Agile Marketing in Practice – Part 3

By Stephen Griffin in Marketing
·16 min read

Finally, part three is here. And if you are wondering why you had to wait so long for it, it’s because it didn’t get priority in the Sprints. First lesson learned—don’t plan a three-part blog series in an Agile setup. ☺

You might recall from parts one and two, the principle and goal of Agile Marketing—to complete tasks that deliver value in an efficient manner, and be able to adapt and change focus quickly—as well as the methodologies and how we tried to get started with it all—Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, and all that goes with those methodologies. In this part, I will give you some more concrete info about the structure, the tasks, the meetings, and how we are coping with the change.

The Restructuring

I mentioned previously that our team was quite large and that management wanted to implement Agile to help the efficiency, transparency, focus, and priorities of the team. So, we actually restructured the department. We now have four smaller marketing teams, each focused on a business goal—partner recruitment and enablement, direct lead generation, branding, and a team dedicated to our new product, Kentico Cloud. Each group comprises of individual specialists as well as a team leader, and the people in the team should focus on projects that contribute to achieving the goal of that team, which should support the overall goal of Marketing. At the time of restructuring, our VP of Marketing left the company. We have an interim VP in place while we search for a full-time replacement, but he is not a marketing specialist.


Team Members

Team Leader

Content Writer

Web Developer

Graphic Designer (shared with Marketing Communication)

Campaigns Specialist

Campaigns Specialist (part-time)

UX Designer (shared with all teams)

Data Analyst (shared with all teams)


Team Leader

Content Writer (shared with Marketing Communication)

Web Developer

Graphic Designer

Campaigns Specialist

UX Designer (shared with all teams)

Data Analyst (shared with all teams)

Marketing Communication

Team Leader

Content Writer (shared with Channel)

Web Developer

Events Manager

Graphic Designer (shared with Direct)

UX Designer (shared with all teams)

Data Analyst (shared with all teams)


Team Leader

Content Writer

Content Writer (part-time)

Graphic Designer

Web Developer

Web Developer (part-time)

UX Designer (shared with all teams)

Data Analyst (shared with all teams)

The Ideal

In an ideal Agile Marketing set up:

  • Each team should be entirely self-sufficient, delivering team goals from start to finish
  • Each team should deliver value in Sprints and, therefore, be constantly in a state where they can change focus for the following Sprint
  • Work in progress should be limited to ensure delivery discipline and better focus
  • Each team would run through the ritual meetings of grooming, planning, review, and retrospective effectively to increase efficiency and update the processes
  • Tasks and results should be measurable and the teams should focus on those with the highest priority or that will deliver the biggest impact
  • Each team member should be able to assist others in their team in the delivery of the tasks, and all members would work together to achieve the goal of the Sprint
  • Campaigns and projects should be tested early and often to allow for quick changes when needed and to make adjustments to ensure they are on track to reach the goal

(Fr)Agile Marketing

Unfortunately, our Agile Marketing setup isn’t quite reflecting the ideal. There are a number of factors that are not working for us, ones that we have already solved, and some that are so frustrating that I want to scream.

  • Self-sufficient teams: We have not achieved this with our structure. The intention was to have each person focus on one goal but, as we have a number of specialists, they are shared among other teams (see the table above). In fact, some people are shared among all four teams. It is actually impossible for us to do this too with our current personnel as we simply do not have four copywriters or four graphic designers to be distributed among the teams. No team is fully self-sufficient and able to deliver their goals without someone from another team.

Positives: Although the teams are not fully self-sufficient from beginning to end, there is a lot more cooperation at the beginning of the projects to determine how to do things as each person in the team contributes to the goal of that team.

What you should consider: Make sure you look at the personnel you have available and the roles they can fulfil when deciding on your structure. Make sure teams can deliver their goals and you utilize what you have instead of trying to spread what you have too thinly.

  • Deliver value in Sprints: The majority of our teams started working in the Scrum methodology, which, as I explained in part two, works on the basis of continuous delivery—delivering a usable asset in each Sprint. This, however, does not work for many marketing activities as pieces of content very often need graphics added to them. Those items are then often used in campaigns that can run for a number of weeks and be combined with a landing page for gathering info. Each item has value but cannot be used separately. A piece of content written on paper with nowhere to link to is a waste of time in most cases. Kanban, where the ideal state is continuous improvement—starting with the minimum and building on it continuously to make it better and better until the final release date—makes much more sense in marketing. The key is the focus. To focus on something that should be released after each Sprint compared to making improvements to projects continuously knowing it will all be released on one given date without the constraints of Sprints.

Positives: The transparency of our work to Management has definitely improved through Sprints. It is visible what we are planning to do and possible to see when it should be completed. It also highlights areas we struggle with if it is taking longer than expected and that can then be addressed.

