How to Leverage Agile Marketing for Your Event Campaigns

Author: Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes       

Panelists Chris Strong, NBAA; mdg’s Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, Marc Blumer, and Kristen Ferrer; and Bob McLean, PPAI.

Real-time data analysis has become the driving force behind digital event marketing. On May 28, mdg hosted a panel discussion exploring this topic at the JW Marriott in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the annual ECEF (Exhibition and Convention Executives Forum), held the following day, also at the Marriott. I facilitated the conversation between two members of mdg’s team — customer journey architect, Marc Blumer, and director of digital, Kristen Ferrer — along with Bob McLean, executive vice president, PPAI (Promotional Products Association International), and Chris Strong, senior vice president of conventions and membership, NBAA (National Business Aviation Association), both of whom are mdg clients.

Our panel discussion explored the concept of agile marketing, and I’ve synthesized the takeaways here. More than a methodology, agile marketing is an entirely new way of thinking about your organization, especially as it pertains to marketing. Since the turn of this century and as the digital age gained traction, the process of creating products has involved teams working in silos — copywriters, web developers, UX directors, and marketers have traditionally developed their piece of the product to bring to the table. Unsurprisingly, those pieces would often be misaligned. What agile marketing aims to do instead is to take a collaborative team approach to a digital campaign. The team works together in a “scrum” to plan the steps within a campaign in one to two-week sprints. The team is then able to launch subsequent iterations of the campaign using data analytics from each previous iteration, allowing them to pivot their marketing plan in real time and achieve better results sooner.

This different way of thinking, however, means welcoming the unknown.

Each ad is not locked in, each email design is not finite — you are going to start, and then you are going to learn. “It’s all based on performance, and it’s a continually iterative process,” Blumer said. “You have to be comfortable with discomfort.”

Organizational Structure

In order for agile marketing and digital strategy to be effective in your business, it has be embraced from the top down. It also requires that you put your processes under the microscope. Look at what is working well and what isn’t at each step in your campaign. “There’s a tendency to never sunset anything,” said Ferrer, who spoke about her experience assessing event organizers. “It’s about having those hard conversations … helping them let go and make room for the new things.”

Agile marketing also requires a specific skillset. You need someone on your team to have a background in B2B performance marketing. Whether by hiring from within or working with external marketing agencies, you need someone to manage your campaign from a reverse perspective. They should be able to look at your desired registration number and work backward. What amount of web traffic, click-through rates, and touches will you need to get you to your registration goal? Without setting these benchmarks, you cannot make informed pivoting decisions, and agile marketing falls flat.

Additionally, your team should include someone who excels at digital project management — a “scrum master.” Why? It’s easy to suggest changing a call-to-action in an email, but you need someone on the team who understands how that will in turn affect your event landing page, your paid ads, and your overall messaging. The scrum master leads a cross-functional team — together they think through how one element will affect another, and prioritize the next steps to achieving stated goals.

Data Makes the Difference

As communication evolves, so does the global expectation of customized content. Both consciously and unconsciously, users have been increasingly spoiled by personalized approaches by companies like Amazon (i.e., if you like this, then you might like that). Generic content is no longer adequate. By applying agile methodology and nimbleness to your digital marketing strategy, you can capitalize on segments of your audience’s behavior to direct the right communication to the right group not just once, but over the course of an event’s lifecycle — and beyond.

“For a lot of us, we have one event a year and don’t get the opportunity to pivot that much,” McLean said. “It’s exciting to be able to measure and pivot throughout the year.”

Learn more about Google Digital Garage at learndigital.withgoogle.com/digitalgarage.

Embracing Agility

The best way to implement agile marketing is to learn new tools and to promote digital learning among your team by encouraging them to take advantage of available training. For instance, Google Digital Garage offers approximately 40 hours of free, self-paced instruction and provides a picture of the digital marketing landscape, as well as context for the use of digital tools.

Staying open to learning opportunities outside the office is also key for leaders. NBAA’s Chris Strong said that there are many of those opportunities out there, and while he can’t take advantage of them all, he tries to have his team participate in at least one educational experience a month.

But perhaps the most important way for leadership to foster growth — and to get to the heart of agile marketing — is to cultivate a culture of curiosity. Encourage staff to seek new skills, share innovative ideas, and ask stimulating questions.