How Agile Can Change How Marketers Think, Work, and Succeed


In the software world, agile has been around for many years.

It's how software is developed more efficiently and iteratively.

But agile is also being embraced by organizations looking to make their marketing more successful.

Michael Seaton says agile fundamentally changes how marketer think and work. 

It's about making marketing more structured, focused and effective.

It's about giving marketing teams the psychological safety to test and learn without getting sent to the penalty box if they make mistakes.

Hi, it's Mark Evans and you'relistening to marketing sparks. Here's the thing about marketing. It's dynamic, fluidand ever changing. There's no time to rest on your laurels. You constantlyneed to be learning, training and embracing new approaches and tools. And,as important, markers need to be flexible and agile. They need to rollwith the punches quickly and seamlessly, sees new opportunities and turn it on dimewhen need the challenges. Many organizations use outdated marketing management strategies which don't workin an always on digital world. So how should marketers operate so they're smarterand more successful? Well, Michael Saton, president of level see digital, believesthe solution is agile marketing. The most innovative and forward thinking companies embraceagility to grow and thrive. On today's podcast, we're going to take adeep dive into agile marketing and why it's the knee new way that marketing happens. Welcome to marketing spark, Michael. Well, thanks mark, thanks forhaving me in having the conversation on agrible. So let's level set. Let's startby talking about how many companies currently manage or operate their marketing. Fundamentally, why is the current approach antiquated or the wrong approach given today's marketing landscape? Yeah, so that's break is the natural leading to how we talked tothis subject. So I like to say the State of marketing and I hatethe word, but all use it. It's called Vuca. I don't knowif you're aware of the VUCCA environment we're in, but it's the volatile,uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment that we find ourselves in, both at abusiness and marketing level. If we take a classic swat sort of look atthings and we look at the external factors that are threats that are hitting us, the explosion of choices that we have as marketers today, the fragmented channelsand touch points, the data and the Marquette that is on top of everythingthat's making it a bit more complex than it's ever been, a rapid pieceof change, the Hyper Competition, the distraction of consumers in the fight forattension. So you know, if we situate that in the marketing world,that is no longer the Big Bang explosion of a campaign. It's always on. We have niche skills and silos that have been created. We're not reallygood at collaborating, although we should be. We have skills and capabilities that arebeing shared and cross pollinated and, by the way, we're trying todeliver customer experience through all of this, and it's the way we manage itthat that's really broken. So, you know, the tech over marketing discipline. We need to blend those together. We need to have this knowledge transferfrom everybody who's within the world of marketing these days and boost morale and thenfocus as well on the outcomes from a marketing versus just the outputs, becausethat's what I think we are so that's what agility is providing benefits for.Well, let me challenge you and one of the things you just said.You said that marketing is broken, or the way that we manage or strategicallyapproach marketing is broken. Can you elaborate on what you mean by that,because that's a pretty bold statement. Yeah, so we have antiquated ways of goingthe managing things. One of the things that agility presents us with is, you know, a back it up to the plan over planning. We'vebeen really good in the past that creating these big bullet plans that are brokenby the time we actually go to market with it. Things Change, weneed to adapt and we haven't built in the flexibility that we need. IsToday's marketers, you know. And layer the pandemic on top of everything.And if we were slow to change, that brought us really quickly to thepoint of needing to change, and so it brought into play all these elementsand still to this day we always on nature of work versus the point intime or temporal projects. We need to balance those things out. So that'swhere it really is needing the fix. The second thing is that we arefocused again, as I mentioned, on...

