What I’ve learned from attending three all day agile marketing workshops and I don’t plan to stop there!
In the fall of 2014, I made the decision to leave my position at a company I had spent the last 7+ years of my life. I had built a rapport with my colleagues, grew my network of industry contacts and crafted my trade. But, I had also become comfortable. I wasn’t challenged in the work that I was producing and I had lost sight of what was important to me professionally and personally.
So mid-September of that year, I said goodbye to the people I grew accustomed to seeing day in and day out and accepted a position where I would be seeing my husband day in and day out. My new position was with a company out of state and I was fortunate to have an office out of my home, along with my husband. I also found myself with a larger list of responsibilities and a larger group of people to interact with directly and more frequently.
I will be the first to admit, I came into my new company and position with a chip on my shoulder. I believed they needed me more than I needed them. I also believed that my experience in the industry afforded me a certain level of “street cred.” But what we all find out quickly in business is “street cred” doesn’t take you very far.
The New Phrase
Remember when you were in middle school and your friends would come to school using new phrases and you had no clue what they were talking about? You didn’t want to be the kid that didn’t know what that meant so you’d have to strategically find a way to ask another friend (or your parents if you were desperate). This of course was pre-Google days. I was having middle school flashbacks (which no one appreciates) as my new colleagues were throwing around buzz words like “agile” and “waterfall”.
I quickly turned to Google and typed in “agile methodology”. But what I found was how it is a way of software development. As a marketing department of one, I quickly dismissed the theory as a whole. After all, marketing and IT are like oil and water and don’t have anything in common, right?
So, for my amusement, I Googled “agile marketing”. The results I got were helpful in the way of educational benefits, but not executable. Until I stumbled upon a local company claiming to know a little something about the topic. So I reached out…
The Agile Marketing Workshop
Fast forward to workshop day… or moreover halfway through. I remember having one of those out-of-body experiences where I was looking at myself and the other 15+ marketers in the room, all of us with the same expression of speculation for three reasons:
- Most of us were part of very small marketing departments with very siloed responsibilities, meaning you had people who only handled digital, PR, collateral, etc.
- We have meetings to talk about meetings and more meetings to talk about the results of previous meetings. Now we are adding daily stand-ups which are MORE meetings?
- We are already running in 50,000 different directions and often producing work as a result of an (always) immediate request from Sales or Clients. Everything is a top priority.
The other commonality between us marketers is that we were (and admittedly sometimes still) operating under the Conventional Rules of Marketing. Generally, this means doing everything BIG: Big ideas, big outcome, big price tag. And the process for deliverables tends to be more linear and sequential, mimicking that of Waterfall Methodology.
- Develop a Strategy or Idea
- Gather the Requirements
- Design / Build / Create
- Launch / Deliver / Implement
- Test / Measure / Verify
My First Time Workshop Takeaways
After being asked to adopt a sort of unconventional marketing by breaking down projects: mini strategy, big outcome, rapid and repeat iterations. Thus, becoming more Agile.
- Develop a Strategy or Idea
- Plan / Design / Launch / Measure (iterative)
- Gain Insight
- Revise the Strategy or Idea
- Adjust Accordingly
What I like in particular here are the last two steps: Adjust Accordingly and Learn. What’s the bigger picture? Speaking from experience, there are countless projects I was involved in where we completed and delivered, only to find an unsatisfied end user or missteps. To this, our instinctive response was “But that’s how you told us you wanted it done.” From there it becomes a power struggle of which side will give in first.
Now, we can learn to communicate better with our respective end user by illustrating our process and still delivering on what they asked, but there is a more clearly defined process for handling things that were out of scope, changed directions, failure to deliver, etc. And over time, like my personal development, that chip on our shoulders, as marketers, and constant look of speculation to new processes begins to deteriorate.
My Second and Third Workshop Experience
Nearly one year later, I found myself starting my first day at AJi as a Customer Experience Manager. A few months into my new role, I had the opportunity to attend a private Agile Marketing Workshop in Lincoln, Nebraska. Not only was this workshop unique in that everyone was from the same company, but their roles spanned multiple departments; from Finance to Marketing to Administration. During the second workshop, I sat back and simply absorbed. I observed how the teams interacted with each other and listened to some of the challenges they faced. Believe it or not, they were the same challenges when it was a room full of marketers.
And here we are now, just a month removed from my third workshop. By this time, I should be a pro, right? I should be able to lead the workshop and give my group an advantage right? I should be able to knock the socks off the 2/3 of the people in the room who were current clients right? WRONG! While I came prepared with my own stock of post-it notes and black sharpies, I was transparent with the room and the fact that yes this was my 3rd workshop, but no I am not an expert. My goal was to take one little thing and apply it to what I do.
This was a pivotal mindset for me to be in so when I worked within my group of current clients, and we reached that point of frustration and speculation, I was able to jump in ready to share what I learned. “I feel your pain. I was there too.” Now, I was able to bridge the gap between lecture and application. Whether or not the individuals in my group went back to work the next day and applied their newfound knowledge to their work life isn’t as important as the fact that I recognized that point of conventionalism. Slowly, and in the smallest form, I was able to help chip away at it and help stear towards unconventional. That my friends is a good feeling.
Becoming More Agile
So as a marketer and a human being on the hunt for continual betterment, I made a conscious decision to “flip the switch” and become more Agile in my professional and personal life. But we are all flawed and we need incessant refinement. So, you won’t find me walking into my 4th or 5th workshop with my head hung in shame. You will find me in the front row, eager to find that little nugget that I can take back to my practice of learning and adjusting.