- The history of agile marketing comes from software development. The Agile Manifesto published online dictated software development into the future. The premise is to not plan anymore than you have to, and to build things incrementally and iterate on your design.
- Marketing leaders took agile and applied it to marketing. During a Sprint Zero event, they penned the Agile Marketing Manifesto. Agile Marketing solves a lot of the same problems as Iterative Marketing.
- The Agile Marketing Manifesto is broken into values and principles, not much different than our Fundamental Truths.
- One key point of differentiation between Agile and Iterative Marketing, is that Agile embraces campaigns, while Iterative Marketing gets away from campaigns altogether.
- This podcast compares and contrasts Agile’s values and principles to Iterative Marketing’s fundamental truths and actionable components.
Charity of the Week:
We hope you want to join us on our journey. Find us on IterativeMarketing.net, the hub for the methodology and community. Email us at [email protected], follow us on twitter at @iter8ive or join The Iterative Marketing Community LinkedIn group.
The Iterative Marketing Podcast is a production of Brilliant Metrics, a consultancy helping brands and agencies rid the world of marketing waste.
Onward and upward!
Hello everyone, and welcome to the Iterative Marketing podcast. I’m your host, Steve Robinson, and with me, as always, is the intriguing marketer of mystery, Elizabeth Earin. How are you doing today, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Earin: Hi! I am good. How are you?
Steve Robinson: I am doing great. Doing even better now that are our neighbor lost their honker.
Elizabeth Earin: I can’t remember if you’ve talked about this before on a podcast episode or if it’s just we’ve had a conversation about it, but now this is, is this an actual horn honker or is this the bike honker?
Steve Robinson: It took us forever to figure out exactly what the honker was, but it was this obnoxiously loud sound that would come from our neighbor’s house and it was – somebody had bought one of the boys there a horn for their bike that instead of making a normal horn noise made this obnoxious like a Muppet honking noise that you could hear clear as day in my office all day — and thankfully somebody over there thought better of this and I think it’s gone because I haven’t heard the last couple of days.
Elizabeth Earin: Very good news for you.
Steve Robinson: Very happy about this. So what are we talking about today? Because it’s not my neighbor’s honker.
Elizabeth Earin: Well, today we’re going to talk about Agile Marketing and Iterative Marketing and talk a little bit about the background of each and where they differ.
Steve Robinson: Excellent, excellent. I’ve been hearing more and more about agile marketing lately, it seems to have popped back up in the last few months here and I’ve been asked by a couple of people what the difference is between agile and iterative and I think it will be good for us to go through this. So, we’re going to start with the origins of agile, right? And then we’re going to move into kind of defining what agile is, get into the differences between agile and iterative and then finally we’ll touch on why we are not really practicing agile here, right?
Elizabeth Earin: More of why we subscribe to the Iterative Marketing methodology over the agile methodology.
Steve Robinson: So I get the opportunity here to put back on my software developer hat for a second, it’s a former career of mine was as a software developer and I worked on agile teams, and so when we talk about the history of agile marketing and actually comes from software development, so you’re going to have to put up with listening to me for a little while as I rant about this for a second, but let’s go through a little history lesson on where agile marketing came from. As I said it came out of software development. In the mid-90s there were a number of thought leaders within software development who were trying to figure out how to change the way that software was created. At the time pretty much everybody followed a practice called Waterfall where you would design every last little detail of the software before a single line of code was written and it was horribly inefficient because you didn’t know what you didn’t know until you got there. And it also left the person who was writing that specification usually wasn’t a developer and didn’t know what the machine is going to actually do, and so you’d miss huge opportunities, and so in the mid-90s a group of software developers got together and said we can do this better and so they started a number of practices of designing software in a more, well, agile method. And then what happened was at some point a couple of them got together and published, 17 as a matter of fact, got together and published something called the Agile Manifesto. This was a document that was published online, you can still go look at it today. We will link to it in the show notes. It dictated a series of beliefs and principles or values and principles that would guide software development into the future. It was hugely successful and today the majority of software development teams use agile, and if they don’t use agile, they want to be using agile as their methodology for how they go about designing software. The premise is pretty simple; don’t plan any more than you have to and make sure that you are building things incrementally and iterating on your design involving the users along the way.
