The agile marketing manifesto

The Agile Manifesto that came out in 2001 proved to be the inspiration for quite a few spin-offs over the past 20 years. For example, the Agile Marketing Manifesto that appeared in 2012. At the initiative of Jim Ewel and John Cass, 35 marketers gathered in San Francisco to draw up the first draft of the core values. The concept ‘Agile Marketing Manifesto’ remains unchanged ever since and reads:

“We are discovering better ways of creating value for our customers and for our organizations through new approaches to marketing. Through this work, we have come to value:

  1. Validated learning over opinions and conventions
  2. Customer-focused collaboration over silos and hierarchy
  3. Adaptive and iterative campaigns over Big-Bang campaigns
  4. The process of customer discovery over static prediction
  5. Flexible vs rigid planning
  6. Responding to change over following a plan
  7. Many small experiments over a few large bets

Below, I briefly explain these 7 value statements one by one and conclude with a call to agile marketers worldwide to take a second stab at it together.

Validated learning about opinions and conventions

Validated learning consists of writing down an assumption about your customer group(s) and designing a test to test this assumption. Then run the test, record the insights, analyze them, and finally either reject or embrace your assumption as a valid statement. This more scientific approach is put in the Manifesto above opinions, gut feelings, and previously made agreements and habits. The idea is that we no longer listen to the loudest voice in the conference room, but to customer behavior that occurs in reality.

Customer-focused collaboration over silos and hierarchy

This is all about setting up an organization to face the market instead of functionally setting them up with marketing and communication expertise in separate departments. And within this, often also the division into categories: strategic marketing, online marketing, internal communications, external communications and so on. With a customer-oriented layout, for example by bringing together everyone involved in a particular customer journey, everything becomes more simple. Products can then be developed, marketed and maintained without mutual budget and interest discussions. Or delays due to hand-offs between departments.

Adaptive and iterative campaigns over Big-Bang campaigns

“We’re done with campaign-based work, we now advise every client to think programmatic,” the owner of a successful social media agency confided in me three years ago. Taking more time to let a message do its work. See what catches on and what more can be absorbed. Stop content that does nothing. A very different approach than planning a big campaign and executing it entirely according to plan.

The process of customer discovery over static prediction

You are constantly discovering what your customers want. The longer you work with them, the more refined your knowledge becomes. This allows you to better connect to their concerns, preferences and emotions. This is in stark contrast to making an assumption about your customers and sticking to it.

Flexible vs. rigid planning

Planning is still necessary and it is a myth that planning is not done in agile environments. It’s actually quite the contrary! Flexible planning means the willingness (and mandate) to adjust plans based on advancing insight. It’s irrational to create a plan and then execute it as if you could assess the world and people’s reactions in that same moment.

Responding to change over following a plan

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” This famous quote by General Dwight Eisenhower accurately reflects how plans and planning are thought of in the agile world. To get everyone on the same page in advance, the process of planning is indispensable. But as soon as there is a foot on the invasion site, the plan is already obsolete. Then the key is to respond to what presents itself in a way that serves the desired outcome.

Many small experiments over a few large bets

Know what you are doing and don’t put all your budget on a few big marketing campaigns. It is advisable to always have some small experiments running that will give you signals of what is working with a customer group. When you have something that works, you have the evidence to justify a larger investment.

Towards a second iteration

What is striking about the Marketing Manifesto in this state (still draft) is that there is a lot of content overlap. And no matter how much I agree with the content, at some point the feeling that you’re reading the same plea over and over again starts creep up.

I am convinced that Agile Marketing can bring a lot of effectiveness and a lot more job satisfaction. And it helps if we have a number of clear, clean statements that start to circulate in the market. For example like what happened with the Agile Manifesto (for software development) at that time. To Jim Ewel and John Cass I say it’s time for a second iteration. Let’s go for a worldwide representation of Agile marketers! I am already signed up.