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What is Scrum for Marketing?

Scrum is part of an agile framework, initially developed for complex software development projects. However, it’s also an innovative approach that modern marketing teams can use to keep ahead of the competition.

The philosophy and core principles of Agile encourage fluidity, adaptability and efficiency. And software development teams use Scrum to deliver better products and more value for the business, faster.  

But Scrum isn’t just for software developers and product managers. Marketers, and even entire organisations, can use Scrum to organise more efficiently; helping them become self-sufficient and able to deliver results faster.

In the past decade, digital marketing has given marketers access to invaluable data. Data that marketers never had before. Data that can help companies adjust their marketing strategies on the fly.

To take advantage of marketing data marketing teams must embrace agility. Scrum gives marketing teams a flexible framework within which they can work. A structure well suited to modern digital and inbound marketing approaches, and here’s why:

Scrum encourages self-organizing teams

Marketing teams typically have an entrepreneurial spirit and prefer to operate at some degree of autonomy. Scrum offers marketing teams a framework for self-organising around tasks aimed at achieving the company’s marketing goals, while still holding them accountable for their progress and results. Scrum teams work in sprints, short bursts of work geared toward an outcome. At the end of each sprint (1-3 weeks) teams present their progress to the business, align their efforts and prioritise tasks for the period ahead. Giving them the flexibility they need to interpret data and test new marketing strategies in shorter timeframes.

SCRUM uses visual management

One of the most significant advantages of adopting Scrum for marketing teams is that it promotes visual management; tasks are displayed as stories on a board and moved along as work progresses. Making it easier for communicative, energetic marketing people to visualise their tasks and collaborate. Studies have shown that it takes only 150ms for us to process an image, and then another 100ms for us to attach any meaning to it.

The results are also more transparent and easy to follow on the Scrum board.

When you can visualize the steps in your workflow, you can immediately start to find areas for improvement or ways to eliminate wasteful steps.

Mark Verone, the Director of Marketing & Product Operations at Gogo

The Scrum process is logical and easy-to-follow

Marketing initiatives are broken down into stories and organised in a project Backlog. A list of marketing tasks requested by the client/business owner or developed by the marketing team to achieve the goals they’ve set. Every social media campaign, eBook, white paper, blog, etc. comes from the backlog.

In Scrum, stories are short descriptions of the work that needs to be done. To keep stories manageable, teams assign Story Points to every story, reflecting the complexity of every marketing task and enabling to get better at estimating the time or effort required to finish a task. For instance, it may take a writer 5 effort points to produce a blog post, which is a mornings work. Knowing this, teams are able to plan accurately forecast the amount of work they can deliver each sprint.

Once your backlog is prioritized, you can start planning your sprints. Typically a Sprint lasts anything from 1- 4 weeks; depending on what works for the team and the business.

Sprints begins with a sprint planning session to produce a series of stories that are brought ‘On Deck’ for that sprint. These are stories from the backlog that the account owner has identified as being the most important items of work to increment the marketing strategy. Throughout the sprint, team members will pick up stories from the On Deck column, and complete the piece of work.

 Scrum for Marketing - The Scrum Board

Scrum for Marketing – The Scrum Board

Daily Scrum meetings, called stand-ups are used to keep track of what’s been done. These are short 15 minute meetings that allow each member to go through their tasks by answering three questions:

  • What did I do yesterday?
  • What will I do today?
  • Are there any obstacles that stand in my way? / Do I need help with anything?

At the end of every sprint, the Scrum team and stakeholders review the  sprint to see what went well and how things unfolded.

Typically, our review process consists of the following:

  • An overview of the marketing campaign increment. For example, our goal this sprint has been to create the foundation of an Agile Marketing campaign that will run for the coming 6 months; this blog post, an eBook and a LinkedIn advertising campaign are our sprint goals to be reviewed at the end of the sprint.
  • A discussion of what team members observed during the sprint, or perhaps campaign and marketing ideas that came to mind.
  • A discussion about the state of the backlog, possible completion dates and what might be done by those dates.
  • An update of the project backlog.

Sprint Retrospective – At the end of the sprint we also take time to reflect on the sprint. Typically, this is a 30 minute review of how the sprint went, including communication, teamwork and estimation. During the session marketers should aim to find one area of potential improvement that they can focus on during the next sprint, thereby constantly working toward improving the process.

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