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99. 3 Core Principles of Agile Marketing

(Episode 1 of 2 with Andrea Fryrear)

99. 3 Core Principles of Agile Marketing

Today we are joined by Andrea Fryrear. Andrea helps innovative marketing leaders transform their teams into agile marketing powerhouses. She is the author of Mastering Marketing Agility, and the co-founder of AgileSherpas, where she helps business leaders implement marketing agility within their organizations. 

In today’s episode, Andrea shares three core principles of agile marketing. 

Andrea’s Journey to Agile Marketing

“Like many marketing professionals, I did not go to school to be a marketer,” Andrea said. “I sort of fell into it. I have an English degree and took my first job as an editorial assistant for a newspaper syndicate. Then when they needed a website redesign, because I was the most digitally savvy person in the building, I was put in charge of that project.”

With website design comes the need for search engine optimization, which eventually leads to the need for marketing. As content marketing grew in popularity, Andrea’s English degree became very useful. 

While she was working on a content team at a software company, she convinced her boss to let them try agile marketing. Her boss agreed and let her complete specific training to fill the new role. She started experimenting with her small marketing team and wrote about the process and her journey. Eventually, people started reaching out to her asking for her advice. Enough people reached out to her that Andrea was able to leave her software company and create AgileSherpas, something she has been working on for more than four years.

The content they create brings in all of their clients. Agility became the way to monetize content marketing. 

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What is agile marketing?

“Agile marketing is about setting up systems that allow you to deliver value to an audience faster and more consistently,” Andrea said. “It’s a much more iterative continuous value stream than more of those old school styles of marketing work.”

It includes working with a team to identify high-value projects on which to focus our collective efforts. The teams often use sprints (short periods on intense work) to complete projects and then measure the impact afterward to continually improve (Source: Work Front).

Instead of planning a campaign for months that costs thousands of dollars and releasing it with the hope, it is a success, the goal is to get content in front of our audience right away and see what they think. 

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Once the content is distributed to our customers, we can get their feedback and input. If they like it, we can continue to build similar content. If they don’t like it, we can take their feedback and try something different. 

Agile marketing focuses on responding to change while following a plan, implementing numerous experiments, collaborating without regard to hierarchy, and using tests and data over opinions (Source: Work Front).

“It’s really all about customer-centricity,” Andrea explained. “It becomes that ongoing point of connection. You de-risk a lot of your activities if you can test and learn in an agile way.” 

Andrea gave three core principles of agile marketing: experimentation, radical transparency, and courage. 

1. Experimentation 

Agile marketing is strongly focused on experimentation and action. “It’s things like a bias towards action—a bias towards experimentation and learning as opposed to ‘Well, we’re going to do it this way because that’s the way we’ve always done it,’ and it seems to work pretty well,” Andrea said. 

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Agile marketing is about trial and error. The goal is to learn from our mistakes, in the beginning, so we can produce successful content faster. 

In order for experimentation to work within a team, there needs to be a high degree of trust and empowerment. Within the teams, the leader gives members a goal or objective to focus on and then sets them off on their own. We must be able to trust that every team member will do their best work to accomplish the task they are given. 

The reason we do marketing this way is to deliver better value to the customer sooner. 

“Agile became a way to communicate,” Andrea said. “It’s like a conversation with your customer more often. [You] show them something and get their feedback and then take that into account for the next phase of work.”

We should always be focused on learning and adapting to the feedback we get from our audience. One of the biggest patterns to avoid is simply doing things the same way because “it’s always been done that way.” There will always be opportunities for improvement, and we will miss those opportunities if we don’t look for them.

Because agile marketing is so focused on adaptation and experimentation, it helps teams deal with organizing, managing, and optimizing uncertainty. The teams that are set up with an agile marketing system should be able to handle challenging situations better than others. When COVID-19 hit, Andrea saw that businesses that implemented agile strategies were able to get back on their feet a lot sooner compared to other businesses that hadn’t implemented agile strategies. 

 2. Radical Transparency

Radical transparency helps enable trust and accountability within the experimentation process. 

“You have boards—visualized workflows that show you what’s being done. You should have regular readouts where you say, ‘This is what we tried and this is what worked and what didn’t.’ So you’re not just letting [your team] go to work blind. You are still having a line of sight, but you trust that they’re doing the best work that they can and you let them get on with it,” Andrea explained. 

These visual boards help keep the team in line and on track. Having radical transparency creates a system of accountability. In addition, it also gamifies the system. As we complete goals and reach milestones, we get a shot of dopamine. The visual work helps create this feeling of progress. 

If someone is struggling on their part and we can see they are stuck, we can ask what we can do to help, and find the problem right away, rather than having them struggle with it alone. 

Another big pattern to avoid is withholding information. “You have to be able to create that focus, and unless you have it all out in the open, you can’t do it,” Andrea said. “You’ve got to . . . say it’s not about me—it’s about the team’s success. And if I openly share what I know and remove myself as a bottleneck, we can go faster as a group, and that’s actually better for everybody.”

 3. Courage 

Implementing agile marketing requires us to be courageous. 

“To put all of your work out in the open for everyone to see is a courageous act. For a leader to trust that a team or an individual contributor will do what they were asked to do in a timely and high-quality way is a courageous thing to do,” Andrea said. “To call out your teammates . . . you need to be courageous. They all require different kinds of courage, but being ready to step up and do what needs to be done helps make things go a lot more smoothly.”

We need to be ready to step up to the task at hand. It even takes courage to set our goals, estimate projects, and get our content out there because there is the possibility that we might fail. Courage is essential in all marketing strategies, not just agile marketing. 

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Key Takeaways

Thank you so much Andrea for sharing your stories and knowledge with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

1. Agile marketing is designed to get value out to customers consistently and quickly. 

2. Agile marketing is focused on experimentation. The goal is to learn from our mistakes, not fear them. 

3. As we experiment, we can adapt to customer feedback. 

4. Radical transparency is essential when working in a team. It helps everyone stay on the same page and move at a faster pace.

5. It takes courage to implement agile marketing and put our work out there, especially when there is the possibility of failure. 

Connect with Andrea

If you enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about Andrea, listen to part two of this episode or connect with her on LinkedIn or her websites, Fryrear.com and AgileSherpas.com.

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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