There's a big misconception in agile marketing and that's, "We're agile--we don't have to plan." Well, that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, agile marketing involves even more planning than most traditional marketing, but there's one key difference -- you always plan at the last responsible moment. Let's say you want to take your dream vacation to Europe in two years. Now, what if I told you that today you needed to know where you were going to eat each day and what meals you were going to order at the restaurant. That seems pretty ridiculous, doesn't it? Yet that's the same mentality we've had in marketing planning for years -- trying to know everything upfront.
Now, pretend that you actually did decide what restaurant you were going to eat at, what time and what meal. Wow, you're really on top of your game! But guess what -- two years goes by and more than half of the restaurants you chose aren't even in business anymore! Could your marketing plan also be irrelevant if it's too detailed too soon? Absolutely. Let's dive into the idea of planning at the "last responsible moment."
Quarterly planning across all teams
If you've been doing annual planning, the first step in agile marketing planning is to move towards quarterly planning. A year ahead is just too far into the future and your efforts may be a big waste of time. Some companies work off of an annual budget, so if you can't change that at this point, see if you can at least move from specific deliverables to "buckets" of types of work for funding approval.
There are three key deliverables that should come out of quarterly planning: Wildly Important Goals (WIGs), a marketing roadmap and an initiatives backlog. These are all items that should span the entire marketing department and encompass all teams. A key thing to remember is that planning needs to be collaborative. At this point, marketing leads, strategists and product owners, along with stakeholders, should be involved.
Wildly Important Goals (WIGs)
Setting Wildly Important Goals (WIGs) across all of marketing is what aligns everyone to a common mission. This should be one, maybe two things that everyone can rally around and it impacts the entire marketing department. These are the key things that everyone believes must happen in the coming quarter to consider it a success. Some examples are:
- "Promote the opening of our new hospital to residents in the surrounding community."
- "Share the latest scientific research around COVID-19 with the public."
- "Promote our smart refrigerators beyond the home user to new markets, such as offices and clinics."
The marketing roadmap should include large initiatives or key themes that need to happen across the marketing organization to meet the needs of the WIGs. It doesn't have to be fancy, but everyone involved needs to come up with these initiatives and themes together and agree that they are key priorities. Your leadership team should also set goals and success metrics for these initiatives.
The initiatives backlog is simply taking the portfolio level (i.e. strategic) roadmap items, getting agreement on their order of priority and putting them in a tool for further decomposition -- the process of breaking down user stories into smaller user stories and tasks -- by the agile teams. Make sure the list is ordered top to bottom and there can't be multiple number one priorities!
Planning at the team level
The agile teams will also create their own WIGs, which should tie into the overall marketing department's WIG, but it may be a little bit more specific to what the team hopes to accomplish in the coming quarter. An example may be, "Launch a grassroots campaign to get lobbyists to talk about vaccination success." While the team may still work on other campaigns or projects during the quarter, this is the big North Star that the team knows is really important. It helps ground the team in what success looks like and allows them to say no to stakeholder requests that may derail them from that goal.