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Agile Marketing – How to make it really work for you

Agile Marketing – How to make it really work for you

Agile Marketing? What does that mean? How to make it really work for me? Well, given the hype around scrum and agile project management it would not take long until marketing operations would be identified as an adjacent area to deploy the methodology – after application development. But how do we set up the marketing organization to become “agile ready”?

Agile Marketing Richard Bachem

Traditional structures of marketing teams

There are many approaches to marketing operations and the way we structure our teams. A common one is set up a specific team for each target group or each product group. Within each team, the different disciplines are represented. From classic advertising (previously “above the line”) where we have experts who can organize photo shootings and TVC production to print and online experts. Alternatively, we would structure our organization around different disciplines. We have a strategy team that would analyze target groups, develop product propositions, and would define a production request that, in turn, is being picked up by a production team, comprised of our execution experts. In my career I have worked with both setups successfully.

Advantages of agile marketing vs. traditional organizational set ups

The above mentioned “traditional setups” represent the “waterfall” logic used in application development. In marketing that means that we have to detail every project down to the last story board and copy. There is no room for flexibility down the line. In many cases, the production of a campaign creates opportunities for improvements down the line. How a friend of mine who is now successfully managing a global brand in the cosmetics industry once said, “better is the enemy of good” (do not know if you can say that in English, actually. But you will get the point). The scrum process plays out its full strength when end products are not entirely clear and may be subject to change along the way. Or when results are expected quickly and there is not a whole lot of time for endless detailing and preparation. In the fast paced online and social media world of today, speed if of the essence. Furthermore, many marketing organizations, especially smaller teams, are comprised of “marketing generalists” rather than specialists. Agile marketing seems to be able to create substantial value, if applied correctly.

I read a blog post on workfront.com outlining that “agile marketing is a tactical marketing approach in which marketing teams collectively identify high-value projects on which to focus their collective efforts”. Well, I think that is exactly what agile marketing is not or at least should not be. When you buy into agile, you do not just run a specific “high value” project following the scrum guide. You change the day-to-day operations of your marketing department. Entering half-heartedly into scrum has never worked. It requires a shift in mind set. You cannot run some projects agile and others using a waterfall approach.

What does agile really mean for a marketing department?

A core artifact of scrum is the product backlog. The backlog is a living and breathing document. While in application development, the backlog usually focusses on a specific product, in a true agile marketing environment, you are producing output every day, and along many products in parallel. If you are looking at a holistic 360° campaign, for instance, you would work on a campaign proposition, a TVC, print ads, social media campaigns and so on. In parallel you would do daily work in other online channels like SEO/SEA. So how do you go about the backlog? Would you just place the campaign in the backlog? I believe you should not. You should place all activities of the marketing department in the backlog. You prioritize and have the team draw the most important PBIs (product backlog items) during each sprint planning event. Just like in application development, you have to set up and staff all relevant roles. You need the team, the scrum master, and the product owner.

Who takes which role in agile marketing?

One of the most critical issues in scrum is what to do with the line managers. What role does the head of marketing play? What about product managers and the heads of, say, PR and MarCom? They are stakeholders, of course. But do they actively participate in agile marketing? Apart from sitting in sprint reviews, they could also take on other active roles. The head of marketing in a smaller company could act as the product owner. He or she envisions the product and manages the backlog. In larger organizations, they would probably remain stakeholders and participate on a regular basis in scoping and review workshops. What about the scrum master? Who is he or she? Just like in application development, the scrum master role can be filled by a team member. This, in turn, would mean that the scrum master could be a marketing manager. He or she needs to be focus on the duties of the role and can only contribute to content development in a reduced way. It would make sense to train an experienced team member to become the scrum master.

Can the head of marketing take on the role of the scrum master?

Most certainly not. The head of marketing is accountable for the delivery of end products. According to the scrum guide, the scrum master is the “process owner” – not the product owner. Because of his or her accountability, he/she would always try to pressure or at least steer the team in a certain direction. That is understandable, but that is exactly the reason why he/she cannot play the role of the scrum master. That role needs to ensure adherence to the scrum process. And that includes protecting the team against the product owner, if necessary. Both roles, scrum master and product owner, have opposing duties.

Product owner or product manager?

I have often wondered about the naming of the roles in scrum. To me, quite frankly, the product owner is what we used to call the product manager (PM). All the requirements outlined in the scrum guide match the role of what used to be the product manager. He or she needs to understand the product, design the proposition, define the features, and align with the stakeholders. The product manager, like for example in the FMCG industry, does exactly that. The only difference really is the management of the production process. The PM has individually lined up production, budget, sales efforts etc. And that has not changed to date. Furthermore, a deep understanding of target groups, user preferences and the likes were a key part in the day to day work of the PM, just as it is today for the product owner. If product managers exist in an organization, they can adapt their roles and become product owners. To avoid conflicts, a “chief product owner” should be installed to ensure prioritizations are set right.

