Published on 2013/12/05

How Agile Marketing Can Transform Your Marketing Strategy

How Agile Marketing Can Transform Your Marketing Strategy
Agile marketing practices can help institutions increase their reach and outcomes, but only if done properly.
Gone are the days of monolithic ad campaigns built by weathered advertising executives and backed by bloated budgets. Today, we are crafting marketing strategy in the age of programmatic ad buying, rapid-response social media and target markets that we can finely and dynamically segment across any device (smartphone, tablet, TV and desktop, for example).

The catalyst for that change is technology. It’s empowering marketers — including those in higher education — with a multitude of channels, methods and behavioral data to transform their tactics and strategies.

So, in the throes of all this change, what does it take to engage, inform, and convert students?

The concepts of Agile Marketing and Data-Driven Marketing are becoming increasingly popular in response to the rapidly changing marketing landscape. Marketing teams are scrumming, sprinting and pivoting with a renewed energy to improve speed, transparency and adaptability of their strategies. The ability to make smart decisions quickly and repeatedly has shown that it is not just limited to the software industry, but is applicable to all industries; including higher education and learning organizations.

With the rigor of modern marketing and the need to react with agility and strategy, who wouldn’t want to empower their teams to get their ideas out into the market faster? After all, who can forget Oreo’s fast thinking on Twitter during the blackout at the 2013 Superbowl.

It wasn’t in Oreo’s marketing plan, but they saw an opportunity to reach a mass audience with an incredibly timely message. And they gained a lot of positive attention for it; the tweet was retweeted 15,000 times and they gained 8,000 Twitter followers, 20,000 Facebook followed and a 95 percent increase in followers on Instagram. Some suggest Oreo is still riding the wave (nearly a year later) from that one simple tweet.

While more and more organizations around the world are adopting the agile marketing methodology and benefiting from higher efficiency, faster response and greater creativity, there are two key areas to be aware of when applying this methodology to your organization.

1. Outcomes over Speed

Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing put it best:

“We have to be careful that we don’t let all this great activity that we’re getting done because of Agile Marketing lull us into thinking that we’re accomplishing our goals just because we’re moving so much from the Sprint backlog column into the done column.” [1]

2.  Don’t Just Do Agile, Be Agile

A major challenge of agile marketing, especially for educational institutions, is the resistance to change. In 52 percent of organizations surveyed by VersionOne, agile marketing failed due to the inability to change the institutional culture, followed by 39 percent failing due to general resistance to change.

Agile and Agile Marketing isn’t a golden solution, but it is giving learning organizations the opportunity to analyze data and apply it quickly to their student recruitment, retention, and learning outcome efforts.

Rob Kingyens will be presenting a session on How Agile Can Transform Your Marketing Strategy — with more detail on why agile marketing, examples of agile marketing in an educational institution, and best practices for getting started — at the Effective Marketing for Online Education conference (December 9-11, 2013 in San Diego, California).

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[1] Jim Ewel, “How Not to Do Agile Marketing,” Agile Marketing, March 2, 2013. Accessed at

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Readers Comments

Heather Willis 2013/12/05 at 11:23 am

Higher ed marketing has never struck me as an area where agile marketing practices can really play a role.

I mean, is there an equivalent situation where a university could do what Oreo did? I can’t think of it.

My impression is that the major takeway here is for universities to give their marketers some freedom in the way they market the university, and not sentence great ideas to Death by Committee.

Greg Allen 2013/12/05 at 2:07 pm

I honestly don’t understand the value of marketing in the higher education context, at least not in the same way it works in every other industry.

What are we trying to accomplish? Students know the value of a degree and most major institutions have more applicants than spots.

What really scares me about marketing in the modern higher ed era is the lack of analytics. It used to be all about conversions: how many sales did you influence? Now it’s Twitter followers this and Facebook that. What’s the point?

Ian Richardson 2013/12/05 at 5:28 pm

The point isn’t that NYU is going to upstage Oreo. The old adage, “Any publicity is good publicity,” is no longer accurate. However, any connections are good connections should be a commonly-recognized replacement.

If universities can forge connections with individuals, it takes all the challenge out of the B2C marketing which has been confounding our colleagues for years.

Hines 2014/01/31 at 4:36 am

After reading this post I realised that Agile marketing is such an entirely different marketing strategy which offers a great marketing technique.Thank you for this informative post.

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