...the outputs of our marketing, andso where are we actually sitting down and going through getting those customer insights,dealing with their needs and creating value for them in the chain of what wedo? I think one other last point is marketing has been really good atselling and I think that switches to how we can service our base or customers, are audience. So that's another place where I think we need to shiftfrom from selling at all costs to serving our audience for longer term. OfYou know, it's interesting is that agile in my world, in this theBDB SASS world is nothing new and we've been talking about agile development for manyyears because it allows companies to iterate, experiment, test and learn on thefly what resonates with customers and what doesn't. And it is interesting that, despitethe presence of agile and the embrace of Agile, is that many organizationshaven't applied it to marketing. Can you explain why that is the case?What was born in the software world and in the product management world and wesaw that, you know, we like twenty thirty years ago, what wewere getting out of that world is not great. And so along came agileand, I guess, the development sort of the delivery frameworks of scrum orCanden, and they started to fix things and they started fix things by orientingthe teams to sort of be more economous and deliver it that value and doit through, as you mentioned, the increment so that we can learn alongthe way back to, you know, where white it took so long,is because these things aren't easy and they take some time. It's not amagic quick fix, but we start to see that the products we're getting alot better in the software world, that customers were we're being impressed by howwe were meeting their needs when we were, you know, delivering on what wehad promised. So there's a lot of you know to back it up. where I think this is really situates itself in terms of its mindset andvalues and its principles. Truly dry agility and software got it first. Theystarted to improve things and we started to look over the shoulder at them andsay, how did they go about that, and so it started to then breakout to other areas of organizations like hr like into marketing. In fact, it was bout ten years ago that marketing sort of shift their head andthat we've got to improve, because digital transformation kind of hit us first andwe were going through it. But we realize that we needed to sort offix and mend our ways. But it's taken a while for us to getfrom we need to fix this to now where we see it really evolving andstarting to be absorbed in marketing. So we've danced a little around the ideaof agile marketing. Maybe you can take a step back and I don't wantyou to dumb it down, but I'd like you to explain or define whatis agile marketing and what's the difference between Agile Marketing and the way that wecurrently, many companies currently do marketing? So I'm going to start with withvery I'm going to make it simple, because we can get carried off intothe nomenclature and then we want to hear that and really down that rabbit hole. It really is about it organizational effectiveness and I like to call it modernmarketing management. In the simplest way to think about it is that it's abilityto change the way that we think and that we work and that we shareand we get to creating that highest customer value. The power is mentioned inthe in the mindset and the values and the principles and at the core,if we think about the swad analysis again, it will really puts us in theposition of building new internal strengths that we can then take to seas newopportunities. Put in this way, it I believe it changes. It's transformativebecause it changes our beliefs again about how we move from selling two more servicingour customers. It changes our behaviors in terms of looking at the highest valuethat we can create and put into market...

...and learn from immediately, and theactions that we take also are transformative in terms of being more empirical, moreiterative and, again, more transparent in what we're doing and and how we'redriving value, and then how we're looking at ourselves to continuously improve big marketor sometimes to a lot of dark work. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. We need to kind of bring that out and and show people whatwe do, how we go about it and how we're learning along the way. I think there's this notion that marketing is just the you know, thearts and crafts kind of department, coloring between the lines and put pas thewords on things. We talked about stuff and metrics that nobody else cares aboutaside from marketing. So I think this is our chance to really start tomarry up where where we've come from and where we find ourselves with digital andreally put the stamp of like Business Strategy and business outcomes on it before wetake a deeper dive into agile marketing and how companies can embrace it. Ido want to ask you about the rise of data and technology and how they'rebeing used or how they're being embraced and used by marketers, because my thesisis that a lot of marketers have gotten lazy due to technology tools that allowthem to scale their work, to extend campaigns, to analyze just about anythingdigitally. I believe we've as marketers, we've gotten away from being creative anditerative and and trying new things and and I think most of all, andI and and this is increasingly something I I see on Linkedin a lot,is importance of knowing your customers and serving them in the right ways with theright kind of marketing. What are your thoughts on data and technology and andhow they're being used by marketers and what the relationship is to agile marketing?That's a great question, a great set up because it brings into play alot of things that aile marking set up to actually do, and you betterthan we do today. So you know, let me start off with a morehair cover kind of a statement that we know, we've talked for yearsand we've known each other for a long time in this world about customer centricityand personalization and testing and learning and continuous improvement. And you know, I'veseen a lot of what goes on in marketing or just not doing it.Your question specifically about marketing technology and data. I mean my background why I lovethe the agile marketing pieces because it really does go back to my beginningsand marketing is a direct marketer at database marker or someone who was involved incrm and then took off with the digital piece later on. But yeah,we are. I find, and I say this through my experiencing, throughmy teaching and instructing and training, that what I see is a lot morepeople familiar with the technology, they understand the platforms in terms of our skillsets, but they don't have the marketing discipline behind them to know what they'reactually looking to do with it. And then on the other side we havea lot of, you know, marketing that still is sort of stuck inwhold ways of thinking without understanding how the technology and data will work. Sowe're got to marry those two together and agiles are really sweet way to doit. Your question, though, is yeah, I think we got lostin the worrying too much about automating everything, about it all happening here programmatically orthrough the MARTEX solutions, and I think the complexity of that and makingof work, or the magic of making work I should say, is reallyunderstanding marketing in the first place. You don't throw tools at you know,at a tools become the solution to a problem that doesn't exist. I believethat the problems that exist for marketers are more upstream understanding, sort of thethe quintessential. You know your brand, you're positioning, the story, youtell, your calls to action, a great website, a great user experience, and I think what agility allows us to do start to break that downby using concepts like personas and customer journeys, users stories and understanding the increments ofvalue that we can actually put in front of our customers to learn from. So I really see it as being a really sweet, nice tool kitwhere we can start to play into the...

