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About a decade ago, a new method for creating software efficiently and swiftly began to take over the developer world, using exotic terms such as scrum and continuous integration and burndown charts. But can this method, called agile software development, revolutionize the marketing department as well?

Back in 2001, a group of programmers met to discuss better ways to make software. They came up with The Manifesto for Agile Software Development. It begins:

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

Well, that begins to sound less exotic and more applicable to marketing, doesn’t it?

Indeed it did to Jim Ewel, a former software developer who took up the cause of applying agile methodology to marketing. That’s not a casual use of “the cause” — his blog’s mission statement starts: “The goal of this blog is to evangelize agile marketing and to help marketers become better practitioners of agile marketing.”

For example, one of the key concepts of agile is the idea of short cycles of concentrated development efforts called sprints. By restricting development to brief stints, practitioners are forced to create focused projects. Sprints work similarly in agile marketing, whereby a small team sets out to meet a tightly defined goal — and then, at the end of the sprint, they set out the goal for the next sprint.

With such an emphasis on speed and mobility, agile methodology involves a short daily meeting, conducted standing up, in which all central team members report three things: what they did the day before, what they will do that day, and what obstacles they face. The process works the same, no matter whether you’re building software or creating marketing campaigns.

Finally, in what almost seems like a borrowing from marketing, agile software development involves the creation of user stories to both focus development and measure success. In software development, these take the form of “As a [role], I want to [task], so that I can [goal or benefit],” with acceptance criteria for the user listed out. In marketing, Ewel suggests substituting in the traditional marketing personas for [role], but otherwise it works quite similarly. As he puts it, “The goal or benefit reminds us that all good marketing should answer a single question for the customer: What’s In It For Me (WIIFM).”

To further develop the agile marketing concept, Ewel’s site even provides a manifesto that tweaks the agile software development manifesto’s wording to make it more applicable and understandable for marketers:

Agile Marketing is an approach to marketing that takes its inspiration from Agile Development and that values:

Responding to change over following a plan
Rapid iterations over Big-Bang campaigns
Testing and data over opinions and conventions
Numerous small experiments over a few large bets
Individuals and interactions over target markets
Collaboration over silos and hierarchy

If you want to learn more from the source himself, Ewel will be headlining the VB Agile Marketing Roadshow in San Francisco, where he and other proponents will discuss the future of agile marketing and what practitioners need to know to adopt agile marketing for their teams.

The roadshow takes place at The Merchants Exchange Club on September 24 starting at 5 p.m. To find out firsthand how you can begin incorporating agile marketing — or just to mingle with Ewel and other agile marketers — RSVP today!

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