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Strategy, Transformation, Spotlight, Jul 26, 2022

Over the waterfall: Is Agile the next big push in Marketing Ops?

Niall Donnelly

The concept of ‘Agile’ is not a new one. After being popularised in 2001, it has been a mainstay in engineering ways of working within organisations across the globe and unlocked the potential for far more efficient routes to product delivery than using more traditional operating models. So, despite Agile pushing 21 years of age, why is it that we are only now seeing a new lease of life for Agile ways of working in the marketing space?

In short, it is down to the advent of Digital Marketing. I do not believe there is any coincidence between the surgency of the Agile concept into the marketing space and the unrelenting growth and popularity of Digital Marketing among both worldwide conglomerates and sole-trading start-ups.

Read next: What happens to organisational reporting lines in Agile transformations?

So, what is Agile?

Put simply, Agile practice for marketing is an iterative approach that is underpinned by constant evaluation and re-evaluation of varying methods of advertising and its performance to greatly increase efficiency of advertising spend. This is achieved by maintaining a consistent view of marketing trends and leveraging the vast capabilities of collected data to identify high-performing channels and growth areas. The concept of Agile in marketing is the very antithesis of ‘set and forget’ marketing, which takes far longer to yield actionable results and often at a far greater cost.Over the waterfall - agile marketing-01Modern landscapes require modern solutions


A study by AgileSherpas in 2021 revealed that only 51% of organisations reported using Agile as a mechanism for managing workflows. This represented a 19% increase over the previous two years, as businesses are beginning to recognise the importance of adopting an operating model that fully leverages the capability of the online and social technologies at their disposal.

Technologies and methodologies such as Customer Data Platform (CDP), Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) and Real-Time Analytics (RTA) have never been more accessible to a wide spectrum of companies. They provide the fundamental tools for data automation that allow virtually any organisation to implement a robust Agile infrastructure into their marketing function. Many organisations which maintain a traditional ‘waterfall’ way of working often neglect these incredibly powerful technologies due to unintentional ignorance and/or baked-in legacy processes which paint an Agile adoption as too large or expensive a task to appeal to many C-levels. This mindset will inevitably hinder the organisation’s ability to benefit fully from the potential of their digital marketing activity due to the antiquated nature of waterfall being fundamentally misaligned with the fast-paced characteristics of Digital Marketing; not too dissimilar to watching a VHS on your brand new 4K TV.

How do I become Agile in marketing?

This is often a question that gets most businesses stuck in the starting gate. Luckily, there is an online-published Agile Marketing Manifesto that details the five principles required to maintain a truly Agile workflow in your organisation:

  1. Focusing on customer value and business outcomes instead of activity and outputs
  2. Delivering value early and often instead of waiting for perfection
  3. Learning through experiments and data instead of opinions and conventions
  4. Cross-functional collaboration instead of siloes and hierarchies
  5. Responding to change instead of following a static plan

As previously mentioned, Agile is first and foremost an iterative approach to workflow which begs for two things:

  1. The constant pivoting of focus that is reactive to the feedback from a consistent stream of data, collected from various sources such as your website, app, demand-side platforms (DSP), and even old school customer surveys/feedback (if you’re so inclined). The objective of this approach is simply to stay at the forefront of what is working in your performance marketing, as well as keeping tabs on the shifting demands of the customer.

  2. The removal of siloes between marketing channels e.g., Paid Search, Paid Social, Affiliates, Email etc. A joined-up approach across these channels unlocks the ability to treat the customer as one single individual rather than each channel vying for their attention and engagement independent of one another. Anyone who has been bombarded by ads from a single brand across multiple touchpoints on the internet will know how this can affect their perception of the brand.
Logically, one of the most important components of a cross-collaborative approach to marketing is communication between these traditionally siloed functions. This typically manifests itself as ‘sprint’ meetings that include all the arbiters of advertising in the marketing function and act as a forum to discuss what is high-performing and low-performing since the previous sprint. Tactical discussions can then take place to agree a collaborative approach toward a complementary dialogue with each customer that tightens up spend efficiency whilst also crafting a more natural and meaningful connection with the customer at every touchpoint.

The pursuit for the Next Best Action

Once you’re in a place where you have a wealth of actionable data at your disposal, how do you advance your transformation further in an Agile fashion? One answer is to leverage it to calculate the next best action or interaction with an individual customer/customer group.

The ability to effectively determine and execute the Next Best Action (NBA) is often considered to be at the cutting-edge of MarTech-Agile capability as it begins to transcend the gap between the conscious thought of the marketer and artificial intelligence (AI) & machine learning (ML). The true power of the Next Best action technology is capitalised for large organisations with a large customer base. NBA technology can be imposed as an arbitration layer to govern one-to-one communication at scale and used as a mechanism to promote reengagement/upselling with the brand based on their previous actions or exhibited behaviours.

For example, in a retail scenario: a group of customers who place a large order of various furniture items are exhibiting the behaviour of someone who may be moving or remodelling their home. From these signals, a logical test would be to promote soft furnishings to that customer group and evaluate the engagement rate. This would indicate the action’s effectiveness and provide valuable insight via data whilst also training the NBA model.

As a pairing, NBA and Agile share a synergy that is considered to be the most effective execution of Digital Marketing in present day. Whereas there are various layers of intricacy that can be introduced depending on how specialised the business would like to delve, the common denominator is the need for a consistent Agile process to work in parallel. Having this in place will achieve the full potential of the NBA’s automated and conversational logic.

In conclusion

The MarTech landscape is rapidly changing in terms of technologies and platforms that are responding to an ever-changing set of customer wants and needs. It stands to reason that the operating model that lives around these capabilities also adapts in a way that allows for a truly cohesive customer experience that is driven by referenceable data at scale. The holistic benefits of employing an Agile operating model can be summarised as follows:

  • Near real-time reactivity to shifting trends in markets or consumer behaviour, allowing for far greater efficiency and effectiveness in advertising spend.

  • Highly scalable one-to-one advertisement, allowing to speak personally with your customers about their specific needs, even with significantly large customer bases.

  • Expedited test-and-learn cycles, gleaning insight and reallocating spend far faster than waterfall methods.

  • A cohesive and collaborative approach between activation channels that allows for a better customer experience and seamless transfer of ideas and experience.

How we can help

At Credera, we recognise the difficulty in making these changes within your organisational structure to fully yield the potential of your marketing technology stack. With over 30 years’ experience in Digital Marketing transformation, we are able to aid, advise and support your transition to a fully Agile and automated Digital Marketing capability.

Please get in touch to learn more.

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