So, like I said, this was really successful in software development in the mid to late 2000s. I should take a step back here. One of the core methods that they used to implement agile software development was called ‘Scrum.’ Scrum is important because it pops-up again in agile marketing. It is a very rigid structure of meetings, vocabulary and a cadence to how you go about developing software, everything runs in what’s called a ‘Sprint.’ A Sprint is a time box period of work where the developers are heads down writing a bunch of code and then you get to the end of the Sprint and you make sure that you’re on pace for delivering what you want to deliver. Make sure that you take anything that you learned along the way and work it into the plan moving forward. You reprioritize what you’re doing and move forward and Scrum is central to agile and software development and it has become central to agile and marketing as well. I’ll get into that in a second.
Okay, so now we’re done with the geek stuff on the software end of it. In 2010 around there a bunch of thought leaders within marketing, particularly at technology-centered companies, started saying, what happens if we take an agile and move it from software development into marketing? They said, do we need an agile marketing manifesto? A couple of key people, Jim Ewel, John Cass and Travis Arnold and a bunch of others got together and they hosted an event called Sprint Zero. At Sprint Zero they wrote the agile marketing manifesto, which basically takes the same values and principles from agile software development and tweaks them into a marketing context. So now there is these series of beliefs and understandings that can guide how you could actually run a marketing department, like you would run a software development team and get a lot of the same efficiencies. That group has kind of gone off to their four corners of the world and continues to lead the agile marketing, beat that agile marketing drum, and it kind of fell silent for a couple of years. It’s really only in the last year or two that we’ve been hearing agile marketing as a phrase more and more. I think it’s due to a lot of the same reasons why our team has been really pushing and evangelizing Iterative Marketing because it solves some of the same problems and it’s supporting a lot of the same values or beliefs that aren’t common among marketers.
So before we get into exactly what agile marketing is I think it’s important to note that not every agile marketer totally buys into agile exactly the same way. I think this is for a couple of reasons: one, it’s newer than the agile software development, so this is not something that’s been around really in earnest more than a few years and certainly not more than 10 years or so. The other thing is it lacks in widespread adoption. It’s really popular among technology-centered companies but it’s not as popular outside of technology because it doesn’t make as much sense to those companies that aren’t already pretty practicing agile elsewhere within the organization. Then finally there’s a little bit of a disagreement among even the most outspoken agile marketing practitioners about what’s the best way to apply it. Some people are really in that Scrum camp that we talked about before, on the software development side, and some people are taking more from a lean manufacturing methodology and borrowing from Kanban in order to implement it. So it’s not being applied perfectly consistently among those who are applying it. Elizabeth, did I cover that pretty well? Are there any open questions in your mind?
Elizabeth Earin: No, I do think it’s some really interesting reading and if you get a chance to go into the show notes and click on some of the links we’ve provided, it’s interesting to see how this has come through and if you’re familiar with Iterative Marketing start to see where you see some similarities between the two.
Steve Robinson: Great. Well let’s get into what agile marketing is to the best of our understanding. Keeping in mind we weren’t at Sprint Zero, we are not evangelists of this, we are consumers of it to some extent and we’re not really practitioners of it; which we’ll get into a little bit later. But what do we understand agile to be?
Elizabeth Earin: Well, when you take a look at the manifesto, it’s broken up into values and principles not much different than how we’ve broken up into our fundamental truths of Iterative Marketing. Actually, when you take a look at the values you’ll find that they roughly align with the fundamental truths that we’ve outlined as a shared set of beliefs of anyone who’s practicing agile or in our case Iterative Marketing.
