Marketing is changing completely. Not only in terms of the way that traditional practices are diminishing, but in the way that people who do marketing think. For the majority of marketing history, practitioners have applied long-term, waterfall strategies to brands, relying upon static artifacts like fiscal reports and ambiguous, annual product planning to theoretically increase revenue. Such reasoning was (and in many cases, still is) due to the idea that marketers have all of the answers, so much so that they can predict the future behaviors of their customers. This mindset looks something like: “If we implement X strategy, we will get X number of new Facebook fans, X number of our product will be sold, and we will increase X amount of revenue from last year, making the campaign successful.” However, the various values of “X” become a lot less predictable as the balance of power moves further from the marketer and closer to the user.
The fact of the matter is that, no matter what industry someone works in or where there expertise lies, we are all living the user experience. As technology rapidly develops, our attention spans are becoming shorter and our willingness to adhere to the “next big thing” is becoming larger. Consumers are now digitally empowered to take control from producers, creating a significant dilemma for steadfast disciples of the waterfall methodology. How a marketer predict his or her audience’s next move if their pace and direction are subject to instantaneous change? Marketers that are accustomed to shooting perfect bullseyes must now aim at moving targets. The only option that they have is to redefine cumbersome archetypes, embrace the reality of a volatile marketing space, and become agile.
Agile marketing in a term that is difficult to define, which surreptitiously describes its value in modern business. Up until 2009, the term was virtually non-existent on search platforms and undiscussed among professionals. It was only recently born as an ideology based upon variable user centricity, and continues to transform in order to improve efficiency, concentrate decision making, and move marketing toward the terms of the consumer. It has no concrete definition or finely-set protocol. When it comes to agile, phrases like “long-term strategy”, “optimal metrics”, and “successful campaigns” and are all obscure and subject to change. However, there are a handful of fundamentals and direct concepts as agile marketing develops.
Like traditional praxis, agile marketing depends on data collection and analysis in order to be considered productive. Unlike traditional praxis, the data must be gathered, examined, and acted upon constantly, not just monthly, quarterly, or annually. Agile data should not only serve as a resource for observation and improvement, but as a fluid resource to measure behaviors as they adapt to new technologies. As analytic expert Avinash Kaushik puts it, being agile means “failing fast and failing forward.” When a marketer assumes agile perception, risks are diminished due to small-scale testing. By adopting agile approaches and viewing data as a subject to circumstances, marketers are no longer forced to abandon long-term campaigns or liable to carry out fallible strategies because the fiscal year is not finished.
Flexible metrics are the ones worth measuring because they allow marketers to adjust their systems and pivot off of variable demand. Pressure becomes reduced, learning becomes validated, and campaigns become lean.
Perhaps most importantly, agile marketing is driven by the customer. As opposed to the waterfall method of predicting consumer behaviors, agile acknowledges that efficient, modern marketing must be adjustable to evolve with the user. It is becoming increasingly difficult for marketers to stay one step ahead in the game, when it is uncertain who is writing the rules. It’s a lot easier for marketers to admit that they don’t have the answers when they are not in immediate control. Customer centricity allows marketers to engage in constructive collaboration and implement a variety of trials to see which methods work and which can be further streamlined. Often times, consumers aren’t aware of their next move until a new piece of technology is staring them in the face. When it comes to agile marketing, their unpredictability is not seen as a setback, but rather as a means to innovate, test, and learn.
Agile embraces uncertainty, thrives upon experimentation, honors resilience, and accepts evolutionary change. In order to compete in the current state of marketing chaos, companies must adopt this newfound mentality into their everyday actions. Those who are able to look at their strategies as means of trial and error will assimilate into the user-centered unknown with openness. They will learn to react with the speed of their markets and be equipped with the awareness that allows them to focus on the demands of their users. Those that do not, will remain stagnant as the rest of the world moves on.