...right areas and and gain those insightsthat we've been asking for. We just haven't had the right dominos falling inthe right order for us to achieve them. As you know from our relationship andsome of the things that I write about, I'm I'm all about firstprinciples. I'm all about the fundamentals and really being strong around the key pillars, up positioning and messaging and knowing your customers and all the good things thatunderpin successful marketing. One of the things that I'm curious about is how andwhen should companies approach agile marketing? What needs to happen so they can successfullyembrace it strategically, tactically and, as important, culturally, because I suspectthat the shift to addile may rub some marketers arong way, given it's anew approach to doing things. Let me defind what it's not first, becauseI think there are misconceptions out there, because we hear about agility and wethink that it's beening on a GE and being flexible. True power of agilitycomes from it being more of a noun than a verb, meaning you've gotto be actually understanding the mindset, the values, the principles, and itdoes take us to the side a little bit as markers, because we marketersjust want to playbook. We just want that algorithm. Tell us what worksand we'll do it. This is not, by definition, super easy, oreverybody would be doing it right. What it's not? It's not reactiveor unsustainable marketing. Everybody thinks the Oreo Dunk in the dark. You knowresponse within two minutes was agile marketing. That's an element of what Addi marketingcan help you with, but that in and of itself isn't you know,we're we have a million priorities coming down the pipe at us. How dowe know what work we should be doing and, by default, how dowe also know what work we shouldn't be doing? I think that's that's ahuge concept to understand. What's the Max how do we maximize the value inthe work we do, and how do we maximize what we're not doing aswell? Again, the outputs over in out the outcomes over outputs, sortof decision. Culturally, this is not a simple thing, meaning that partof what this does is it creates sort of self organizing, autonomous teams thatare allowed to decide what value what they want to prioritize in terms of deliveringto our customers. It doesn't it kind of removes this layer of Middle Managementand the command and control. You should be working on this. Go dothat, and it brings get into the team, team deciding with the withthe what they need to do to deliver against objectives right now in incremental oriterative fashion. That then we'll build upon our learning, validate what we're doingor invalidate it, and then we can move forward with that knowledge in ourback pocket. We've known about this for a long time, for direct marketingand database marketing, test and learn, maybe testing and marketing, but wehave been that great ef executing it all the time. I think that's whatagility allows us to do. In simple terms, is agility? Does ithave a lot to do with focus and establishing and focusing on the key priorities, because, as marketers, you know, off the top you talked about thefact that there are so many options, so many channels, so many thingsthat marketers could do to achieve their objectives and to connect with prospects andcustomers, and it sounds like agile marketing is a way to add discipline tothe process, to make marketers focus on what is important to the customer,what is important to achieving our goals, as opposed to running often in amillion different directions. Is that a simplistic way of talking about the value ofAgile Marketing? Yeah, absolutely so. I think you're getting a large partof that equation. It really is a bit the value that we can deliverand also have a team looks at the work that we need to work onright what we need to do, and visual allizes our work and says whatis the most important thing we can do right now to satisfy the customer andthe audience? How can we make this...

