Getting Started with Agile Marketing – Dorien Morin-van Dam
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What if you could spend half, or even a third of the time, to complete a project that normally takes much longer? Sounds great, right? That’s where Agile Marketing comes in. Certified Agile Marketer Dorien Morin-van Dam explains the difference between a Scrum and a Kanban, and how moving to Agile marketing framework can save you time and money.
Rich: My guest today is a certified Agile marketer, social media strategist, international keynote speaker, organic social media specialist, and community manager. She’s been a social media professional for over 11 years, working with diverse clients all over the world.
In her spare time – as if there were any – she’s a marathon runner, hiker, skier, and mom to four kids and four dogs. After several family travel adventures, which brought her to live in fun places like Brazil and Europe, she now calls the green mountain state of Vermont home. Almost my next-door neighbor here in Maine.
You’ll recognize her on stage and online by her always present orange glasses, a nod to her Dutch heritage. I personally would recognize her anywhere, and I just saw her tear up the stage at Social Media Week Lima, where she talked about Agile marketing. And that’s what she’s here to discuss today. So I’m very excited to be chatting with Dorien Morin-van Dam. Dorien, welcome back to the podcast.
Dorien: Thanks for having me, Rich. It was awesome to be back at a live event. Social Media Week Lima was amazing. It was fun to see everybody, and it was incredible to be back on stage.
Rich: Yeah, absolutely. Even though I couldn’t see any people in the audience, I could hear them usually groaning at my jokes. But yes, it was absolutely a pleasure to be back on stage and be with people again.
Now we’re talking about Agile marketing today, and I’m sure there are a few people out there listening who aren’t familiar with what agile is. So why don’t we start there? In your mind, what is Agile and where did it originate?
Dorien: Okay. So Agile comes from the software development industry. So it’s easier to explain Agile once I start talking about that. It’s where groups, teams together working on code were working together and they developed Agile methodology. There was a group of about 17 software developers that wrote the Agile Manifesto in 2001, and they came up with four values and 12 principles that still hold true to this day.
Now, as this exciting new framework – really, that’s what it is – started being used all over the country, and the world really, it’s been translated into 60 something languages. Other parts of big businesses started saying, “Can we use Agile? Can this framework work for us?” So it went to HR and it went to marketing. And so Agile marketing really does stick very close to those four values and principles that came out in that original manifesto. But of course we use different language, so it looks a little bit different.
But the whole idea is that you work together as a team, that everybody on the team is valuable. That especially in marketing, when you look at content that you put the customers and a produced piece of content ahead of the process, so you really start with the mindset and then you go to the business values and the marketing values, and then you look at tools and processes. Which often when we, as business owners, onboard marketers or train people into social media or SEO or whatever we’re training them for we kind of start with the other way around. We say, “Hey, here’s a tool. Learn this tool, look at the SOP, go do this.” And so it’s a backwards philosophy, right? So we’re forward philosophy.
So in Agile marketing, you start with this mindset, this overall knowledge of this framework and. It needs to come from the top down. In Agile, you have to be able to fail. You have to have that psychologic safety of failing because you’re testing. And you’re continually testing content and you’re continually testing processes in order to improve, we call these iterations. So every time you have an iteration of something, you make it better, you do it faster.
And so it’s all about learning and learning together and learning new skills together as a team. So instead of having the silos of having say one videographer, one social media manager, one content manager, that each works on their own piece of content and you come together and then you look at it, you work together on pieces of content. There’s a lot more content creation together, and that it almost seems counterproductive. It almost seems like when you have all these people working on one piece of content that it might actually take more hours. But it’s not. Because together it’s not one plus one equals two. One plus one, usually output is three or four because of that continuous output.
Rich: Right. And if you go back to the original Agile, it sounds like this was a reaction to the way the processes that were in place at the beginning. So everything had to be finished, and then you would ship the product or whatever it would be, and then you’d start getting some feedback and you’re like, okay, maybe when we make the next one, we’ll start thinking about that. But this is fail fast, fail often, and then make those iterative changes so that you can get the best product out there as possible. Correct?
Dorien: Right. And so the minimal viable product is really what we’re trying to attain in Agile. And we can do that in agile marketing as well. So the minimal viable product is the first piece of content you can put out to get immediate feedback.
