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3 Major Differences between Agile and Traditional Marketing

There’s certainly no shortage of published articles out there talking about agile marketing. Most of them are chalk full of steps you can take to make your team more agile, or explaining the theory behind agile marketing. However as the case with most explanations of things this new and complex, they can get pretty convoluted and confusing especially if you don’t have the time to really commit to fully investing it.

If you’re at all like me, then your day is so busy that sometimes you only really have enough time to take in a highlight reel of what’s going on. Well if that is you then today is your lucky day. I came across a great post by Jim Ewel from that nicely touches upon three significant differences between agile and traditional marketing.

• Customer Centric

Ewel points out that traditional marketing tends to focus primarily on the producer. Case in point, if you take a look at the classical marketing mix (Price, Place, Promotion, Product), all of these are internally facing levers. Each one of these pieces of the marketing mix are ultimately decided upon by the producer. With this traditional philosophy, the customer really takes a back seat. Agile marketers have updated this internally facing philosophy primarily by adopting Robert Lauterborn’s Four C’s marketing model. In this model, Price is replaced by cost, Promotions is replaced by communication, Place is replaced by convince, and Product is replaced by consumer. As you can see, with this philosophy focus is shifted away from the producer to the consumer.

• Test and Iterate

According to Ewel, “Traditional marketing treats markets and customer like a lump of clary: if the marketer applies the tools of marketing (advertising, PR, the Four P’s, etc), the marketer can mold the market and the customers into their idea of what the customer and market ‘should’ be.” The underlying premise of this philosophy is that marketers have a good understanding of what customers want. This typically leads marketers in undertaking a few large-scale, costly campaigns.  Agile marketing however, takes the approach that marketers may not know what works with consumers. As a result, they stress a much more explorative approach to customers and markets. Agile marketing is about shorter, less expensive, and possibly risker campaigns. The goal for agile marketers isn’t to line up one campaign and have it be a grand slam. They are fully aware that some of their campaigns will not be successful, but because they are shorter and cheaper to execute it’s not mission critical to have them all be winners. Instead, the goal is to learn from what worked and what didn’t then to take that learning and apply it to the next campaign.

• Cross-functional teams

The last significant difference between traditional and agile marketing is that agile stresses the development of transparent, collaborative, cross-functional teams. Ewel points out that “Traditional marketing tends to be organized around internal functions: PR, advertising, product management, online (SEO/SEM), business intelligence.” This alignment tends to lead to departmental soiling which hinders communication, and teamwork. Because of the speed in which agile marketing works, teams often span more than one department. “Where possible, different functions sit in the same space, and collaborate together on meeting the customer needs,” writes Ewel. By using cross-departmental teams, agile marketers are better able to troubleshoot, find holes or insights from campaigns that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Agile marketing is hugely powerful. However, something a different as agile requires a bit of time, training and education. I hope that for all those time-pressed individuals that this post helps shed some light on the major differences between the two.

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