...easy? And it's not about doingeverything at wants to, but selecting those key things and the team prioritizes whatthey find the most value. And it doesn't mean that we don't align tostrategic objectives or aligned to what our stakeholders want or you know, but itreally does put the focus on delivering against the customer needs. We do that, as I explain, through understanding the better, meaning insights on and Ithink that's the discipline. It's really going through this world where we're not guessingor, you know, thinking that this is going to be the right thing. We're actually getting into the mind of the customer and understanding where they arein the journey to pain points or solutions. I mean it goes back to LakeChristianson and that very simple, like understand the jobs and the tasks thatyour customers have and and make it as simple as possible and make it easyfor them. Don't complicate it, don't make it something that they shape theirheads. It should be as simple as anything. Example, in in mybanking days. You know, mortgage was the ugly product detail of what people, you know, had to reconcile with about homeownership. We, when weattack that, we thought about the insight was it's about homeownership, we shouldtalk about all the wonderful things that come along with the Oh and by theway, we do have a mortgage that we can get to you and it'sat a great rate. And it's thinking in that capacity that really puts itinto the marker's head that it's not all about the product, it's about thecustomer and how they can live with our product. But then answer the questionabout the values and the priorities that empowered the team to deliver. Yeah,I does, and I think one of the things that maybe I didn't haveclarity on is that is defining agility versus flexibility. Agility is about focusing onwhat matters. Flexibility is about being able to turn on a dime and theirdifferent concepts when it comes to tagile marketing. Is that correct? Yeah, absolutely. And so you know, I think one and I have said thisconversation earlier, I believe it's really more about effectiveness. We get to athing efficiency later on, but you know, if you're doing the wrong things andyou're just making the wrong things efficient. That's not going to work out well. So I put sort of the effectiveness of what we do and youmentioned earlier and I didn't hit on this this point. It allows us tobe hyper focused, it reduces the the distractions and hopefully the mindset for agilitywhen it's absorbed by executive in our leaders. They understand their role in this worldis. They're the constant source of interruptions and distractions and new priorities andit's sort of invets in them. You know, we have a methodology,the process that we're actually going to deliver this value. The more that weget interrupted, the more that we get asked for other things because we havethis notion of agility, is all of that flexibility and turning on the DNE. We want to quash that out of the gates. One of the otherthings that agility allows us a focus story helps with the focus on, isallowing the team it's not just a toronomy but psychological safety that they can testand learn and they won't be, you know, put in the penalty boxfor doing something outside the realm of what the executive thinks is the their opinionsor conventions for where they think marketing should be or what marketing should be doing. Okay, so let's assume that you're the CEO or the Head of marketingor an entrepreneur and you like the idea of agile and you're looking at makingyour marketing more effective and more focused and you are ready to explore or readyto embrace agile marketing. What do they need to do to make sure thatthey become agile marketing catalysts or change agents? You know, what are the keysto taking a concept and turn it into a corporate reality so that anorganization can be structured differently, can focus on what's important and can become moreefficient and more successful from a marketing perspective? Well, you know, my companyis invetted in workshopping and Training and coaching. So I'd say that's aquintessential piece of at the Undia going with.

But it's more I want to sayabout sparking the imagination. What is the art of the possible and theways of unity? We've been under the guise of this, you know,military tailorist, tailorism sort of approach to all of our corporate marketing are sorry, all are sort of corporate structure and hierarchies and, and I mentioned before, the command and control. This is a radical change. The first thingis understanding what it is and, like I mentioned before, what it's not, because it is driven by values and principles, again in the way thatwe think about our work, the way that we know behave with our workand the way that we take action with ourselves and work. So it's understandingthat understand the values in the principles that allow us to be more collaborative,adapted to change, deliver that value and also be able to be transparent inour work. I think that's one of the huge things that executive is kindof a little wary of, like how far does this go and what doesit mean in terms of how we operate? Now, once the mindset and issort of established and it creates that air cover for how we can operatedifferently, you know, we start to shift how we think about a waterfalltype of a project management approach to, you know, we need to dojust enough planning to get us to the next stage, because we are startingto acknowledge that, you know, the world's best plans change you five secondsafter the project starts. So it is that shift. It's also this,you know, absorbing the work that we actually need to do in the terminingwhat, again, that value piece is, I think, the you know,the the other piece is looking at how empirical we get. One ofthe things and one of the one of the mistakes that we make in bringingin agile is thinking that it's all about a framework like scrum or CONV on. Those become the the methodologies for which we can deliver, but, youknow, following those dogmatically, getting somebody who's really good at scrum bringing themin with no marketing background is not necessarily the recipe for success. So there'sa lot of elements that need to sort of balance out. I think thekey, though, is understanding what it is versus what it's not, andthen getting involved in understanding values and principles and how that fundamentally changes how welook at what we do and then approach the change to how we do it. Let's Segue, given that, into what you and level C do.How do you work with organizations like how do you help them embrace and besuccess of with Agile Marketing? Is a workshops? Is it one on coaching. Is it seminars? What are the different ways that you can then workwith a company to help them with this process? The answer is yes toall the above. So level, see, digital is an accredited has accredited courseswith to teach adderal marketing where those participants can get the natural marketing certificate. So that's sort of the back end of where you go with the workshops. What I found along the way with delivering the workshops, and we knoweach other for a long time, a new you know, I was teachingdigital marking strategy and management for quite a while. What I always found markwas that, you know, you deliver the training and if there's no followup after it really, you know, kind of hits with a thought thatpeople are they love what they learned but they have no application for it.So where I take things, as you know, I will discuss what companiesas as right. That's not right for everybody. That's the first step isreally talking with leadership and understanding the issues and problems and, you know,obstacles to overcome in their marketing and and then look at, because it's nota one size fits all, how can agility help them? So we havethose natural conversations. I will come in and do a training and workshop overseveral days to train the core execution team. Then teach leadership what it means aspart of this sort of package that...

