More and more marketing teams are switching to Agile ways of working because it helps them respond to change faster and build more customer-focused experiences. But often a company’s choice and implementation of marketing technologies makes iteration and experimentation a slow and painful process for marketers, one that requires lots of tech team support.
In this post, I’ll look at how to build a tech stack that give marketers the freedom to experiment.
Choose tools that aid collaboration
Marketing teams adopt Agile ways of working because they want to work more effectively, publish faster and more frequently, make better decisions and improve collaboration. But the tools that marketers are left with from previous, more traditional ways of working often get in the way.
Take email as an example. Agile methods value quick, efficient communication between team members because it helps them work faster while keeping morale up. The formality of email, where prose has to be constructed carefully and agonizing decisions have to be made about who gets copied in, doesn’t make for speedy comms.
Ideally, we’d all be working in the same office, so you could just pop round to a colleague’s desk with an urgent query, but that’s seldom the case.
Agile software development teams have long been using Slack for communications where responses are needed quickly. Because it lets you create threads for different projects, make a message more urgent by tagging individuals or the whole team, post links, images and files, and send direct messages as a quicker alternative to a short email, it makes written communication much quicker and easier.
Communication between team members isn’t the only area that could benefit from more Agile software tools. Platforms like InVision, Canva and Wipster can help improve collaboration on creative tasks, Google Docs makes writing in pairs or groups a much simpler affair than endlessly versioned Word documents, and Trello provides a great alternative to a physical task board for distributed teams.
Make sure data is collected and portable
Good quality data, and the ability to interpret that data to make decisions quickly, is the key to success for Agile marketing teams.
It’s essential to make sure you’re collecting data on the metrics that are important to you, the ones that determine whether your efforts are generating value to the business, be they numbers of downloads, newsletter sign-ups, enquiries, social shares, email opens, or sales.
And it’s crucial that different data streams can be combined together in dashboards which make clear whether your experiments have succeeded or failed, without the need for endless data exports and Excel wizardry. This has huge importance when selecting marketing automation platforms, analytics packages and data visualization tools.
Google’s Tag Manager and Analytics have gone a long way to eradicating the need for developer support to track the behavior of website visitors, but the other products in your marketing software stack should offer similar portability of data. That way you can manipulate the stats in your tool of choice, combine them with other sources, calculate the metrics that matter, and visualize the performance of your efforts.
Look to automate repetitive tasks
Working iteratively, making small experiments and building on the successful ones with incremental improvements is at the heart of Agile marketing. It requires doing lots of tasks over and over again, from publishing social media posts to building landing pages.
Automating as many of these tasks as possible frees up the time you need for analyzing the resultant behavior of your audiences, which is essential for building a better understanding of how to engage them.
The temptation when looking for software which automates repetitive tasks is to go for those which offer such a large feature set that learning how to use them takes ages, robbing you of the time-saving benefits you were looking for.
A simple landing page plugin for your WordPress or Drupal site which offers only a limited range of templates, used in conjunction with Google Analytics, might save you a lot more time than the all-singing, all-dancing optimization platform whose features far exceed your modest needs.
Start simply, automating only those tasks which cost you time now, instead of trying to imagine what kind of platform you’ll need in a year’s time. After all, your predictions will probably be wrong and, as long as you can extract any important data from the platform, you can always replace it later.
Opt for an open-source backbone
Eventually you will need some technical help making all your marketing technologies play nicely together. Whether integrating a personalization platform with your website or building an API for your bespoke database of customer/prospect data, you’ll have a much easier time finding people who can help if the backbone of your marketing technology stack is open-source.
Of course, this means you need to take on the expense of building and maintaining some of your own platforms, but if you can avoid vendor lock-in around the most valuable elements of your marketing ecosystem (data, website), you’ll have much more scope to experiment.
The cost and effort can be mitigated by using cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS). They offer a wide range of services for everything from video encoding to sending email and, because they’re billed on a per use basis, they’re an attractive, scalable option for running your open source platforms.
Remember your tech stack is always a work in progress
Whilst tools and data are incredibly important, a truly Agile marketing team focuses on people and how to build a stronger team. Retrospectives, where the team gets together to talk about what works and what doesn’t, are an important part of continuous improvement.
Bringing discussion of your tech stack into these forums can help determine where you need to make adjustments to remove inefficiencies, or where an experiment with new technology might help your teams work more effectively.