While 90% of startups fail, the 10% which make it do it with fireworks, generating millions in revenue and gaining worldwide attention. What makes that successful minority so effective? Can their approach to business be used with the same results in marketing?
In short, yes. And it’s all about being Agile.
Agile methodology was invented and honed in the software development world. It was created to improve the often complicated development process, and its goal is to allow developers to work more efficiently. Agile frameworks are based on completing “sprints”, or cycles, where the team focuses only on the task currently scheduled in the backlog. This saves the team time and resources, ensuring high delivery of results.
Focusing on the most important thing, one thing at a time, might seem obvious. However when you think back to your last major marketing or technology project if it was like most projects, it was beset by new requirements, urgent changes and executive inputs throughout the project resulting in missed deadlines and burnt out team members.
This is where the inherent limitations of a startup are in fact its best asset. Initially, all startups lack in resources, and most notably, they lack in human resources. That’s why startups prioritize maximizing their output using what little they have. They focus on single tasks, measuring their effectiveness, and when something doesn’t work, they discontinue developing it. This methodology is repeated until a startup arrives at a set of tested solutions which bring measurable results.
So, if Agile startups can turn from an innovative idea of a few into money-making companies employing thousands, why not use their approach to maximize the results of marketing departments?
Let’s look at the most common problems/situations for marketers that can be addressed by adopting an Agile methodology.
1. There are always so many different things to do.
You start out your day with a list of things to do, on which there are already plenty of items, only to learn there’s another urgent project requiring your attention. The result: you end the day with no items from the list crossed out, and of course, a bitter taste of failure in your mouth.
Stop. Go Agile.
Without severe and ruthless prioritizing, something or someone will always drag you away from work — causing you to put off your current work eternally. Adopt Agile methodology and split all of your assignments into sprints, otherwise known as cycles.
Sprints tend to last from one week to one month, and help your team focus on one task instead of a few. Working on several projects at once is the main reason for distractions and getting no work done.
Sit down with your team and analyze all of your projects, arranging them in order beginning with the most important ones. Try to account for all of the possibilities/emergencies that can happen, and include them in the sprints. Set the deadline and estimate the workload. If you do this right, there will be no straying away.
2. There’s no strategy, there’s no work.
Having a strategy is important, but not that much if you’re just starting out on a completely new product or with a different approach and have nothing to work with. Of course, you could invest both your time and money into developing a detailed strategy, but what good will it do when you have no data to measure the effectiveness of its elements? How can you propose a particular solution in your strategy when you don’t even have tangible feedback from your customers to back it up?
At this point, an in-depth strategy is a waste of precious resources. Start small and then build big on things that work.
By combining sprints with data analytics you can test the effectiveness of your solutions. Whether it’s new content, a lead generation form, or a new feature in your mobile application, sprints will show you if and how those items work, and how you should develop them.
3. Your team is wasting time on things that don’t work.
All of us have items on our daily to-do list that don’t do anything but waste time and resources that could be otherwise spent on improving solutions that generate measurable results. By going Agile, in just a few sprints you can quickly pin down which tools and solutions should stay, and which are cluttering your business.
This approach can save your marketing department a lot of money. Instead of waiting forever to see results (and losing plenty of money in the process), you can shut a bad idea off within the duration of one sprint.
4. Complex approval process and too many people involved stretch the delivery time into infinity.
Alright, you have a great idea. It’ll work with your target audience. You feel it in your gut. And just as you want to ship it forward, there’s a wall. A wall of people through which your idea must pass before becoming a working reality.
The solution? Get only as many people as necessary to get the work done. Cut off people who otherwise waste precious project time. There’s no need for a congregation of people to approve a piece of content, web design, or graphic if driven and skillful people are in charge. Let them do their job. Split project sprints between people you know are best at those assignments.
5. Want creativity? Kill that damn routine.
Marketers are creatures of creativity, and creativity isn’t something that can be tamed and forced to operate from 9 to 5. The creativity of many is often sound asleep during typical working hours, only to shoot a cannonade of ideas just as you step out of the office for the day.
Try as you might, you can never train your creativity to present you with the best ideas exactly when you need them. Give creativity some space. Let your creative employees work the way they see most efficient – be it at night or at home. Of course, it’s not to say you should let your employees completely loose. But that much-needed dose of freedom often delivers the most valuable outcome. Remember, any form of routine is just another nail in the creativity’s coffin.
Startups value time, money, and people. Startups take risks. Do the same with your marketing department. Experiment whenever you can. Adopt Agile methodology and work your way up to a set of processes and solutions that increase revenue and bring measurable results.