Dear CMO. Your Marketing Plan is Broken

Thanks to @VickeKaravan for help crafting the slidedeck together.

We’ve been doing a lot of work recently looking into agile marketing. In the slidedeck above we want to make the case for and show off some worthy examples of how and where agile works in the three areas that we really care about and can influence as consultants - budget, people and processes.

Three examples in particular...

Take a look at the slidedeck, but there are three specific examples worth highlighting of other guys practicing interesting, agile marketing techniques.


AppSumos many failed experiments

AppSumo’s founder, Noah Kagan spoke out our SearchLove New York conference last year sharing some of the strategies and processes they have in house.

80% of their time, they spend doing what they know works well. The rest of the time they spend experimenting, iterating and trying all sorts of tactics to try and find a positive ROI. Here’s the kicker - 86% of their experiments fail. That’s a lot of fail!

For the 14% of experiments that really do work and deliver a positive ROI within 3 months, they assign an unlimited budget. That’s the protocol within AppSumo. No “2012 Q4 Marketing Plan”. 


BetaBrand puts the customer at the centre of everything

BetaBrand is a fascinating online clothing website, focused entirely around the customer. Besides products like sock insurance (why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?!) and their ‘Model Citizen’ initiative (discounts for uploading photos of you wearing BetaBrand goods), they have a “ThinkTank” where they post product pages for their limited-edition upcoming products and have customers register interest in advance for the product. Product validation FTW!


Nike could disrupt health insurance, forever?

Finally, the Nike Fuelband example. A Fuelband can be strapped to your arm as your exercise and you get interesting stats, and music, on your iPhone as you do it. Nike are opening their Fuelband API to third party developers, so what’s to stop health insurers using Fuelband to offer discounts to customers who exercise at least four times a week? And building in further incentives?

You can’t plan for seismic waves in your industry like that. Moreover, there are outsized returns for the first mover, and arguably even greater returns for the first follower (learning off the first mover’s mistakes). Instead, it’s about creating flexible agile processes, teams and budgeting.


What are your thoughts on agile marketing?

How many experiments have failed for you? How do you organize your teams? How would you like to organize your team? How are you budgeting for your marketing spend for next year?

Please let us know in the comments - we’d love help researching this further ツ


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  1. Experiments are a so important especially if working in a large company, as infrastructure and success tends to stifle innovation. If you dont innovate other people in your market certainly will.

    Constantly throw in experimentation even if your marketing efforts are working, a rolling stone gathers no moss after all :)

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  2. Thanks for including us in this story. Perhaps we could mash-up our sock insurance and the Nike Fuel API and further disrupt the health insurance biz.

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  3. Great post Ed!

    I bet most of the companies are setting long plans for marketing (among everything else). Maybe thats just a bad habit, but it sure won't be effective one in new marketing.

    I just witnessed when one company started to go online and social. It was quite a struggle and big thing was that they didn't realize it would need every one. Not just the marketing manager...

    I guess it just takes a bit of stretching before you can get agile :)

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    • Yeah, Ari. It become a mess, if there are Facebook and LinkedIn pages for all the divisions. Care should be taken to give social marketing responsibility to third parties. Recently, my Samsung TV broke and I was not able to get a good response from the customer service on phone so I posted my query on their Facebook page. They asked my complaint number and said they'll look into it. They conveniently forgot about it and deleted my entry from their Facebook page. Moreover, they now spam my inbox with their product announcements and mailers :)

  4. Everything seems to be changing faster than ever on the web, so to stick by the old ways of having a marketing department might slow you down, but someone's got to collate all this stuff being fired in by the rest of the team, clients, &c - this is where companies need to take take stock and apportion work, great for large companies, but is it so great for smaller companies who spend most of their time keeping their head above the, information overloading, water?

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  5. The most exciting of these ideas to me is the Nike one. What a great idea to open up your product to 3rd parties, the possibilities for that product are just magnified so simply. I guess it is the same core idea of the apple store too and ipad. Love seeing it implemented into new areas.

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  6. What a great presentation on Agile. Ever since learning about it, Agile marketing has been how we do things. It simply put a strict structure and discipline around the way that things were going anyhow :)

    Also the quality of your presentations is inspiring. Cheers!

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  7. Didn't know that about 37signals but I should have guessed it since I got an email response from Jason Fried when I sent in a customer service email a while back. Amazing.

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  8. lol.

    I guess we need to work on marketing plan before starting work on it !


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  9. Most marketers are now using Agile practices for planning their marketing activities. They create work plans and prioritize them as a team on a weekly basis. That ways they can ensure the majority of their work is focused against their marketing goals or targets.

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  10. Hey

    Nice did a superb job keep on doing and keep on sharing your experience with us.

    Thank you


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  11. Dear distilled,

    you rock

    Thanks for everything,
    -The Internet

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  12. I just love, love, love the Appsumo approach. It makes total sense if you think about it, but I bet that it requires a lot of cojones to actually start implementing such an approach to a bit more "traditional" kind of organization.

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