Border Collie jumping over the obstacle on dog agility sport competition.
PHOTO: skumer

Agile, as a process and marketing philosophy, has evolved. What was once a differentiating factor for marketing agencies has become an essential attribute in the past two years.

Agile principles include testing, learning and iterating. Here are some core truths and processes that work.

Failing Fast 

Fail fast. This idea is born from the notion that we should always be testing and experimenting. When things don’t work, drop them quickly. When things do work, scale them up or roll them out to a wider audience. 

The phrase sounds negative, but the beauty of failure comes with the benefit of efficiency. When you fail quickly, you’re actually assessing quickly. This actually saves time and money by abandoning something that is not going to work before the damage is permanent. If the campaign or feature doesn’t fail, then you’re ahead of the game since the work is already in-market. 

Related Article: Is Your Number of Managers Disproportioned to Your Number of Doers?

Testing and Learning In-Market 

Many of our Agile campaigns start on social media platforms, regardless of where the work will ultimately live. A small, targeted buy on Meta platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, can provide a reality check for a creative strategy, messaging approach or visual direction in a short timeframe.

Real-time engagement metrics like reactions and comments will quickly provide the information needed to determine if executions should be scaled, optimized or abandoned. 

Metrics That Matter

In-market testing reveals what works — and what doesn’t — in a fast, effective way. But what metrics matter? Metrics that reveal true consumer behavior and reflect real reactions become meaningful barometers.

This can become more effective than customer surveys or focus testing. Real-life behavior often doesn’t match up with verbal responses. Actual actions — like clicks or purchases — are always more accurate and valuable. 

For example, when testing messaging in-market, engagement is a key metric. This is because it reveals the true reaction and reflects the actual actionability of core messages. 

Related Article: 3 Metrics Will Drive Marketing Outcomes in 2022

Adapting to Emerging Networks or Platforms

Every few months, a new must-have social platform, ad network or commerce capability seems to pop up. Very few actually pan out to be the next big thing. However, many do find an audience. The only way to know if that audience is your audience is to test. 

Dip into emerging spaces with modest budgets to see if it works. If it fails, let it fail fast and move on. Define a measure of success that’s meaningful to your objectives and unique to the platform. If that modest entry meets or exceeds those metrics, scale up. If not, get out fast and move budget back to the platforms you’ve already proven.  

Balancing Digital Marketing Budgets Across Channels

Not every brand belongs on every channel, and future budgets get put at risk if that gets discovered in the campaign wrap-up report. Applying agile principles works here as well. 

Start with the most cost-effective channels to test your messaging and creative efficacy. Once you have a proven set of campaign assets, the media plan can be adapted to more expensive platforms. Measure these proven assets across a broad set of platforms with modest test budgets. Then, scale where you see progress. Fail fast if you see stagnant results. 

What’s Next for Agile Marketing?

Agile marketing practices are already more widely adopted by agencies and brands. In the near future, it will become the de facto model for marketing as it allows marketers to keep pace with consumers. The “speed of life” is fast, and marketers need to think in those terms.

Customers have the power. Marketers no longer have the luxury of long planning cycles and fully-baking campaigns with the hope they work. It’s too slow, too risky and too expensive. Adaptability is not just a philosophical value. It provides actual, monetary value for brands.