Quick summary: The growth of Agile marketing is requiring organizations to rethink, retool, and rearrange their relationships with third-party agencies, giving rise to new possibilities for the future of their partnerships.
As Agile marketing gains traction among more organizations, the traditional agency model is giving way to new ways of working with third-party partners. With its emphasis on speed, flexibility, and continuous collaboration, Agile marketing is calling for a paradigm shift in how businesses and their agencies approach deliverables, personnel, compensation, operating models, and measures of success.
In this article, I’ll explore the areas in which the shift to Agile marketing is generating some friction in agency-client relationships, and we’ll find out how successful hybrid teams are leveraging these new parameters to generate new possibilities.
The traditional agency model versus Agile marketing
In the traditional agency model, organizations hire agencies to develop and execute large, infrequent marketing campaigns, which involves intense upfront planning and research followed by a long period of implementation and a post-mortem to evaluate results. The downside of this approach is that it’s slow-paced and rigid: if the market changed or if the campaign failed to perform as expected, course-correcting is tedious and difficult.
Agile marketing, on the other hand, revolves around the idea of breaking down marketing projects into small, iterative sprints. This allows businesses to test and learn quickly and to make data-driven adjustments as needed, enabling rapid response to changes and the potential for better results.
While the Agile approach fosters rapid responses and adaptations, the conventional agency model often fails to keep pace with a rapidly changing business environment.
Challenges and solutions
As a result of these developments, tensions often arise between businesses that adopt an Agile marketing approach and partners that follow the established agency model. We’ve identified five areas that can present challenges to agencies and their Agile clients. But there’s also good news: when addressed successfully, these hurdles can turn into milestones in a roadmap towards more successful, mutually beneficial partnerships.
Scoping the work
In an Agile marketing model, the team, often called a POD, adjusts deliverables on a biweekly basis during sprint planning. Priorities within a POD can pivot rapidly, sometimes on a day-to-day basis. This rapid cadence can make it challenging to forecast the resources that will need to be allocated.
Designing the new normal: Businesses that are transitioning to an Agile marketing model should share the details of their plans with their agencies and bring them into the process of deciding how they can best work together. One option to consider might be a flexible, hybrid model under which part of the budget goes toward traditionally managed, deliverable-defined initiatives while another part is set aside for more fluid Agile-based initiatives.
The agency needs to find people with the right expertise, flexibility, and tenure to support the client’s Agile marketing POD. For example, a more senior agency representative may be too slow to execute, while someone who is too junior may need too much day-to-day guidance. Agencies must also make sure that the right talent is available whenever the POD needs it.
Designing the new normal: The mission of every Agile marketing POD is to bring together people with the right experience and skills to achieve the organization’s goals, which may involve bringing in outside talent to complement internal resources. Agency representatives should be deeply familiar with the culture of the business and of the POD itself and should be fully committed to the POD’s goals. For its part, the client should welcome agency representatives into the POD and nurture a culture built on mutual trust and respect for all.
It’s rare for an agency to have an employee serving one client exclusively, and even with enterprise clients, there’s rarely a fully dedicated team. However, the principles of Agile marketing require that POD members be entirely committed and physically present. The absence of-party partners in a planning session can cause a disconnect that could delay the POD’s progress.
Designing the new normal: Businesses that have successfully incorporated agencies into their Agile marketing PODs have discovered how to optimize agency involvement, incorporating enough people to ensure prompt delivery without expanding the group unnecessarily. Agency representatives should be on-site with the POD if possible and should have adequate resources and authority in the agency to be able to deliver.
Agile marketing can complicate the compensation picture for both agencies and clients. It’s no longer feasible for clients to pay based on deliverables, as these may change with every Agile sprint. Conversely, agencies may need to charge higher fees for labor- or time-based compensation arrangements, as dedicating 100 percent of an employee’s time to a client POD can be costly, and this can lead to a case of “sticker shock” for some clients.
Designing the new normal: For agencies just as for internal POD members, incentives under an Agile marketing framework should be aligned with results, which requires businesses to ensure that agencies see the impact of their contributions. Instead of relying on a deliverables-based compensation system, agencies and clients can come to an agreement on how the business can fairly compensate its partner for the strategic participation of its representatives on the POD.
Data and metrics
Evaluating the effectiveness of a marketing campaign is complex, even in the most favorable conditions. This complexity intensifies within the Agile marketing landscape, as marketing professionals and their third-party associates frequently operate on diverse data sets and platforms. Moreover, results need to be immediately accessible for the POD members. If either side is reluctant to share data, this leads to an incomplete picture of the campaign’s performance.
Designing the new normal: If compensation is to be based on performance instead of deliverables as discussed above, both sides must have access to data that accurately portrays the POD’s performance. For many marketers and agencies alike, sharing data is neither easy nor comfortable. However, access to data is essential if agencies are to make the connection between their work and the success of the POD.
A new breed of marketing agency partnership
As Agile marketing continues to reshape the landscape, agencies are facing the challenge of aligning their operations, personnel, and even compensation models with the Agile ethos. The rapid pace and real-time feedback of Agile marketing require agencies to become more flexible, more collaborative, and more data driven. The journey towards this transformative change is not without its hurdles; yet, when addressed effectively, these challenges can become steppingstones in creating a more impactful, efficient, and mutually beneficial relationship between businesses and their agency partners.
This article has shed light on the friction points in this transformative journey and offered potential solutions, such as creating hybrid budgeting models, nurturing a culture of mutual trust, optimizing operations, rethinking compensation, and promoting data transparency. The key to success in this new era lies in a willingness to adapt, an openness to collaboration, and an unwavering focus on driving performance. As businesses and agencies navigate this shift together, they are not only reshaping their relationships but also paving the way for a new era of marketing excellence.
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Travis Jones is the Senior Vice President of Sales Operations & Administration at Logic20/20.