Applying Agility to Your Technology or SaaS Organization’s Marketing Plan

The challenge of inbound marketing is that you can become hypnotized by the delivery of it. What I mean by that is once you start executing, the execution itself (instead of the business results) can become the outcome.

This is a mistake made by many marketing people who are doing inbound for the first time, as well as many inbound agencies. The end game with inbound is not the blog articles, website pages, infographics or social media posts. The end game is leads and new customers. Being agile keeps you focused on the right end game and allows you to adjust quickly to deliver properly.

Related: The 7 Rules for Evaluating and Selecting an Inbound Agency Partner

Tactics Become Secondary When Results Become Primary

Inbound marketing should have a singular focus: results. They could be visitors, leads, new customers; whatever you deem the ultimate goal for the marketing at your company.

Regardless of what you pick, this has to be the focus for your team, not delivering blog articles, whitepapers and email campaigns. This shift is monumental when you think about the history of marketing. For hundreds of years, marketers, advertisers, agencies and even our most strategic thinkers looked at marketing as the art that delivers campaigns in the hopes that the message will find its way into the hearts and minds of your potential customers. We know that doesn’t work.

Inbound is the first methodology that puts quantitative results front and center. We’ve connected inbound to our clients’ business strategy and made it goal-oriented.

Want to grow aggressively? You need more leads, and you need a bigger inbound program. Have more modest goals? Then you can afford to invest more modestly. It’s all up to you. That being said, we needed a delivery model that matched this approach. You don’t want to be a slave to any plan, especially one that was written months ago. Agile marketing gives you and your team the flexibility to shift gears, change direction, apply resources and focus your team’s energy on those tactics that are producing results.

Related: 7 Inbound Marketing Trends in 2016

The Data Drives Decisions

Now that we have data on almost every tactic in our bag of tricks, we have real-time information to fuel our change in work style. When you did a three-month flight of ads, how did you know if it was working? You didn’t. Today, we know almost immediately what’s working well, what’s not working at all and what’s working better than expected.

This data has to be mined from your inbound marketing optimization software, funneled back to the team, reviewed regularly and used to create a new action plan. Are these blog topics working? How well? What website pages are ranking? Why? What can you do to get them to rank higher? Are these pages turning visitors into leads? If so, how do you get more visitors to those pages? If not, what do you need to do to get those conversion rates up so you get more leads? Are you closing the leads? Why not? What do you need to do to the sales process to make it easier to close leads?

For the first time in the history of marketing, it’s now a science based on math and data. Your actions have reactions, and those are all quantitatively measurable. You need a team who can analyze the performance of your plan, review what’s working, create a set of responses to improve performance and then act to implement the plan. The team must cycle like this again and again and again. This cycling delivers month-over-month improvements, and that produces a compounding effect that can change your company.

The Team Collaborates On What Produces Results

Agile puts your best people on the most important issues. With their focus on results, you have a cross-functional team with a broad array of expertise. Designers, interactive people, writers, and marketers are all looking at the data, brainstorming on what they think the issues might be and coming up with solutions that they agree can be executed in a week, not in months.

The challenge with today’s marketing is that most of us are not set up to use it as it’s designed to be used. Agencies and in-house teams are usually built functionally. They have social media people, search people, paid search people, website people and strategy people. These teams rarely work together and rarely understand the impact of their tactics on each other.

Inbound works the best when everyone knows everything and applies their specific skills to help the team reach their goal: more leads. Now you have a designer and an interactive person working together to redo a landing page. A writer contributes a more direct headline, and the marketing consultant sets the performance criteria for the new page. They build the page together, upgrade it together, define the performance metrics together and monitor the results together. More brains, better results.  

Planning Is Done In 30-Day Chunks

There’s no point in planning for 12 months, six months or even three months. You can do it if it makes you feel better, but I guarantee you’re wasting your time. What we think we might need three months from now is completely irrelevant. What do we need now for next month? That’s the only question we ask. What can we do today that will impact results tomorrow, next week and through the end of this month?

Since data drives the team, all the 30-day planning we do is based on actual performance. If the blog articles we’re writing are not getting viewed, shared and clicked on, we need to write different ones. If they’re not helping us drive organic visitors to the website, we need to change our approach. We don’t want to work for six months and then change; we want to work for 30 days before discussing the option of changing. 

Inbound does take time, so I caution you about reacting too quickly. But, at least you have the option of changing direction based on data, not opinions or assumptions.

The Teams Cycle With Purpose

You want your marketing people to be focused, but you don’t want them focused on the wrong end game. Delivery is not the finish line. When we take a website live, we don’t celebrate. That’s the beginning of the race, not the end. You want your team to be laser-focused on leads – if that’s the business result you’re looking for.

Agile keeps them looking at outcomes, not deliverables. One blog article might trigger 10,000 new visitors to your site. That’s what you want, not four blog articles a week. A four-page, content offer-rich website might outperform your 40-page company brochure website. You need your team to be able to come up with a solution like this that gets your new site up and running in 30 days instead of six months. Once you make it about the outcomes, their entire view of the world is going to change.

Agile and Scrum give your team the ability to prioritize, focus, track and respond to what’s going on within the program, so they're able to work every day on delivering the business results and outcomes you’re looking for. Doing inbound without Agile is like doing inbound with one hand behind your back. Untie your team and let them loose.