Agile Marketing vs. Agility in Marketing — What’s the Difference?

Walker Sands collage

Agile marketing is a discipline that codifies an approach to marketing that’s more flexible than past methods. Per McKinsey:

Agile, in the marketing context, means using data and analytics to continuously source promising opportunities or solutions to problems in real time, deploying tests quickly, evaluating the results, and rapidly iterating. At scale, a high-functioning agile marketing organization can run hundreds of campaigns simultaneously and multiple new ideas every week.

To break this down, agile marketing is characterized by not only continuous change but also a faster rate of iteration to which marketers or organizations might be accustomed. The rise of agile was reflected, both directly and indirectly, by respondents in our third annual State of Marketing Technology report. Following are our findings on and assessment of the role of agile in the marketing landscape – and how marketers feel about the term.

How Marketers Feel About Agile Marketing

It’s a classic chicken-or-egg situation. Agility and agile marketing is either a reflection of or a response to the rapid pace of change in the marketing technology landscape. Sixty-three percent of marketers say that the landscape has evolved “rapidly” or even at “light speed” in the last year. By contrast, less than a third are confident in their company’s use of martech.

When asked directly about their own companies’ agility, marketers are primarily optimistic. Sixty-one percent say that they’re “somewhat” or “very” agile when it comes to adding new tools to their martech stack.

Agility in Marketing vs. Agile Marketing

Agile marketing is a discipline and a mindset, while agility in marketing is a trait and a characteristic in a marketer or a department. Therefore, it’s possible to be agile while working toward an “agile marketing program” or to implement an unsuccessful agile marketing program and not have it achieve its namesake goals.

Implementing a formal agile marketing program may sound like a big step (and, full disclosure, it is since it involves some degree of methodology, from Scrum to Kanban to a homegrown system). According to our findings, 27 percent of marketers are plagued by a lack of internal buy-in when it comes to purchasing martech solutions, so it’s fair to assume that the same goes for a lack of buy-in when it comes to implementing formal programs. The cost for these programs may not be financial, but changing hearts and minds creates its own challenges.

Our recommendation if you’re looking to implement an agile marketing program? Start with agility, and be able to prove the ROI on a quick response during an isolated incident. This, as well as familiarity with the concepts outlined in Hacking Marketing, will help your organization join the 61 percent who consider their efforts agile.

For more on executing agile marketing in a strategic way, check out the blog post from the State of Marketing Technology’s coauthor Scott Brinker.

Methodology: Walker Sands surveyed 300 marketing professionals in Q1 2018.


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