So if you’re at an event, a minimal viable product would be a story, a reel, something that you could do right from your phone and get that feedback. Say we’re at a conference, right? And so instead of taking all of the video footage home and then getting your team to adapt it and to update it and to add bumpers to it and to maybe do all these different things to make it beautiful and awesome, the first iteration would be putting it out in stories, putting it out on short form and getting that feedback. And people will ask questions and what else you’re doing, and you might get ideas for more content while you’re at the conference.
So that’s really the minimal viable product. What is the minimal amount of work the steam can do to put out a product to get feedback from our audience?
Rich: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And it’s also interesting because like when I started blogging, which was in the early days of blogging when it was all black and white, the idea was that you would write out a blog post and then you would write out the next blog post and the next. And even that felt very iterative, but you never went back to fix things. And now more the model blogging, especially from an SEO standpoint, is put the blog out there and then come back every six to twelve months and make it better than it was before. Add more content, remove things that aren’t working for you. But you continually hone it so that it becomes a better and better article over time. And it feels like that may be in keeping with at least some of the general ideas of Agile marketing.
Dorien: Absolutely. Because it’s all about improvement, right? Another piece to this is that as a team you work together. And depending on what framework you choose for Agile – whether you choose a framework called Scrum or Kanban – you can time box it. So a time box would be not just having a date of delivery, but also a start date. So a time box piece of time could be, we call that a sprint in Agile, so it could be a two-week sprint or a three-week sprint, but you work on either a campaign or a large piece of content from start to finish.
And so a lot of times in social media or in marketing, we work with deadlines. But time boxing is different where you have that starting date, we’re all starting on this and ending date. But one of the most important things to the ending date, is at the end of this sprint at the end of this time box piece of content, we have what it’s called a ‘retrospective.” And a retrospective is not just to look back on what worked and what didn’t work. But it’s to talk about how can we improve it next time or what action are we taking next time to make it better. So it’s not just say, “Hey, good job,” and patting ourselves on the shoulder. Or, “Hey, this didn’t work.”. No, we’re going to actually put some actual things on paper or wherever you want to record it, so that next time when we do the same type of campaign, we’re going to do it faster, better, and we learn from it. So that retrospective is really about taking action next time and do it better.
Rich: Interesting. So, my team and I just finished our first advertisement for the Agents of Change podcast, putting together a video. And we’ve got some video people and script people on our team. And so we did this, and I’m sure we could have done it more efficiently. What you’re saying is that, well, we should have timeboxed it. But also now we can still take advantage of this retrospective and kind of go through not just what worked and what didn’t work, but put to paper, put to notes what we’re going to do next time or what changes we can make so that we can get a better product out faster. Is that what I’m hearing?
Dorien: Yes, absolutely. For example, you might have figured out that when you started this project, you might have needed that script or maybe you needed intro and outros for these videos you were making. Next time you’ll have all that ready when you do the next campaign, because you already know you put it to paper and said this is what we need. So anytime you do that, that retrospective will help you be faster the next time you do a similar sprint.
Rich: Yeah. We were also noticing things like when we were finally ready to get going, it was February and we were like, we don’t want to record any outdoor shots in February because it’s February in Maine, that’s not the vibe we’re going for. So some of these things had we known in advance would’ve made it better. So this makes sense.
So you’ve talked about this a little bit, but what else makes this different from traditional marketing? Because you were in traditional marketing before you kind of went down this Agile path?
Dorien: Yeah. So I’ve really been in social media marketing for about 11 years. And the thing that, let me say it this way, what makes a difference is that for the person on the team itself and every individual teammate it gives you psychological safety. If it comes from the top down this Agile methodology, but also this Agile mindset, it allows you to make decisions as a team member. And as a team, it gives you the opportunity to try new things and to test new things.
For example, when I started out with my clients, my client would give me a directive, “Hey, can you make a flyer for this event?” And sometimes I would not ask the right questions, but sometimes I would, and I would create a flyer and I might work on that for three hours and I’d deliver a flyer as they asked. And then I found out that they really had a color scheme in mind, but they forgot to tell me. Or they had a picture to add that they forgot to give me. Or they had a sponsor, and they didn’t give me the logo. So I put three hours of work in and that wasn’t very good, so they had to redo all of that.
So not only does this process allows you to work closer together, but it’s changed how I work with my clients. So when I have a directive. When they say, “Can you make a flyer?” I have a list ready. What needs to be on the flyer? And then I might work 30 minutes, make an A and a B version, send it to them really quickly, or call them into a meeting and say, “A or B, which direction do you like?” B, okay. So I’ll work on B. I might make two versions of B. I call them back in or send it to them and say, “What do you think?” So in a way, the relationship with my clients is much tighter.
