Modern marketing teams have a lot to consider when planning campaigns. They need to build eye-catching copy and creative that will disrupt consumers mid scroll to view their message. They must consider which channel to display their ad on, where it fits along the path to purchase, followed by a clear call-to-action and goal in mind to drive consumers to convert. If any of these elements are ignored or not optimized to meet the exact specifications and preferences of the desired audience, the return-on-investment for your marketing campaign will suffer.
As a result, marketers must constantly be evaluating the efficacy of their campaigns in relation to their continuous understanding of target consumers. As these preferences become more clear, marketers can shift their campaigns to align with consumer values in real-time. This is why agility is so crucial in building effective marketing campaigns that achieve a high return on investment.
Agility is Key to Realizing and Proving ROI
Before the rise of digital marketing, marketers measured aggregate data on a campaign level. Marketing teams would run a campaign in a certain region, and once the campaign was complete, they would see if conversions increased. The problem with this method is that it only provides insights into campaign ROI once the campaign is finished. If it turns out that marketing efforts did little to sway consumer choices, the marketing team would have spent substantial budget with little to no payout.
In the modern marketing landscape this is not an acceptable approach. CMOs and other marketing leaders are expected to demonstrate impactful ROI for every campaign run. If they are unable to show these results, budgets for future campaigns will be reduced. In fact, Gartner reported that marketing budget stalled for the first time in 3 years between 2017 and 2018, as the returns promised by past investments have yet to be realized.
To avoid these consequences, marketers must work across divisions in marketing teams to measure the success of campaigns in real-time, and make adjustments as new insights become available to optimize performance. For example, if marketing teams are tracking the progress of their campaigns and see that native content is underperforming, they can reorganize the campaign immediately and allocate what would have been a wasted investment into a marketing channel driving more visibility.
Breaking Down Agile Marketing
Agile marketing derives from agile software development, which was designed with the goal that developers could release updates and new iterations of apps and other programs on a more regular basis. Agile methods rely on a series of sprints, which is a dedicated amount of time focused on specific product enhancements. Once a sprint is in motion, other items cannot be added to it, allowing the developers to focus on timely and incremental improvements. To keep teams accountable, daily meetings (often known as standups) are put in place. This allows the team to keep up to date on encountered roadblocks and progress across the group.
Agile led to more predictable costs, better scheduling and overall better customer satisfaction in software development. These same principles can be applied to marketing to allow for more adaptability and better project management.
In order to prioritize plans and meet deadlines, agile teams start with the big picture, before breaking goals down into manageable steps.
- Start with understanding your target consumer and what they want to get out of interactions with your brand.
- Next, think about what should be included in each iteration of a campaign. What should change in each updated ad as they move down the sales funnel?
- Finally, with the above information in mind, break down each goal into manageable tasks across the marketing team, which will take effect across various sprints.
With agile marketing, organizations are able to respond to feedback faster and with highly consumer-specific updates. 47 percent of agile teams say they create higher quality work in each iteration of a campaign. These more targeted ads enable greater conversion and higher quality leads. Additionally, team members achieve enhanced visibility into the status and impact of projects across the department.
Setting Up Agile Marketing for Digital Campaigns
Many marketing teams take a reactive approach, in which the success of a marketing campaign is determined after it has launched or, worse, ended. The goal is to switch to a proactive approach, in which campaigns are dynamically updated in real time. This requires a change to culture, process, and tools. Here are the top areas marketers should focus on as they shift to an agile marketing process.
- Flexible Budget Structure: Having flexibility within your budget plan is an essential component of agile marketing. This doesn’t mean that the amount spent per quarter or year is undefined, rather, determining where that money will be spent must be a fluid, data-driven process. For example, say marketing teams go into the year expecting to spend 60 percent of campaign budget on digital efforts and 40 percent on offline efforts. As these touchpoints are evaluated during the campaign, it may be revealed that offline campaigns are simply not driving the same level of engagement as those on digital platforms. Marketing teams then must have the freedom to reallocate some or all of that budget into the digital channels that are driving conversions and ROI. If they are locked in to stagnant plans at the beginning of the year, quarter, etc, real-time campaign corrections will be impossible.
- Set Shared Goals and Emphasize Communication: For agile tactics to work, each team member must have a unified vision for what success looks like and what each division is working on to achieve that vision. To begin, the team should collaborate to determine long-term goals, then build a roadmap for how to achieve them. An important component here is understanding how mature your agile structure already is. In many marketing departments, agile tactics are only partially deployed. Evaluate where there may be weaknesses in communication or analytics capabilities. A top priority here should be emphasizing collaboration and visibility into each project within the department – an effective way to achieve this is with a kanban board and regular status meetings.