Steve Robinson: I think it would be beneficial if we just read through the seven agile values as they were documented by that team coming out of Sprint Zero. You might find some variation of this in other people’s versions of the agile manifesto but I think this is the authoritative version that the majority of practitioners run with. Those seven values are:
1. Validated learning over opinions and conventions.
2. Customer-focused collaboration over silos and hierarchy.
3. Adaptive and iterative campaigns over Big Bang campaigns.
4. The process of customer discovery over static prediction.
5. Flexible versus rigid planning.
6. Responding to change over following a plan.
7. Many small experiments over a few large bets.
Elizabeth Earin: Now we will link to each of these in our show notes, so don’t worry if you weren’t able to write them all down.
Steve Robinson: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. The key is if you were listening to them you probably heard some common refrains from the things that we’ve been talking about on this podcast from the beginning. In general, I think that Iterative Marketers really share a lot of the same values of agile marketers.
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah. Even when we don’t spell them out specifically in our fundamental truths, things like flexible versus rigid planning and many small experiments over a few large bets. That ties into what it is that we talk about in our podcasts, on our blogs and on our LinkedIn channel.
Steve Robinson: I think there’s probably only one key point of contention or differentiation between the two values. Even then I don’t see this consistently applied within the agile community from what I’ve been able to understand. The agile marketing community seems to embrace the idea of campaigns; they just don’t want Big Bang campaigns. They don’t want that front-loading of all of the planning and all of the design and then let it rip. They would rather see a large series of small campaigns where there’s a feedback loop involved and lessons learned; and those lessons are carried into a future campaign. I think when we practice Iterative Marketing we try to get away from campaigns all together. We try to create sustainable programs where you have things that stay in market and maybe creative changes here and there when the data dictates that it should change. Iterations occur as data is accumulated to the point that you can make a change with knowledge that it’s going to make an improvement. That’s different from the time boxing of sprints within agile marketing.
Elizabeth Earin: Yeah. Coming back to the idea of sprints, they have a start and an end date. They sort of a run it through that process, no matter what happens in between that start and that end date. That’s where we see one of those big variations.
Steve Robinson: Before we jump into the principles because the values really are very, very similar; there’s a few more points of differentiation within the principles. But, before we go off down that tangent I think now would be a great time for us to take a quick break and go help some people.
Elizabeth Earin: Before we continue I would like to take a quick moment to ask you Iterative Marketers a small but meaningful favor and ask that you give a few dollars to a charity that’s important to one of our own. This week’s charitable cause was sent in by Kelle Edin in Montana. Kelle asks that you make a contribution to the Union Gospel Mission Center for Women and Children. A long-term residential recovery center for women with children recovering from abuse, addiction, and homelessness. Learn more at uniongospelmission.org or visit the link in the show notes. If you would like to submit your cause for consideration for our next podcast please visit iterativemarketing.net/podcast and click the Share a Cause button. We love sharing causes that are important to you!
Steve Robinson: And we are back. So before we took a quick break we talked about the values of agile marketing and how those aligned with the fundamental truths of Iterative Marketing. Now we’re going to take a look at the principles of agile marketing. They really don’t have a corollary over on the iterative side because they’re not as actionable as our actionable components. They more or less map again back to our fundamental truths but we’ll go through them, read through them and then talk about where there’s some differences.
Elizabeth Earin: So we’ll start by looking at each one of the 10 principles. It starts with the first one being, and these are again direct quotes from the manifesto:
• Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of marketing that solves problems.
• The second is we welcome and plan for change. We believe that our ability to quickly respond to change is a source of competitive advantage.
• The third, which we’re going to talk about in a little bit more detail in a few minutes here because we do differ slightly, is deliver marketing programs frequently from a couple of weeks to a couple of months with a preference to the shorter timescale.
• The fourth point is great marketing requires close alignment with the business people, sales and development. We’ll get into this one in a little bit more detail as well.