The team

Today, social media and digital have become more important than ever. In the past, many activities were outsourced to specialists and agencies. In digital, many companies have turned to inhouse production once again. Be it video content or other personalized messaging through email and other channels. To be quick in your response to changes in the market space, inhouse beats agency service. This allows for the creation of a backlog with lots of tasks, many of them recurring and many of them not related to overarching projects. A team of dedicated marketing managers, online specialists, and video producers can seamlessly work together as an agile team – and profit from all aspects of scrum.

Managing the backlog

In the scenario of a true agile marketing team, the backlog is the marketing plan. There have been marketing plans for as long as marketing exists. The product owner has to translate the high-level marketing plan into a backlog. He or she has to detail all the items by creating a marketing-specific version of epics and user stories. An epic in the context of agile marketing would be a print campaign. A user story, in turn, could be the photo shooting. If we follow that logic, we can translate the entire marketing plan easily into a scrum backlog. Furthermore, a key aspect of scrum, the collaboration of different skill sets within the team is played out effectively with the video expert, the social media expert, the print expert etc. A heterogeneous team can leverage its strengths fully in scrum.


Agile marketing following the scrum methodology can create tremendous value to small and medium sized marketing teams. When results need to be produced fast and not all details are clear right from the start scrum can deliver the goods. If the team consists of generalists or specialists, agile marketing can be applied to both. It is, however, a complete shift in mind set and can only be applied to all day-to-day operations – not just for single (“important”) project. It is an “all in” approach. Buy in and active participation (in smaller organization) from the head of marketing is of the essence.

Three digitization trends in insurance

Three digitization trends in insurance

Digitization Trends in Insurance

Digitization in insurance is somewhat still in progress. Most companies struggle to make use of their unstructured data. Truley functioning global operating models are nowhere in sight. How can a globally operating insurance company come to terms with the difficult relationship between global headquarters and local business units? In particular in light of the need to drive digitization centrally? How to deal with an internationally fragmented landscape of brand and services presentation? And how can an insurance company turn data into profit? There are some trends out in the market that address these pressing issues and put away with them for ever – if applied properly, I might add. Here is my top 3 list for digitization in insurance in 2020:

Trend #1: Operational Excellence

Arguably there has been a lot of talk about this topic. The key question, however, remains: What is the best governance structure for marketing and in particular digital marketing for an insurance company. And certainly, what role should corporate headquarters (GHQ) play for global organizations? Since the business units maintain a strong position those multinational companies, the GHQ should try to act as a coach for them. With the introduction of digital marketing tools, e.g., the Adobe Experience Manager, they need to be rolled-out successfully to principal BUs. Frameworks for effective use are to be put into place. While some larger BUs usually seem to be able to run on their own, the GHQ could act as a coach by creating “augmented teams”. The GHQ would send experts to a BU for a set period, e.g., three months, to lead agile teams applying those digital tools. That way, the GHQ can influence the “good use” of the costly tools while not being labelled as “telling the BU what to do”. The result of the “augmented team” approach would yield an effective operating model by which the GHQ would generate credibility as a coach and expert advisor. The GHQ could also consider a “hub and spoke” model, kind of a shared service center where a bigger BU as hub serves smaller related markets as spokes. This model drives knowledge transfer and exchange.

Trend #2: E2E Customer Experience-led Design

Many insurance companies have alreday started to map out digital customer journeys. The core objective of this execise ist to build a seamless flow of connected customer data (behavioral, transactional, financial, operational, and more). Based on the data, an insurance company can create a superior end-to-end customer experience, resulting in meaningful services for customers and prospects at all touchpoints (service design). Concretely, a central Digital Marketing organization should set guidelines, frameworks and processes (in short a “how to” guide) for the BUs to create personalized, content-led experiences. With the support of the GHQ, BUs will be able to leverage digital tools effectively to deliver results. One of the immediate tasks is usually the merging of a fragmented web/app landscape to a central tool. In driving this process, the GHQ ensures a uniform appearance across all touch points, in particular web/mobile.

Trend #3: Data-driven Business

Insurance companies have collected mountains of unstructured data over the years. Many companies are now in a process of modernizing core systems, but they have yet to tap the full power of that information. While global insurance players have opportunities to leverage data in new ways across all lines of business and in many functional areas, technology and real-time analytics can bring significant value to any organization. In marketing, understanding of customer behavior is key. Any insurance company should therefore create a central data repository/DMP (or Data Management Platform like, e.g., Adobe Audience Manager) to enable customer profiling. These profiles, in turn, can be used to drive the development of new (digital) products. On BU level, an insurance group should use engagement or conversion metrics to create models and recommendations to drive campaign performance and translate internal/external data (both structured and unstructured) for programmatic ad buying and to efficiently reach customers

Insurance companies can reach or secure a position as a global leader if they manage to create a truly data driven business. Digital marketing, as one of the core elements of a data driven business, makes use of available data to create personalized customer communication based on superior content, and to deliver a state-of-the-art customer experience. Smart tools and the right processes and frameworks will allow any insurance company to play a leading role in the global market of personal and commercial lines insurance.