What you should consider: Ensure you look at what you do as a marketing team, understand the project, and choose the right methodology. If your marketing focus is on inbound or content marketing or social media marketing where you can create new items quite quickly and are just focused on the amount of views or readers, then Scrum can work. If, however, you do larger campaigns with a lot of website changes and large collaterals, then Kanban is probably the best approach.

  • Work in progress: This should be limited, meaning that a team or individuals are not overloaded and that focus can change quickly if needed. We struggle with this for a few reasons. Firstly, the fact that we have people shared across multiple teams means those people are too often overloaded in every Sprint. Secondly, Agile is only successful if it comes from the top down because it’s highly important that it is adhered to and the number of ad-hoc tasks or changes kept to a minimum to allow the team to progress efficiently. This requires a full-time VP of Marketing or similar managerial presence in smaller companies to help guide the department through this transitional period.

Positives: Work is time-boxed better now and people are more focused on one area at any given time rather than working on multiple projects. But, for those people that are shared, it is still an issue, unfortunately. One additional benefit to trying to limit the work in progress and work in Sprints is that it is now very clear that people are overloaded and expected to deliver too much in a given time. It is also much more evident that there are too many ad-hoc tasks expected. As much as the transparency of our work to management has improved, it has also worked the opposite way in showing that Marketing is overloaded and better strategic decisions are needed from the top down.

What you should consider: Ensure that there are long-term goals and strategies in place guiding your priorities and make sure that the entire company agree upon them and adhere to them. You will fight a losing battle if this does not come from the top down as it takes a lot of bravery and perseverance to implement this transition. And ensure you control the number of ad-hoc tasks being delivered. These ad-hoc tasks greatly reduce the focus on the more important priority tasks that should be delivered.

  • Grooming, planning, review, and retrospective: In the Agile methodology, these ritual meetings were developed to help keep the team focused, working efficiently, and avoid any obstacles in the projects. However, meetings take time and should be used to increase efficiency of work, not decrease the amount of time people have available to actually work. That is what has happened in our case. As we have numerous teams and people shared between them, it has become a problem that people are attending two or three of each of these meetings per week. And as the teams are structured with just one “specialist” in the team, it is difficult to have constructive conversations as the specialist needs to explain the obstacles they are facing much more so that the others can understand the context. In fact, the others sometimes don’t even care about the problems a different specialist has because it is completely irrelevant to their work. We struggle for specialists to cooperate and really deliver innovative solutions based on multiple opinions and inputs. At one point, we were averaging about 38 hours of meetings per person per month, which is just completely unsustainable.

Positives: We do meet regularly, although in smaller teams, and we get information and context about the project and where it is going. We do a daily stand-up meeting where members of the team say what they are working on and how it is progressing. It does help people to stay in touch with other parts of the project.

What you should consider: Meetings for the sake of meetings are just wasting your time. Only do these ritual meetings if they are helping the team to improve. If they are not, then try to make them more effective, and if all else fails, cancel them and make sure that people have time to work. If you are planning week-long Sprints but people are spending 10 hours per week in meetings, then make sure this is reflected in the capacity of the team.

  • Highest priority, measurable tasks: Ok, so this is a given in most cases and not directly related to Agile Marketing—work on the top priority tasks first and measure the impact to make sure it was worthwhile. And we have always tried to do this, even in the past. The issue we face in the new structure, however, is that we have multiple teams with different goals competing for the time of the people to actually achieve the goals. It has become increasingly difficult to prioritize the goals across the department and determine what is needed and why. So when considering how to prioritize tasks for your teams, make sure the structure does not put competing teams in a race to deliver on their goals. Additionally, we find that it is quite difficult to always measure the results. Of course, our goals include partner acquisitions, leads, and so on, and these can be tracked. However, it is often difficult to determine the level of impact one campaign or activity has had on a final goal. Even with multi-touch attribution of activities, determining the weighted effect that one has over the other is difficult and we can’t determine the full impact of our work. Add to that items such as brand awareness and collaterals, where there are just impressions and feelings involved, and it becomes even more complicated.

Positives: As an Agile tool, we use JIRA to track all tasks we work on and tasks in our backlog. We are able to prioritize the tasks in the backlog and this also helps management to see where we are heading and when they can expect results. It also helps to focus teams on certain tasks instead of trying to work on little bits from every task.

What you should consider: Firstly, the same as with work in progress, make sure there is a long-term strategy in place to guide the tasks being done and allow you to make priority decisions. And, secondly, be aware that not everything is measurable. Brand awareness is something much bigger, for example, where you might never know the impact on revenue until you stop doing it.

