If you’ve spent any amount of time in tech circles, you’ve heard the term agile being thrown around. The term originated as a software development methodology focusing on rapid iterations, simplified communications, flexible roadmaps, and the ability to move quickly and easily through product versions, updates, and releases. Agile is primarily a mindset backed up by a process and toolset. These processes and mindsets are now being adopted outside of the developer circles where they originated. They are beginning to seep into the B2B marketing department, and are bringing their own set of tools that create the foundation of the agile marketing stack.
If it’s not broken, why fix it?
B2B marketing teams have been using the same systems and strategies for years and the simple truth is that they are not broken. The goal of being agile is not to replace your systems and strategies, but rather to optimize them.
This process focuses on cutting out time-waste, decreasing the guess work with data-based decision making, automating repetitive processes, and providing real-time performance metrics. Each one of these areas can be significantly optimized by updating your marketing tools. We call this set of tools your marketing stack. Every company will have a stack that is unique to their systems and needs. For this post, let’s focus on the needs of a B2B marketing team.
Cut the Time-Waste
Time-waste is one of the biggest issues in the B2B marketing organization. It’s caused by hour long meetings, slow email responses, low project visibility, and a decision processes that’s heavily dependant on guesswork.
Here at Mindbox, we try to eliminate all of our internal team meetings. We do this because in-person meetings are usually scheduled for 30–60min, but in reality, only tend to only need 5–10 minutes. We’ve adopted two technologies into our marketing stack to improve our communication.
The first is Slack. This might not come as a surprise since most organizations are already using Slack to improve internal communication. What I want to focus on is how we use Slack. Here are three ways you can be more agile with Slack:
1. The weekly update — I’m a huge fan of sending out a high-level weekly update followed by a corresponding line-item task list from my project manager. It allows my team to know exactly how to prioritize their time from the moment they sit down at their workspace on Monday morning. We keep these weekly updates in a company-wide channel so that our development team, executives, and sub-contractors are all in the know. I would estimate that this one little discipline has increased our weekly productivity by ten percent.
2. Project-specific channels — Slack can rapidly turn into the most chaotic and overwhelming communication platform ever. To mitigate this we create project specific channels that keep team members from being dragged into conversations that are not relevant to them. It also allows us to stay on-task with a specific project, track project assets, and have a unified history of any communications or decisions made.
3. Direct messages vs email — Whenever possible, I use Slack’s direct messaging feature instead of sending an email. Because of Slack’s IM-style communication, it’s easier to send quick messages that might go unanswered in an inbox. It’s also a great tool if you use the 5 Minute Management style, giving a communication channel that is less professional than an email, yet more professional than a text message.
The second application we use for communication is Appear.in — Appear.in is a web-based video communication app. You can spin up a meeting room in just a few seconds, and drop the link directly into your Slack channel. Appear.in has managed to create a product that is much more reliable than Google Hangouts, doesn’t require a login, and is really light-weight. Appear.in is key to our success as a distributed team, and we love it.
Kill the Guess Work
B2B marketing teams face a massive amount of guesswork. Guesswork is a huge waste of time because when you are done guessing, you still don’t have a clear path to success. Guesswork often masks itself as intuition and feelings. It directly contradicts the agile methodology and it generally ends with the HIPPO, the highest-paid person’s opinion.
Agile marketing teams kill the HIPPO card with data. Instead of spending time debating ideas, they spend time looking at data and backing up their hypothesis with facts. When they finish, they make a clear decision that gives them the highest chance of success.
Our stack relies heavily on analytics that have been gathered through our marketing automation software and secondary applications like Google Analytics. We track everything, from link-clicks to site visitors and post performance. All of that data is archived and pulled out when we explore new strategies or patch gaps in our existing ones. It’s very important not to skimp on the setup of your data collection. You might not use it all, but if you don’t have it, you can’t use it at all.
A few foundational data sources in our marketing stack include:
Automate it All
The next step is to remove any repetitive steps in your marketing process. Doing the same thing over and over and over again is not agile. This is why marketing automation software has seen such rapid adoption.
Marketing automation software like HubSpot, Marketo, Infusionsoft, Pardot, Drip, and Eloqua play foundational roles in the agile marketing stack, empowering B2B marketing teams to send automated email campaigns based on user interactions. Users can then be scored and nurtured until they are ready to be contacted by a sales rep.
We love Marketo, HubSpot, and Infusionsoft. But, choosing the correct software shouldn’t be taken lightly. Consider the unique needs of your organization. We can help you decide what marketing automation platform is right for you with a free 1-hour consultation.
Know it Happened When it Happens
The final piece of the agile marketing stack is access to real-time marketing analytics. B2B marketing relies upon an organization’s ability to make split-second pivots. A team’s level of access to real-time data makes these pivots possible. We put a big emphasis on building analytics dashboards for our team and our clients’ teams.
The key to an agile analytics dashboard is how the data is structured. We value graphs and charts because we can identify problems faster when the data is structured in a more visible format. To pull this off, we’ve added DataDeck to our marketing stack.
DataDeck allows us to import all of our favorite analytics and data sources, including the infamously difficult spreadsheet, as long as it’s hosted in the cloud like Google Sheets. We’ve also had the chance to work with other platforms like PeriscopeData, which is a great resource for B2B organizations that want to visualize their customer segments inside of their databases, as well as Looker, a powerful tool for digging through massive relational databases.
No matter what industry your organization operates in, choosing the right tools in your marketing stack is key to building an agile organization. Once you have a solid set of tools in your stack, it’s time to look at your processes and the mindsets that you are ingraining into your marketing team. Remember: agile is primarily a mindset. The tools simply give us the ability to create a replicable process that achieves those mindsets at scale.
What are your favorite B2B marketing tools?