On Agile: Why Slow and Steady Doesn’t Win the Marketing Race

By Suzanne Martin & Tim Cook

We all grew up hearing the story of the tortoise and the hare. Looking back on it now, we can’t help but think that the author of that fable definitely wasn’t a marketer. In reality, for today’s B2B marketers, slow and steady doesn’t come close to winning the race. In fact, it’s all about speed.

Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, the tortoise wasn’t such a bad marketing role model. Quarterly or annual planning cycles used to serve many marketers well. Flash forward to today, though, and the marketing landscape has changed dramatically. Products and services can go to market in much less time, even as digital marketing creates more opportunities to interact with every buyer. With so many interactions happening on a compressed timeline, change isn’t just likely — it’s a given.

In order to match the right message to the right buyer at the right time, marketers have to move faster. Way faster. If you can’t pivot on a dime, you’ll be marketing based on outdated information — in other words, targeting a buyer who doesn’t actually exist.

Luckily, there’s a solution that can give you an edge over the marketing tortoises of the world. It’s called Agile.

What Is Agile, Really?

In the simplest terms, Agile is an approach that helps marketers respond more effectively to change. Agile marketers don’t stick to a plan created months in advance. Instead, they have short bursts of focused work called sprints, breaking big-picture goals into small chunks and tackling those chunks in order of priority. They may use Scrum to structure those sprints — a framework that calls for regular stand-up, planning and retrospective meetings where team members check in, assess progress and shift tactics as needed.

No more working in silos. No more six-month plans that are already outdated by month two. No more waiting until next quarter to see how your programs performed. With Agile, marketers are forced to think more in real time, which makes it easier to respond to change and stay on track.

Fast and Flexible, Not Slow and Steady

Most B2B marketers are planners. While we do try to measure our progress along the way, we generally set quarterly or yearly goals, and evaluate how things went overall once that period is over. But if my marketing plan wasn’t working, I’d want to know that today, not three months from now. The market’s too competitive to waste time and resources following ineffective plans.

That’s why an Agile framework is so important. Focusing on small parts of big initiatives ensures that the most important things happen first. But even more importantly, Agile’s short project cycles and constant communication help you assess effectiveness and adjust on the fly. You can shift your strategy at the end of your sprint if needed, instead of waiting until next quarter to change tack.

I know this is a pretty big mindset shift for many marketers. Fundamentally, though, it doesn’t change the purpose of your job. Whether you adopt Agile or use traditional methods, marketing’s role is still the same at the end of the day. You’re still there to create awareness, win market share, generate leads and drive growth for your business. Agile just gives you a toolbox to accomplish those goals faster and more effectively.

Trust me — you’ll like the feeling of crossing the finish line first.

What are your questions or experiences using Agile? Join the conversation in the comments below!

Tim Cook

Tim is the former vice president of client services for The Mx Group. Previously, Tim held senior marketing positions at the global outsourcing firm Convergys, where he served clients at McCann and Resource Marketing. Tim is a graduate of Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. He also completed certificate programs in integrated marketing communications and change management at the Chicago Graduate School of Business.

B2B Insights Delivered Monthly

Thank you!