Digitization in Real Estate – Challenges and Opportunities

Digitization in Real Estate – Challenges and Opportunities

In the real estate sector, many companies still use manual or paper-based processes for a range of internal administration activities and for communication between buyers and sellers. However, like many other industries, adopting digital tools to innovate around these areas is the name of the game. Digitization triggers both challenges and opportunities for the the real estate industry.

Richard Bachem Interview Digitization Real Estate Industry

I gave an interview to TIMIFY, one of the global leaders in online scheduling, to share my views on digitization of the real estate industry. Digital onboarding of the customer is a major driver for digital transformation. In particular in industries where an appointment for a personal consultation is key to create value.

Read the full interview on timify.com …

Three digital marketing priorities for insurers 2021

Three digital marketing priorities for insurers 2021

Tactical priorities for insurers in digital marketing

Every insurer can achieve a global leadership position if the company manages to create a truly data driven business. Digital marketing is one of the core elements of a data driven business. It makes use of available data to create personalized customer communication based on superior content. Digital marketing is the core discipline to create results from data. Identifying relevant priorities in digital marketing will allow insurers to play a leading role in 2020 and beyond.

Marketing has become very dynamic. There was a time when classic advertising was the best way to drive sales of insurance policies. But technologies are advancing and new opportunities for communication have arisen. While the way products are marketed has improved, marketing itself has made an impact on the way people buy insurance products today. Nowadays the ideal way to drive sales is to be where the consumers are, and that’s across all channels rather at the point of sale.

Today, people trust other consumers more than they trust any direct brand communication. In some ways, the mission now is to understand that people don’t want to buy something that is obviously displayed as a product. Consumers ultimately rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family. And they are informed through social media. Needs and buying behavior are often counter-intuitive, hyper rapid and triggered from within private “ecosystems”.

While the “old” paradigm of gathering data, translating data into insights, and insights ultimately into communication and offerings still prevails. Consumers today are accessing brands across multiple devices, screens, and channels. Customer groups are rather atomized than homogeneous, thus personalization is key. Digital technologies, the right strategies and the best short term tactics, however, enable insurers to improve operational excellence and to place the right message to the right person at the right time, globally.

The future of digital marketing

The future of digital marketing in the insurance industry is therefore a future where vast amounts of customer data are centrally leveraged to identify needs and customer segments. Not 8, 20 or 50, rather hundreds of them on a global scale. Insurers will develop a flexible service offering to address these “moving targets” effectively. Insurers will also be able to tap into previously closed circuits of customers, “ecosystems” of friends and family. Using simple single cover, pre-underwritten products, new customers can be won and exploited through data analytics at a later stage. This can include marketplaces featuring innovative offers from other providers.

As the number of variables and data sources insurers have available intensifies, automation of processes in digital marketing and an algorithmic, data-driven approach is required. Insurers can render the services of top-notch analytics firms like Data Cubes to apply predictive analytics and leverage new technologies and methodologies in data management such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. Insurers will drive superior service design, enabling an end-to-end customer experience across on- and offline channels. The resulting offerings can be true digital products for tomorrow’s customers. But what are the digital marketing priorities for insurers in 2020?

Three digital marketing priorities for 2020

For 2020, insurers should enhance their digital marketing operations, in advertising along the traditional landscape of paid media, SEO, content marketing, social media, community management, and more. Nothing totally new – of course. But what are the digital marketing priorities? I believe that insurers should focus on these three elements in 2020:

Priority #1: Personalized content

With the evolution of data management and the availability of in-depth consumer information, personalizing content improves customer relationship significantly. This clearly the biggest trend.

Already today, 75% of consumers prefer personalized messaging.

As customers are drawn to experiences that reflect their preferences, Insurers have identified what content is most relevant to an individual. Video content is gaining traction as an increasingly popular form of content (e.g., live video, stories, Instagram TV etc.), even personalized video messaging as opposed to email or phone calls. With a tool like the Adobe Experience Manager deployed, insurers will be able to centrally create a repository of targeted content in video or other forms.

Priority #2: Programmatic ad buying

In paid media, employing programmatic ad buying and using centrally collected and processed data to determine which audience the ads should target. There are different opinions on programmatic, but from an effciency point of view, programmatic gets you the biggest bang for the buck.

Priority #3: Voice search

Consumers adapt and begin to use voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google assistant more and more. Centrally developed capabilities to optimize global websites to recognize voice search will be key in 2020.

In the 2020 digital marketing landscape, insurers will put the customer at the forefront of the digital marketing strategy in a more granular way than was previously possible. Thoughtful, personalized marketing at scale, driven by data and innovative software solutions will define the way insurers will communicate with customers in 2020. Appealing to individuals with conversational, speech accessible, and visually engaging content is the trend that will surely help insurers to position themselves successfully in the next year.