• Build marketing programs around motivated individuals, give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.
• Learning through the build-measure-learn-feedback loop is the primary measure of progress.
• Sustainable marketing requires you to keep a constant pace and pipeline.
• Don’t be afraid to fail, just don’t fail the same way twice.
• Continuous attention to marketing fundamentals and a good design enhances agility
• Finally, simplicity is essential.
So when we look at these and tie them back to the Iterative Marketing principles, I think those that have been listening to the podcast, you’ll notice there’s a few that tie back in a pretty straightforward way. Then there’s also a few where we start to differ. I mentioned when we got to the first one, deliver marketing programs frequently from a couple of weeks to a couple of months with a preference to the shorter timescale. That’s one area that we differ.
Steve Robinson: Again, we believe that marketing programs your ongoing efforts to communicate with your audience shouldn’t be time boxed at all. They should be as continuous as possible and I think that’s really the biggest point of difference or contention. The idea of breaking your programs down into chunks; of a couple of weeks to a couple of months, preferring closer to a couple of weeks, is a bit different from how we look at things. The other point that comes up and I don’t know if anybody caught this? One of the principles is great marketing requires close alignment with the business, with the business people, sales and development. I find it interesting that right there within the manifesto they call out development, meaning the software development team, implying this really is a methodology that is it goes hand-in-hand with an organization that’s already practicing agile within their software development team. So, if you don’t have a development team, but instead you’re a manufacturer or services organization or e-commerce, I mean it’s not going to be the same. That line right there doesn’t necessarily make sense, whereas Iterative Marketing is something that should be applicable to any industry and any organization that requires marketing.
Elizabeth Earin: I think in general when you look at the principles and we tie it back to the fundamental truths of Iterative Marketing you see that Iterative Marketing does support agile, the difference is that Iterative Marketing takes it a step further and continues to look at the how behind it as well.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. I think this comes back to one of their principles on the agile marketing manifesto; that is build marketing programs around motivated individuals, give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done. What that is saying is it’s mirroring from the software development version of agile. One of the problems that the software development version of agile set out to solve was the fact that business analysts would specify the entire software specification, hand it off to the developers to build, the developers would look at it and go, “but there is a way better way of doing this.” They weren’t given the why and they weren’t given the tools to succeed. They were handed a spec to build and what came out wasn’t the best product. So they’re trying to carry this corollary over to marketers and it makes sense. Oftentimes, say you have a social media specialist on the team and they’re given their tweets and their Facebook posts. They read them and they look at them and go “this is completely inappropriate for this medium.” Well, maybe you should have had the social media specialist write the tweets and write the Facebook posts because they understand the medium. They understand what needs to go into the creative in order to make that successful. You need to empower them and give them the why. Make sure they understand the audience and the intent and where this fits in the customer journey and all of those tools. What I like about the idea of pairing Iterative Marketing with agile marketing is that Iterative Marketing gives you the tools to set that social media manager up for success. Again, you’re not dictating them the spec, you’re giving them the personas, you’re giving them the customer journey. You’re giving them the why and the structure in the organization in order for them to be able to succeed without telling them exactly what to write.
Elizabeth Earin: So let me ask you this and I am wondering if our listeners may be having the same question at this point in time? We have outlined a lot of different similarities between in Iterative Marketing and agile. So why haven’t we just moved forward within an agile marketing methodology? Why aren’t we agile marketing practitioners that have just put our own little spin on it? Why have we moved more towards the Iterative Marketing methodology?