  • Work together to achieve the goal: This sounds ideal but it actually worked in our previous structure, prior to restructuring the department. We were a very close-knit group and we all knew what was going on in marketing, what we wanted to achieve, and how we wanted to do it. But as soon as we split into the different teams, this was lost. We focus only on our team goals and not the rest of the marketing goals, which are sometimes so diverse that it is almost impossible for someone from a different team to help out across marketing. As we are split into teams consisting of one specialist per role per team, we have also lost the ability to jump in and help in most cases, even within the smaller teams. For the most part, a content writer will never be able to step up and do some coding for a developer. Or a campaign manager probably wouldn’t be able to jump onto a graphics task and deliver some Photoshopped creations. We lost the team ethic of helping each other because we just cannot do it in the new structure—we very rarely meet as one full marketing team, we have separated smaller teambuilding activities and workshops, and, in general, we act as four individual (sometimes competing) teams instead of one overall marketing team.

Positives: At times, there is more communication between roles that wouldn’t happen if there were pure specialist teams. For example, a developer speaks with graphics, UX, content writers, and so on and these people get a chance to ask questions. It does decrease the efficiency of the meetings but it sometimes helps to communicate the complexity of a task to people that otherwise would not know.

What you should consider: Agile Marketing is a perfectly legitimate way of work and one that has many benefits, but implement it to make your team stronger, not weaker. Try teams of specialists that communicate together about similar topics, or group teams based on certain projects that change over the course of a number of weeks. Hold regular all marketing meetings or workshops where everyone can voice their opinion and be heard. Try to have regular teambuilding activities to get everyone bonding as one team. You must have good staff or else they would not be working for you, so make Agile work for them, don’t make them work for Agile.

  • Test early, test often: Absolutely! If you are doing something that is not working, then stop it early and change it. However, there are also limitations to this. Many campaigns we do can’t be released to the public early due to restricted content access or costs and timelines, etc. On top of that, it is not always possible to test the impact of activities early. If you try to push a “low-cost” version of a campaign, banner, or whitepaper to the market to assess the impact, it will probably underperform compared to the final version anyway. As I mentioned above with brand awareness, sometimes the impact can take so long to be felt that, if you tested it over a short period, you would probably cancel the activities based on the results even though in the long term they could have a huge impact. This is still something we are working on though and we are aware that at certain times, it is possible to A/B test designs and content and so on. We are also doing extra UX testing and testing in-house when possible, but we need to explore additional ways to do it externally with the targeted audience.

Positives: We have been able to make adjustments to certain things following feedback, predominantly internally, before pushing it to the public. Granted, this is actually what we did in the past too but it is actually an Agile principle. I guess the Agile approach of development influenced Marketing even before we started all the changes. We are still at an early stage with this, but there are opportunities to test and make adjustments early in the project.

What you should consider: This is definitely an approach that takes getting used to but can have big benefits. If you don’t have endless amounts of money to throw at marketing campaigns, you want to make sure that what you are doing will give you the greatest returns. So, when possible, test your campaigns and activities on smaller target audiences and make the necessary adjustments instead of betting your entire fortune on one glorious failure. The OCD perfectionist in your team won’t like you for it, but the returns should be better.

So, What’s Next?

Everyone encounters growing pains with new structures, but when you do move forward, it is important to understand why the problems exist. As I mentioned in part two, Agile Development has been a huge success in the company, but Agile Marketing is a different beast and needs a different approach. Don’t expect that a structure that worked in another department must work again here. Every situation is going to be unique and needs to be treated as such. Be flexible, be smart, and be proactive in solving the issues. While writing this, we are actually now looking at adjusting our structure and “reintroducing” Agile Marketing to our team based on the lessons we have learned.

The steps we are currently taking are:

  • To identify and prioritize all projects we are working on
  • To set a Work in Progress limit for people
  • To stop or postpone any activities that are not focused on our goals
  • To plan and outline a new structure (most likely grouping specialists together in a Scrumban way of work)
  • To introduce the concept and structure to the entire department and get their feedback
  • To kick off the Agile approach from a new fresh perspective

Maybe I will add a fourth part to this series and keep you updated on how this goes. Or maybe not—I have learned not to promise anything in the Agile approach because you never know when the focus might change. ☺

Obviously, it has taken us quite some time to get to where we are, but we have learned some lessons along the way and are working on solutions. So my advice to anyone trying to start it all is that before introducing Agile Marketing to your department, take a step back and make sure the environment and situation exists for it to be a success. If there isn’t unwavering support from the top down, if there isn’t a long-term vision or strategy, and if there aren’t clear priorities set, then fix these first. Then look at the team itself, whom you have, what roles you need, how they should work together, what tasks they should achieve, and so on, and then start with your implementation.

Have you tried implementing Agile Marketing or are you considering it? What issues have you encountered or are you planning to take any different approaches to it? Do you want any advice on how to start things based on the lessons we have learned? Comment below, and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.

By Stephen Griffin in Marketing
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