The challenge to Agile marketing where I am in right now is that Agile marketing has been around for about 10, 15 years. It’s all in large teams. It came from the software development industry, so it’s from gaming industries. And so now it’s trickled down to other industries, but it’s still mainly in-house teams, larger agencies. So what I’m trying to figure out is how this applies to a team of one or two or three, and that’s what I’m working on. That’s what I’m putting into practice. Because even if I work alone – I do have an assistant, she is in Europe – but even if I work alone during the day in my office, my clients are part of my team. So I’m trying to work with them in a more Agile way. So that’s really how things have changed for me, where I pull them in a lot more.
Initially clients would be like, “I’m too busy. Just do my social media.” And now I demand they have to meet with me every week or every other week. So we have to, even if it’s a 15-minute check in, what’s going on in your business, what are you working on? What events do you have? They forget to tell me this all the time. So I’m demanding now that they have to have this give and take. They have to have that check in with me, because it makes my content better. And it’s really working well.
Rich: Yeah, I was going to ask about that. Because I can imagine people who work with an outside agency or contractor, like your clients do, that they’re busy and they don’t want to deal with any of this stuff. And then all of a sudden, you’re telling them no, we’ve got to… well, at first it sounded like you’ve got to be ready in two hours when I show you A versus B. And then where they’re just like, “Look, I’ve just gotta sell.” So how do you convince them that this is the way to go, whether it’s a new client or somebody you were working with in a more traditional way for a while?
Dorien: All right. So one of the things that is really important that we do in Agile, is always have an agenda. We don’t meet just to meet. So with my clients I work a lot in Google docs, and it’s really nice because you can work together in Google docs. So I have folders set up, I have a pretty good system. And the call agenda is in there. So I will let them know every week. These are the things that I want to talk about, but I remind them the day before if you have something you want to talk about, put it in the call agenda.
We don’t always meet on zoom. sometimes it’s a phone call. And there are clients who only want 15 minutes a week, there’re clients who have 30 minutes. Sometimes we do screen sharing. But the feedback I’ve been getting is they’re really happy, because even in 15 minutes, I can jog their memory. Like say, “Hey, what was it when you were talking about, you said something about an event last week, how did it go? Did you take pictures?” So it’s that little reminder to them that I can’t talk about their business if I don’t know what’s going on in their business. So having the agenda is really important.
We have them weekly standard meetings. Like I have one on Thursday at 11, it’s a 15-minute phone call, but every Thursday at 11, one on Tuesday morning at 8:30 every week for 30 minutes. Now, if they want to change it, they can change it. That time is on me for having that blocked. If they start missing them week after week, we have a problem. I’ll have to sit down with my client and go, “I can’t really create content if I don’t know what’s going on.” So the feedback I’ve gotten is that they like having that. And because that little bit of time that we spend together each week when it’s 15 minutes or 30 minutes makes that content so much better, because I really know what’s going on instead of having an hour meeting once a month and then doing reporting or emails back and forth. But the agenda is really key. I’m not meeting just to meet. We go back over what we did this last week, this is coming up next week, and this is what’s going on. So yeah.
Rich: And definitely, I know that a lot of times small businesses especially forget that their outside marketers don’t know everything that’s going on in the business. So it almost moves you to an internal position within the team, even if you’re only spending 15 minutes a week there. And you’re just a lot more on top of what’s going on and you can remind them, don’t forget to take pictures the next time. You’re one of these community events, or you have a big, oversized check that you’re giving to somebody, or whatever the case may be.
Dorien: Right. And then not only do I remind them that they should take pictures, but if they need it, I’ll remind them what pictures to take. Because I’ll remind them, “This is the platforms we’re on. Remember we did really well with Reels, you need to take some vertical video. This is how you do it. Do you need a reminder on how to do it? I can send you a list of pictures to take, or I can send you instructions on how to hold your camera or whoever on your team is doing this. Would you like me to tell them what close up shots we need?”
So yes, that relationship, even just that weekly touchpoint, is really important. And that’s what Agile’s all about, being able to shift whatever you have plans. Because you need a plan. I’m a social media strategist. I develop the plans for my clients. This is one of the services that I offer as a social media strategist. I write a one-year plan for social media, but the key to it is that you have to be able to shift and turn as trends come up as things happen, whether it’s a national emergency, or a war in Europe, or a pandemic. You need to be able to turn and shift and be agile, to use that word, and work with what you have.