Steve Robinson: Honestly I think it comes from my time in software development. Why didn’t I start the agile marketing podcast? First of all, there already is the marketing agility podcast; and it’s excellent go check it out and we will link to that in the show notes. But, more importantly I think that the set of problems that agile marketing, I am sorry, that agile was set out to solve in the first place, the agile manifesto; that set of problems really originates in software development. It’s this lack of coordination and empowerment on the developer, it’s the not knowing what you don’t know, and how that causes problems as you go to build a big complex system. Some of those problems don’t just carry over directly into marketing, and marketing has its own set of problems that we need to solve. I think that when I started practicing the ideas behind Iterative Marketing that later became the formal Iterative Marketing methodology; I pulled some of those same values from my experience as a software developer and working in agile teams. But, I think different problems need a different solution, and well, there’s some aspects of Iterative Marketing that support agile and the two I think could probably marry pretty well. I’d rather go out and solve the problems of marketing with solutions that are built for marketing and not try to retrofit software development solutions to marketing problems.
Elizabeth Earin: I love that. I loved how you just summed that up. I think that’s fantastic and really captures what it is that we’re trying to do with Iterative Marketing.
Steve Robinson: I’ve alluded a couple of times though… could agile and Iterative Marketing work together? Are these two things that are compatible? I think they could be. I don’t know. What do you think, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth Earin: I think they can. When you take a look at the similarities between our fundamental truths and what they’ve outlined as their values there’s such a strong correlation between what it is sort of the foundation the basis for what we’re trying to do. Agile is really providing a belief system around how marketing should function and they kind of give you the steps and how to operate a marketing department to make that happen. It comes back to some of those IT terms that terminology that you mentioned earlier that I am not even going to attempt to try and copy. I think that’s where we start to differ a little bit because when we look at the Iterative Marketing side of it we’re not necessarily telling anyone how to run their marketing department.
Steve Robinson: Yeah. Iterative Marketing is really focused more on how do you document and iterate and improve upon your delivery of marketing. Not on how you run your marketing department or how you get things done or your productivity of your marketing team. It’s really more focused on empowering and enabling a marketing team. Whether that’s an agile marketing team or whether that’s a more traditional marketing team. I think that Iterative Marketing is actually a really good fit for agile but it would need to be modified just slightly. The reason why is because agile is really, really built around the idea of sprints. It’s built around the whole build-measure-learn-feedback loop which is inherently time-boxed and Iterative Marketing is inherently not time-boxed. It’s one of our values. So I think you’d have to tweak Iterative Marketing and put your iterations into those into the Sprint schedule, and you’d have to put any optimizations as well; to make those fit into the Sprint schedule as well as creative changes. Which we’ve always said all that stuff should be very data-driven, not time driven, but in order to make it work with agile you kind of have to make that one minor change. I don’t think that throws the baby out with the bathwater. I think it’s a minor adaptation to the Iterative Marketing methodology to make it fit with an agile team and it’s something that I’d love to see. So, if there are any agile marketers out there that are either practicing Iterative on top of the agile or are considering it; please reach out to us. Email us at [email protected] and let us know.
Elizabeth Earin: Like we said at the beginning we are not agile marketing experts, this is not something that we’re practicing. So if you are practicing agile marketing and we’ve said anything wrong here please reach out let us know. Again, we’d love to have a conversation about it because we do think that these are two methodologies that could really work together to improve marketing performance overall within an organization.
Steve Robinson: Excellent. Well, I want to thank all of you for making time for us this week. I know time is precious and until next week onward and upward.
Elizabeth Earin: If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to the podcast on YouTube on your favorite podcast directory. If you want notes and links to resources discussed on the show sign up to get them emailed to you each week at iterativemarketing.net. There you’ll also find the Iterative Marketing blog and our community LinkedIn group where you can share ideas and ask questions of your fellow Iterative Marketers. You can also follow us on Twitter. Our user name is @iter8ive or email us at [email protected]
The Iterative Marketing Podcast is a production of Brilliant Metrics, a consultancy helping brands and agencies rid the world of marketing waste. Our producer is Heather Ohlman with transcription assistance from Emily Bechtel. Our music is by SeaStock Audio, Music Production and Sound Design. You can check them out at seastockaudio.com. We will see you next week. Until then onward and upward!