- Centralized Data: Successful agile marketing all comes down to data-driven decision making. Marketing teams must be reporting on the success of various touchpoints and campaigns as they run in order to determine where to make adjustments. With this in mind, it is important that each division of the marketing team is consulting the same information. If relying on different metrics pulled from different sources, teams risk making optimizations based on conflicting data, ultimately harming ROI. Make sure you are centralizing data in one, regularly updated platform. Furthermore, ensure teams are using the same attribution model to guide their definition of success. If different types of campaigns are run, such as email, search, and social, leverage unified marketing measurement as an attribution model. It normalizes all of the various metrics collected across channels at the person level, in addition to incorporating aggregate historical data. With unified measurements informed by historical market trends, marketing teams can be sure they are making accurate corrections to campaigns.
- Attribution in Real Time: In addition to having a defined attribution model and centralized repository of data, successful agile marketing demands real-time evaluation and analysis. Modern marketers generate immense quantities of data. It would be impossible to manually correlate and sort all of this information to make campaign corrections in real time, especially when seeking to optimize at the person level. To this end, marketing teams that seek to reap the benefits of agile marketing must invest in martech that has the storage and processing capabilities to distill all of this data into digestible insights. Then, analytics and data science teams can make these insights actionable. If data science teams are spending too much time sorting data, they will not have the resources to develop marketing plans. This is where analytics platforms play a crucial role in the success of agile marketing – enabling teams to make the real-time adjustments that can amount to increased ROI.
- Conduct Regular Evaluations: This applies to both campaigns and your agile program at large. Regular updates and iterations is the core principle of agile marketing. Don’t optimize a campaign or piece of messaging once – continuously evaluate how it is performing to understand how different iterations impact the consumer experience. It is best to conduct these tests in manageable segments. Change only small portions of campaigns at a time, like an email headline or an image. Then use multivariate A/B testing to get fast insights into which changes or combinations of changes made an impact on user experience, and thus ROI.
In addition to evaluating and optimizing campaigns, organizations should also regularly evaluate their own agile program. It is important to review how much progress has been made toward your departmental goals, as well as ensuring that there are no roadblocks in communications, or data silos forming. This will ensure your agile program continues to operate smoothly, generating high-quality brand messaging quickly and effectively.
Key Takeaways for Digital, Social, and Email Marketing
Consulting these five steps will assist in getting your agile program off the ground. From there, digital marketers can leverage these tactics to improve various campaigns, such as:
- Social Campaigns: As stated, successful agile programs begin with thinking about what the customer wants or needs, then developing steps to deliver on these needs. Social campaigns allow marketers to interact directly with their customers. When rolling out new social strategies, these should be prioritized based on impact. By organizing social campaigns this way, you can make the most of your team’s time. For example: Your team may be deciding which platform to focus their energy on. Instead of scattering your resources across various mediums, be realistic about the bandwidth of your team. Choose a few to focus on with clear tactics. Measure results and allow those results to be implemented into the next sprint.
Additionally, social campaigns should focus on ensuring certain team members are dedicated to replying to all customer queries and interactions. These team members will have a firsthand look at what consumers want or are challenged by. This information can be communicated during the daily standup to other social team members, as well as the broader marketing and product teams.
- Email Campaigns: Agile tactics can be very helpful in optimizing email campaigns. Team members can reference data, such as open rates and click through rates, to determine how frequently customers want to receive emails from your brand. Further, data will reveal the types of headlines and offers enclosed that make consumers more likely to engage. By consulting this data, marketing teams can improve campaigns and optimize open rates, ensuring they are reaching consumers at preferred intervals and with relevant offers.
- Digital Campaigns: Use agile marketing in digital campaigns more broadly to determine the right combination of media mix needed to run campaigns. With so many touchpoints and channels available, it can be easy to miss better opportunities for engagement while continuing to focus on those that are performing adequately. An agile method gives digital marketers the data to find the best channels to reach audiences, the adaptability to target those channels in an upcoming sprint, and the budget flexibility to reallocate spend for optimal media mix.
Consumers are becoming increasingly selective about which messaging they engage with. Simultaneously, organizational stakeholders are expecting returns on each campaign investment. Marketing teams must always be adapting to meet these demands. By taking an agile approach based in data to campaign development, marketing teams can maximize ROI while enhancing consumer experiences with personalized interactions.
Dennis Williams II is a two-time LinkedIn Top Voice in 2016 and 2017, and has a proven track record in using content experiences to drive strategic growth. He has over 5 years experience leading digital marketing teams for both venture-backed startups and media brands, creating digital campaigns and innovative experiences to grow loyal audiences. He is currently the Director of Content and Brand at Marketing Evolution.