So if a month goes by, if the war in Ukraine happened and I wasn’t talking to my clients, I wouldn’t know what to post. Should I post anything on their behalf? Should I not? Should I say it? And so having those conversations, but having that weekly meeting, it was on everybody’s agenda, right? It’s on everybody that I met that week was on the agenda. What is your take? Should we say it? Is your industry affected by this? Do you have any contacts over there? And you’d be surprised what you learn when things like that happen.
Right now one of the things on my agenda is what’s happening this summer. What are we doing this fall? So talking ahead, but also you have to be able to make those shifts in the content.
Rich: Absolutely. And one of the things I want to make sure that people know is, Agile isn’t just about reading a book and then going out to practice something. You went through a certification process, didn’t you, to really get to a certain level of Agile mastery?
Dorien: Yes, absolutely. So I’m a Certified Agile Marketer. So I did that, I’m certified with the International Consortium of Agile, which is ICAgile. And then I also took an Agile Foundations course, where that was really the meat and bones of understanding the processes, all the names that we use, like what’s an epic and what’s a storyboard, and all those things that people that are deep into Agile might use. Like a Scrum master might come into a meeting if you work for a larger company and say, “Okay, let’s have a meeting, let’s do this.” And if you don’t know the words, you don’t really understand what’s going on.
So Agile Foundations was great. I’m hoping to get certified this summer in Business Agility and take a course into that. But the Agile Marketing was really helpful as well. And I would definitely say that’s something, if you’re interested in Agile marketing, is to get at least one or several people on your team certified in that. If you’re lucky enough to have a Scrum master on your team, in your company, talk to your Scrum master and see where they have been certified, how it works for them, what framework they like, and how they see implementing some of this Agile. And you don’t have to do everything. That’s the cool thing about it.
I talked about Scrum and Kaban. Some people do Scrumban, and whatever they call it. But the whole idea is that you take some of these ideas and this Agility and this safety, this psychological safety and this teamwork, and upskilling together and taking just a couple of the principles and applying them and seeing how that works. You don’t have to do all of it. You don’t have to be the perfect Agile marketing agency right away. But one of the things that I would recommend is doing a daily check in. Now we call it a ‘daily standup meeting’. When I was in Social Media Week Lima it’s one of the things I mentioned, it’s a 15-minute meeting with whoever’s on your team. If you’re by yourself, it can be a five-minute meeting. And then you just talk, you answer three questions. And if you’re on a team, it’s very important that you listen.
So the first question is, what did I do yesterday, what did I get accomplished? Be honest. The next second question is, what am I planning to do today? What am I going to do today? And the third one is, where am I stuck? Where are my impediments? And that, when you’re on a team, is really important. Because if I’m working on video editing but I’m stuck because somebody else is supposed to deliver a thumbnail for this video and I don’t have it, and I say that out loud that person goes, “Oh wait. Yeah, Dorien just said that. Okay. I’m working on that.”
So by having a daily standup, 15 minutes if it’s a team, five minutes if by yourself, you get that. You get your day straight and you know what you have to work on. And if the impediment is something that you are dreading, sometimes I have an impediment I have to make a phone call or I have to do something that I don’t want to do. I try to – and this is not Agile – but I try to eat that frog. I try to do just thing in morning. Yes, eat that frog first, right? Eat that frog. Do it first. But by saying this out loud to yourself or to your team and admitting it, that really helps. But that daily standup meeting when you have a team of five or seven, and you can do it virtually, is really important. Especially if you work together on content in marketing.
And if you say, well, I’m waiting on this and I’m waiting on it. Sometimes when you’re working on something, you’re like, well, the deadline was, we saved. If nobody asked me about it, I’m just going to take an extra two. Yeah, right, because what’s the big deal. But when you’re in the meeting and somebody says, “Hey, I’m waiting for this. Remember you were supposed to do this yesterday. I’m waiting. I can’t move forward with what I’m doing.” The daily standup can be really helpful to keep that flow going, the workflow.
Rich: The accountability is definitely there in those standup meetings.
Dorien: Absolutely. Yep.
Rich: What are some of the tools that you’re using that you think are helpful to the whole Agile mindset or process?
Dorien: Okay. So, Google Drive, for sure, because you can work together with your clients and in documents which is really nice if you’re working on something you’re writing something or you’re putting together a script or something like that. So you can have multiple people working in there.
