Agile Marketing and Inbound Marketing: Two Peas, One Pod?

Within the startup community there has been a lot of talk about the rise of agile marketing – a management approach that adapts agile software development methodologies to the planning and execution of marketing programs. Agile marketing’s potential, however, extends well beyond marketing start-ups and in many ways goes hand-in-hand with inbound marketing.

Agile marketing methodology supports ongoing conversion optimization, flexibility and favors continuous iteration over big-bang campaigns. At its core, agile marketing is about eliminating waste by shortening the cycle time between idea, implementation and feedback. This is done by conducting small, frequent tests designed to provide validated learning based on real world results. Agile marketing allows the modern marketing team to adapt to fast-changing market conditions, respond to immediate sales needs, and prove ROI quickly and consistently.

Principles of Agile Marketing

  • Validated learning vs opinions and conventions
  • Customer-focused collaboration vs silos and hierarchy
  • Adaptive and iterative campaigns vs big-bang campaigns
  • The process of customer discovery vs intuition
  • Flexible vs rigid planning
  • Responding to change vs following a plan
  • Many small experiments vs a few large bets

If you have ever worked in a large organization you are likely well aware of the inefficiencies that can plague the corporate environment. Fighting for budget, getting approval and navigating bureaucracy can turn two month timelines into a 12 month battle. It wasn’t very long ago that 5 years plans were the norm. Organizations would write detailed business plans, get C-level approval, and then work to stick to the long-term plan. It’s a way of working that can place a lot of eggs in a few very large and very time consuming baskets.

The problem with working in such large batches is that it is difficult to learn if something has gone wrong until a lot of waste has been created. When marketers fall victim to the pitfalls of working in large batches, it isn’t uncommon for them to spend thousands of dollars hiring a creative agency to write a jingle, months perfecting billboard designs and when the annual campaign is launched be left wondering if anyone even noticed it.

In fact, very often these initiatives are done in the the complete absence of any defined performance measures. Yet, when another twelve months goes by and the marketing team is deciding which to elements of the annual campaign to change, they once again base their decisions on assumptions and intuitions rather that validated learning.

Our approach to agile inbound marketing can be quite a change for those who are accustomed to five year, or for that matter, even one year plans. Instead of working from rigid long-term frameworks, we create flexible quarterly and annual plans with specific targets, executing the work in much smaller increments known as Sprints – a defined period of time in which a team commits to complete a certain work output. Depending on the scope of work to be completed a sprint typically lasts between 15 and 30 days. This allows us to frequently try new strategies, measure the results and adjust our path accordingly, moving faster toward achieving quarterly and annual targets.

Typically when new clients come to us for help with their sales and marketing efforts they have identified the opportunity to generate more leads online. The thing is, in a world of instant gratification people want to see measurable results immediately. Agile methodology helps us work with our clients to quickly validate assumptions, gather real market feedback and use those findings to improve results at an unprecedented rate. We aren’t interested in just moving the needle next year or next quarter, we use the real time power of HubSpot and various inbound marketing strategies to produce measurable results today.

Traditionally, marketers had to perform some sort of voodoo to measure the results of outbound marketing efforts. Measuring the conversion rates of offline sources like direct mail, billboards, or magazine ads is often a shot in the dark. When organizations make the transition from largely offline, outbound-dominated marketing to online, inbound-dominated marketing, they gain access to a wealth of actionable marketing data.

With the help of HubSpot’s inbound marketing software we can measure anything from the impressions, clicks and conversion rates of single tweet, to the overarching performance of clients’ inbound marketing efforts. This is what gets us excited – real, measurable results, guided by data-driven decision making.

The speed of production, iteration and measurement at the core of agile methodology lends itself perfectly to inbound marketing. Agile methodology helps inbound marketers quickly validate assumptions, gather real market feedback and improve the results of their campaigns at a pace unrivaled by traditional marketing management methods.


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