This is a question that comes up a lot on The Marketing Agility Podcast. Is it worth delving into or is it a distraction? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. For those that have already started adopting Agile you know that it revolutionized software development and product management over the last 15 years. You’ve probably also seen the disconnect that formed between product management and marketing. For marketers adoption Agile is a way to get back in sync with these groups but it’s also a recognition that marketers are managing more software than ever before and Agile is the best practice for managing software.
Let’s put the term in perspective with some Google Trends data. As a reminder, Google Trends data reflects how often people search for a term—as such it’s a proxy for awareness:
The Rise of Agile Marketing
When you look at :Agile Marketing” in isolation it’s clear that the term is garnering an increasing amount of traffic. That makes sense because Agile Marketing seems to be buzzing amongst marketing influencers. For example:
- Boston Consulting Group wrote a great white paper on The Agile Marketing Organization
- The Harvard Business Review wrore about Bringing Agile to The Whole Organization
- McKinsey & Co. podcasted about Going From Fragile to Agile and has been writing about The Keys to Organization Agility
- Analysts like Forrester are authoring research on Mobile as a Catalyst to Agile Marketing
- Agencies like CMG are positioning themselves as Agile experts with service offerings, infographics, and white papers.
- Marketing communities with Growthhackers.com feature contributiosn about Creating an Agile Data-Driven Team
- Vendors like Adobe are advising on How to Set Up an Agile Workflow
- And there are Agile marketing tools coming by market from companies like Markodojo, BuzzSumo, LeanKit, and WorkFront.
- CMO.com is getting in on the action with editorial coverage.
- Even The Huffington Post is getting on the bandwagon.
That’s just a smattering but it demonstrates that some of the most influential people in the marketing world are thinking about Agile Marketing. Fair disclosure, I’ve had the good timing to write a book about “Marketing Agility” so I’ve got a stake in this fight. And, I should mention my friend Scott Brinker also has a forthcoming book (same publisher: Wiley) entitled Hacking Marketing that shares a lot of it’s DNA with my book (I’ll be on a panel with Scott at his upcoming MarTech Conference). It’s telling that Wiley has invested in two authors who are focused on Agile in the marketing context.
Agile In Perspective
Is this all competition for my book? Sure. But publishers like Wiley know that few business books drive transformation in isolation. Industry transformation—and modernization—are driven by many books, stakeholders, articles, constituents, and companies. Think, for example, about the rise of inbound marketing and the role that Hubspot, Seth Godin, and KissMetrics played in giving that term currency. They had an almost singular focus on developing equity in those terms—this strategy effectively helped position them as market leaders. With that in mind, I’d argue that the concept of Inbound Marketing is not as transformative as Agile. How does the term Agile Marketing stack up? Let’s check Google Trends against the term “Content Marketing”:
As you can see, it’s dwarfed. The comparison with Inbound Marketing is more pronounced. So what’s going on here? Is Agile Marketing just a passing trend? I’d argue that it’s not. Is it just early days? Possibly. What’s keeping Agile Marketing from going mainstream? One possible barrier is that there are related terms emerging that are competing for attention. For example, the Agile approach is very closely related to the Lean approach (popularized by Eric Reis)—in my book I discuss a convergence that is taking place between Agile and Lean. And then there’s Growth Hacking which arguably is a practice based on Agile/Lean. Further, support for these terms is more distributed (as evidenced by the above list) such that you don’t see a small set of companies developing equity in a single term to establish market leadership.
Related to this, I’m not convinced that marketers care what it’s called so long as it transformed the way we work. In other words, marketers appear to focused on the benefits more than the brand of transformation. That’s increasingly how customers approach brands but it’s a bit ironic considering that marketers are responsible for branding. I factored this into the title that I chose for my book, rather than using the term “Agile Marketing” in the title I chose “Agile Marketer” because it’s not about an approach as much as it is about the benefit of being agile (little “a”). In fact, part of what I discuss in the book is the fact that Agile is not a holistic approach to marketing. Instead it must be applied alongside—and integrated with—traditional methods.
Agility Is What Matters
Will Agile Marketing go mainstream? I’d argue that the values and principles that underlie Agile—as articulated in The Agile Marketing Manifesto—are well on their way to becoming mainstream whether or not we call it Agile Marketing. Between Agile Marketing, Lean Marketing, Growth Hacking, and Marketing Agility there is a transformation taking place. Marketers are increasingly taking an iterative approach to their work, adopting small cross-functional teams, and they are becoming more validation oriented (e.g. data driven).
I do hope that Agile Marketing continues to gain traction and mindshare in so far as it helps drive the above transformation.