I love MURAL if you’re working on a new campaign or a new strategy and you’re trying to get ideas together. It’s basically a board with sticky notes, but it’s virtual, it’s online. It’s a free app. You can go in there and everybody adds their thoughts on a sticky note, you can move them around, you can prioritize them. Because that’s another big thing of Agile, prioritizing tasks during the day, start with this, then this and this.
And so MURAL, Google, even Canva. You can work together in Canva if you have a team. I’ve had clients that set up their own Canva. I’m on their team, I’ll create something, we’re in a meeting and I’ll pull it up and say, “Did you look at it?” They’re like, “Yes.” Did you like this color? Well, I’m not sure I’ll go in there while we’re in a meeting. We screen share. I update the image until they’re like, yeah, this is good. So those are some tools that are really helpful. And you probably are already sort of using Agile without realizing it if you work with your clients closely like that.
And my initial thought was, I don’t really want the clients that close into my work. That was my initial thought. But I’m a team of one and I’ve realized that the clients are much happier when I do this. And then the trust is there. So it’s been a good shift for me in the last two years.
Rich: I’m also wondering, it’s not a tool that I use much and I don’t use it for work, but Slack would seem to be something that people would use in Agile. Is that something that you use yourself?
Dorien: I do.
Rich: You do? Okay.
Dorien: I do. I do. The one thing with Slack that you have to be careful about, as with any other tool, you have to be intentional in using it. Slack can be very disruptive, right? So if you have office hours with your team or something and you want to use that as communication, it’s great. But teach everybody to turn it off when they need to work. Right now when we’re recording the podcast, I have my desktop notifications completely turned off, and the same on my phone. Because that is not Agile when you’re constantly interrupted. You do want to be available when things come up and you want to be able to move through your task during the day. But you also need to take that time to work on a task, whether with a teammate or by yourself, and get things done. So Slack can be a little bit disruptive. It is a great tool to work together when you have a remote team. I’m on several other people’s teams on their Slack channels, and I basically just have myself set to ‘away’ all the time and I’ll just check messages a couple times a day.
Rich: We talked a lot about iterative changes, getting feedback from clients so that we can move forward as quickly as possible. What is the role of data and reporting in Agile as a way of getting feedback so quickly?
Dorien: It’s really important. So the changes you make, especially if you’re creating content, is based on that data that you get feedback from right away. So say you’re running an ad campaign and you have 10 ads running. So the first iteration would be, you’ve got all these ads. You maybe have all these video. And then within a day or two it takes a little bit, say it’s Facebook ads, takes a little bit for the ads to start running. But then you go look at the data and see which ads people are clicking on that resonates. There’s no reason to keep 10 ads going for the same thing if two ads are doing really well and the others are not. Now you will know if the other ads might take a little bit to catch up, or if this is kind of the norm. If this is the norm, turn off the eight ads, look at that data, look at it often.
The other thing about this is, when you introduced me, you said I’m an organic specialist. One of the great things about that is that when I work together with a Facebook ad agency, I am basically the testing ground for new content as an analyst. So I’ll create content. I’ll come up with ideas along with a client. We might try some out of the box ideas, different types of videos, maybe a meme or some content, maybe a new color, something new. And if it resonates with them, we’ll pull it into an ad and we’ll get different versions and we’ll get that feedback. So data is absolutely super important because that’s why you want that customer feedback, right? That’s why you have those different iterations of that content. And the same is with your blog posts, right? If you see a blog post that’s doing well, and it’s done well for a while but it needs to be updated and you update it. And all of a sudden you rank for another keyword. So it’s really important to look at that data often and to then take action on what you see.
Rich: Makes a lot of sense. Dorien, if people want to learn more about you, whether they want to work with you or just follow you online, where can we send them?
Dorien: The best place is LinkedIn. I’m Dorien Morin-van Dam on LinkedIn. Send me a message and say you heard me on The Agents of Change podcast. My handle everywhere is @MoreInMedia, which is also my website. And then you’ll recognize me by orange glasses, you’ll know it’s me.
Rich: There you go. And we’ll of course have those links in the show notes. Dorien, great seeing you again. Thanks so much for making time for me today.
Dorien: Thanks for having me on, Rich. I always love talking Agile marketing.
Dorien Morin-van Dam wants to help you spend less time in the office by working smarter, not harder. Check out her website to find out more about her marketing strategies, including Agile Marketing. And don’t forget to connect with her on LinkedIn and mention you heard her on this podcast.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.