creativity.

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Implementing an agile process will make a massive difference and bearing this in mind when planning tasks makes this process more effective however the people who are delivering the digital marketing service need a stimulating, happy and fun environment to work in for the best results. If you are not encouraging a culture of freedom and empowerment that allows creative people to do what they do best, then what’s the point of hiring creative people?

Coaching and leadership

This is where culture comes into play. Even if you never consciously chose it, the culture and environment in your workplace may actually be pretty good. Without conscious awareness that can easily change when faced with the right combination of pressures and misfortunes, or even a poor recruitment choice.

By considering the values that you want your company to embody, you show the way to all who join your organisation. You company culture defines how your company, your team and its members respond to situations. Ensuring that your people embrace those values comes down to effective leadership and coaching.

For example. If you want an agile marketing team, one of the core principles is that the team itself and every person within takes total ownership of their share of the work. Therefore, taking ownership is one of the qualities you look for in your recruitment process and something that is constantly monitored and valued in your team members.

A collective effort

If you want to make your digital marketing team more agile, it takes more than a few amendments in your company planning processes. It involves a change in group and individual mindset from the top down. It is a culture change that will affect every aspect of your firm’s operation from how you sell your services to how you motivate your team players.

How agile is your digital marketing team?