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Choosing your Agile Marketing Tool

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This post is a continuation/refresh of an earlier post from Yuval’s personal blog 

Tools for Agile Marketing seem to be a hot topic in the various Agile Marketing communities. The Marketing Agility Podcast is talking to some tool vendors and people started to discuss it on the  Agile Marketing Facebook Group as well.

For co-located marketing teams the best approach would probably be to start without an electronic tool and just use a physical board/wall with sticky notes at least until they get the hang of it and learn what they really need. Many marketing teams are distributed and therefore don’t have this luxury. While moving to a co-located setup is definitely a recommended option it isn’t always realistic… So those teams do need to have some electronic tool to support their move to agile marketing.

There’s a variety of tools supporting agile work management. Most of them come from the development/IT world since this is where Agile is coming from. While many of the principles and practices of Agile Development map nicely to Agile Marketing when it comes to tools there’s actually a bigger difference in my experience. I find marketers are typically more visual and artsy than developers. They also have a different language. Many of the Agile Development tools speak the development-world language which confuses marketers.

I’ve seen many marketing departments being asked to use the tool their peers in IT/Development use – mainly to achieve economies of scale (standardize on one tool vendor, easier to support fewer tools, etc.). While this has merit, in many cases it becomes a significant impediment to the success of the Agile Marketing transformation. Tooling should work for the people rather than against them. I’m not saying don’t consider economies of scale and alignment but also consider whether the tool will actually work well in a marketing context. If you have concerns, start small and see. Suggest it as an experiment.

To help marketers make sure they are considering the right tools, here’s my view on what would be a great tool supporting Agile Marketing:

  • It would talk marketer’s language. Not force marketers to learn the language of development/IT.
  • It would be flexible. Marketers are not following Scrum to the letter. It should enable marketers to follow lean/agile principles without forcing the wrong practices.
  • It would be visual and beautiful because marketers appreciate those things. It wouldn’t bog down people with too many grids and lists and instead, use more “Boards”.
  • It would support dynamic teams not just fixed scrum teams. Because that happens in Marketing. (also in Development btw)
  • It would support a combination of Scrum, and Kanban without forcing you to choose one or the other.
  • It would allow different teams in the organization easily adapt their area in the tool to support their own process.
  • It would TEACH marketers how to think about lean/agile flow/behavior. As a complement to frontal training, the tool should proactively support changing marketing culture to support agility.
  • Marketers spend even more of their time doing “Keep the lights on” activities such as cleaning up leads, monitoring campaigns, running webinars, etc. A great tool would find an effective way not just to take that into account but also to help them manage those activities more effectively. Some of the Personal Kanban body of knowledge can help here.
  • Marketing Agility starts with individuals and can scale to hundreds of people. Not all tools need to support scale. But if the organizational agile tool can help the individual marketer become more agile it would help with the adoption of the tool and agile marketing in general.
  • Emphasize simplicity, ease of use, and streamlined flows. Otherwise, it won’t stick. Having a situation where you have special people working the tool because the actual marketers won’t touch it with a stick is unacceptable (a true story I heard in a recent meetup). It should take minutes to onboard a new team. It should take seconds for a marketer to add new work or move work along.
  • Integration into the other main tools of the 21st-century marketer. Integration into email is one key thing. SalesForce when we start to talk about Account Based Marketing? Marketo/Hubspot/etc.? Integration into collaboration tools such as Slack/Flowdock?
  • It should provide some actionable insights – e.g. these items have been in flight for quite a while, worth looking at them in your next daily stand-up. These items took a long time to cross the finish line – may be worth discussing them in a retrospective/five-whys session. These items ping-ponged a lot between states – worth looking at. There seems to be a lot of queueing up for the designer. mmmm. maybe you should look at that (and suggest some tips along the lines of the theory of constraints’ five focusing steps). Why is it important to marketers? actually, the more of those insights agile tools include the better it would be for everybody not just marketers. But since marketers are new to this agile thing, and many marketers aren’t necessarily process-oriented, this can help them along. (If they don’t have a lean/agile coach close by that is 😉

I hope this list helps you choose an effective agile marketing tool for your context. If you need further help in choosing an agile marketing tool, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m available at yuval@agilesparks.com.

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