I put together. Teach leadership abouthow to think about agility, how they need to behave and understand how theycan either stop it in its tracks from being successful or help to reinforce itsbenefits and behave in different ways. And then I follow up with Ninety Daysof coaching. And the coaching comes into play where the team decides what they'regoing to do and we pilot something, but it may take two weeks toset it up. You may take two days to set it up. Thisis then becomes their work to do, with coaching along the way that Iwill provide an ongoing way, and we find is that we start slow andwe built we don't do everything at once. We sort of build in things thatwe test and learn. We are being agile in our agile implementation ofagile mark. So that's what I that's what I bring. It's really funnyhow fast the stuff does break down. Right we go back to old waysof working. When I have to, I'm there to sort of remind peoplethat this is called a jelly because we're supposed to being agile with it,and it really changes the way that people think about about their work and abouthow they work together. One final question in terms of how companies are embracingagile market at a time when many people are still working from home. hasthis whole work from home phenomena been a positive or negative influence on the adoptionof Agile Marketing? It's had its challenges, but we you know, I liketo say agiles not about the tools or the software, but they certainlyhelp a lot in the online environment when we're working from home. You know, these teams work really well when you're colocated, when they're all sort offace to face, and hopefully we'll get back to that environment one day soon. But there are ways you you can do it online. In fact,I had to take my whole course and build it for the online environment.There's a lot of learnings, but how you can make it effective online andyou know some of the fundamental changes that it Joili brings to how a teamoperates really fits, really facilitates using the online stays. But also one ofthe detractions in it it's true piece of agility is when we lose that humantouch in that, you know, working side by side with people and lookingover their shoulder. That's one of the pieces that I hope to get backand I don't know that any software can help with that. That's where themindset and and behaving with the values of how work really steps into play.Again, a team can jump on zoom for ten minutes, as opposed toan hour, really to solve a problem and then do a thing to you. Well, this has been great insight into a Jile Marketing, a subjectthat I didn't know much about before we touch space. So thank you forthat. Where can people learn more about you and level? See Digital.People can learn more about level. See Digital, level, cee digitalcom.I have a newsletter that I also send out called the digital digital digest thatcomes out weekly, and actually you were the inspiration for that newsletter and thenyou change your whole way of doing newsletters and stuff that I'm just going tostick with my knitting on it, while I was trying to be agile withmy way with my newsletter. Well, that's that's great and hopefully you're measuringand validating your learnings and it's continuously improving for you. So you can findme at my my website. I also teach you the University of corn.No, I'm also taking on a roll with Seneca, where I'm teaching thereas well. So that a lot of sort of irons and empire, butcourt my website. Well, if you enjoyed this conversation, leaving review,subscribe by Itunes, spotify or your favorite podcast APP, and share via socialmedia to learn more about how I help me to be sads companies. That'sa fractional CMOS Fortgi advisor and coach. Send an email to mark at marketingspark dot com or connect with me on Linkedin. I'll talk to you nexttime.

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