Published on July 11, 2012

Joel Dixon is a Senior Solutions Consultant with Hannon Hill. He focuses on the higher education community specializing in content strategy, content management, content analytics and agile marketing  This blog content is also cross-posted on his company’s blog. Follow Joel on Twitter at @joelddixon.

“Marketing has fundamentally changed. I’m not talking about today compared to 10 years ago; everybody can see that. Rather, marketing is in a constant state of flux these days. It’s different today than it was 12 months ago. What works today might not work tomorrow. And it’s likely to keep changing at a rapid pace to keep up with the similarly frenetic pace of change in communications, business and technology.”
Although this may seem like a quote out of today’s online marketing blogs, this was actually from an online interview that posted in 2009—yes THREE years ago!  Before Twitter had hit its stride, Foursquare was just beginning, and Pinterest wasn’t even a napkin idea yet.

Man bending over backwardsMarketing channels are evolving rapidly and audience behaviors seem to change just as frequently. We have seen the impact of mobile on consumer consumption of content, the proliferation of social media tools, and the maturing of social channels in impacting audience sentiments about organizations, topics and decisions.
How organizations (that means you too higher ed) address this reality is at the heart of why agile marketing can no longer be ignored.
Those far wiser than me have great resources for a deep dive into Agile Marketing. However, pulling from several of these resources and a few of our own, here are key aspects of an Agile Marketing approach:
Shorter marketing campaigns – While 12-18 month marketing plans are important, your target audience and communications channels are changing too fast to wait a year before you know the impact of your marketing efforts. The concept of agile marketing focuses on developing shorter campaigns in order to maximize the marketer’s flexibility. Yes, this may mean creating weekly or even daily campaigns (such as a short Twitter-based survey). This way, the marketer can instantly and accurately measure the success of each campaign, which will then affect both the overall strategy and the immediate next steps.
Numerous small experiments over a few large bets – Agile marketing requires less large-scale Steve Jobs genius and greater emphasis on small, experimental bets that are faster and more iterative.  Do you really want to take a year of analysis to come up with the perfect marketing strategy only to discover you had the right ideas but you’re now a year too late?  Or why bet the farm on the chance of a single stroke of genius?
“The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”  – Nobel Prize laureate Linus Pauling
Testing and data over expert opinions and conventional thinking –  Content Analytics is inseparable from an agile marketing strategy.  Marketing decisions will always have a level of “gut-feel” and intuition but the data helps cut through conventional thinking or buzzword trends to reveal what is working for YOUR goals and to objectively grade all these intuitive ideas. Rick Allen of MeetContent communicates the importance of content analytics nicely in this blog. Objective numbers also help settle arguments over what content appears on a homepage and what social media is really working for your efforts.
Constant measuring and adapting – We like to call this an “inspect and adjust” approach to marketing.  In any agile environment, it’s crucial to analyze what worked and what didn’t work so that you can adjust your approach accordingly. If you skip this type of critical analysis and just stay the course, you will not only miss out on one of the main benefits of agile marketing (the ability to continuously optimize your campaigns), but you’ll also run the risk of not being able to recognize when your campaign is ineffective. Agile marketing is all about an iterative method to outstanding results.
Strong focus on fresh, effective content – Agile marketers have their fingers on the pulse of their target audience.  Fresh, quality content is essential to today’s successful marketing campaigns and requires a focus on current trends, news and engagement in social media conversations. If content is king then a Content Strategy should be a no-brainer. Giving your content a solid direction is central to the success of your agile marketing efforts. By working with a central strategy, you can ensure that everyone on your team is working toward a common goal and that your outputs are coherent and relevant. There are a variety of key aspects involved in Content Strategy. While this blog can’t cover them in detail, here’s a great starting point.
Agile marketing is about more than just advertising, PR, communications and—well—marketing. It’s about an end-to-end customer experience that is as useful and satisfying as possible.  The changing requirements of this experience require an agile marketing approach, which is better suited to rapid responsiveness.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. – Charles Darwin
If this concept is still very new to you, I’ll be leading a session at PSEWEB 2012 on Agile Marketing: Content Strategy and Content Analytics. If you’re already pursuing an agile marketing approach, I’d love you to join this conversation and share your thoughts…