Scrum Marketing

An example of agile marketing

September 3, 2023
Agile marketing at their desk

Marketing is a great space to apply agile practices like Scrum. It’s well suited for an iterative approach; usually, you’re marketing a product, so a lot of the cadence from product development can carry over. 

What are topics to consider when applying Scrum to marketing? 

  • Agile Marketing Team
  • Marketing Sprint Length
  • Commitment to learning
  • Scrum or Kanban
Everyday Scrum helps you navigate both learning and applying Scrum.

Agile Marketing Team

An agile marketing team should be customer oriented rather than skill oriented.

This means a dedicated cross-functional team focused on engagement with a particular customer rather than passing campaign work on from one team to another.

In some ways, it’s a return to craftsmanship from our recent history of assembly lines. Maintaining consistent team relationships is also beneficial as you gain efficiency from how people learn to work together.

The Product Owner could be the marketing or creative director. Though it’s a common practice in this space, combining the Scrum Master and Product Owner into a “marketing owner” is not recommended. Having someone serve as a Scrum Master for multiple teams is better than taking both roles.

Some teams may need to share a person if they have a scarce skill. If this is the case, try pairing them with another team member so they can also learn that skill. Cross training cultivated T-shaped marketers, where they have a broad set of marketing skills with strong expertise in one area. 

It’s good to remember that many people have more skills than their title implies.

Scrum Marketing Sprint Length

A traditional waterfall approach to marketing places the work in sequential phases. First, you write all the copy, then you edit, design the assets, and finally schedule. So it’s understandable why a team might think each of these phases should be a sprint. But that’s not Scrum and it’s not agile. 

For reasons we’ll explore in a moment, you want to keep the whole process (writing, design, editing…) within each sprint. This approach means the sprint may need two weeks rather than one week for all the creation, release and learning to occur.

Commitment to learning agile marketing

Scrum can allow teams and organizations to take a different approach than the traditional bid splash, long-standing campaign.  

Instead, you can run an adaptive learning campaign. Start with small campaigns as tests for what works. Evaluate. Adapt. Repeat.

Nail it and then scale it.

Look for opportunities to create value early on in the form of micro-campaigns. Examples could include an article on LinkedIn or a video on YouTube. Use this MVC (minimal viable campaign) to prove or disprove an assumption.

The product owner decides at what point there is enough value to release. But remember, it’s only valuable to our customers when it’s out in the wild.

The campaign is no longer pre-scheduled and set to run on autopilot. This change will feel like a big loss of automation for some. But do you really want to automatically continue spending resources on something that’s not working?

Instead, you’re continually making content visible to your customers, inspecting their responses and adapting the next piece of content accordingly.  When something is working, you run with it. When it’s not, you adjust.

I once heard someone describe it as, “nail it and then scale it.” You can have a plan for a year-long campaign that adapts daily. 

In summary, an agile marketing team asks:

  • What’s the fastest way to get feedback
  • What do I hope to learn?
  • How can I measure results?
  • How do we make decisions based on behavior?

Leaning Scrum for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. There are many new terms and concepts in Scrum.

Well we’re here to help.

Scrum or Kanban for marketing

I know this guide is about Scrum, but I wanted to take a minute and address the option of using Kanban for marketing. 

Kanban can be good for ongoing work like social media posts. Kanban is more fluid and allows for workflows with many steps, which is common in marketing. 

You might consider using Kanban for individual one-off tasks you want to keep visible and use Scrum for major projects. 

Many people will also talk about ScrumBan, which takes different parts of each framework. The best option for teams is often what is closest to what you’re already doing.

How Scrum enables you to get things done

It’s easy to get wrapped up in new ideas. There’s a flurry of excitement around what’s possible and how it could solve significant problems.

The problem is when you move to something new, it’s at the expense of what you were focusing on, leaving a wake of started but unfinished projects.

Scrum helps you to stop starting and start finishing, and it does this by providing just the right amount of structure to time and attention.

Scrum provides a window of focus

Scrum organizes time into sprints, which can be any length of time, often one or two weeks. You begin the sprint by selecting what work you will complete by the end of the sprint, and this will require you to break big projects or tasks down into smaller pieces.

The work you select goes into your sprint backlog, which is the list of tasks you will complete by the end of the sprint. No new work enters this list during the sprint. The time is protected, allowing you to focus on finishing what has been selected.

Each day you will review progress using the questions:

  1. What did I complete yesterday?
  2. What will I focus on finishing today?
  3. Where am I stuck?

Usually, you’d ask these questions during the daily standup within the context of a team. For personal development projects, you might be a team of one, but you may also include anyone else who lives with you as maybe they are a stakeholder.

When you’ve decided to focus on a task from your sprint backlog, work it to completion. Don’t select another task until completed. Keep your work-in-progress limits to a minimum.

Scrum provides clear prioritization

On a typical Scrum team, one person plays the product owner role. They work with internal and external stakeholders and the production team to prioritize all the work to be done.

The backlog contains a list of all the Product Backlog Items (PBIs) and is ordered by priority. What’s at the top is most important. There are no ties, just a cleanly ordered list. When you maintain the disciple of ordering your backlog, you’re not only finishing work, you're completing the work that matters most.

I hope you’ve found this article helpful and that you feel prepared to go and level up your professional skills. Looking back over the past few years, I’m encouraged by what I see. You can be too.

If you use Scrum to help you learn and grow, I’d love to hear about it. You can reach me on LinkedIn.

If you want to learn more about Scrum in general,  check out my What is Scrum? A Guide for Everyday People to Learn Scrum.

Still not sure about your next step with Scrum? I offer a couple of free coaching sessions each month. You can signup for a free 30-minute coaching session, and we can work together to identify a good next step for you.

Action Plan

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning to apply Scrum

How to choose between Scrum and Kanban?

Important factors include your team size and the type of work you do. Kanban is very process-oriented, so you should consider how defined, static, or long your process is? 

You can explore Scrum and other agile approaches. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

How does scrum help an organization?

Scrum forces clarity and prioritization, which are critical to organizational effectiveness. It provides a competitive edge by allowing teams to adapt as the market or priorities change. Teams operate more effectively because Scrum combines empowerment of the team members with alignment to top priorities.

Learn more about scrum’s impact on organizational culture. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Is scrum a methodology or a framework?

Scrum is more of a framework than a methodology, and it helps teams adhere to Agile principles and get stuff done. Scrum provides basic rules but doesn’t prescribe how to do the work. It provides principles, values, rules, and some core structure but still leaves a lot undefined.

Learn more about scrum as a framework. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

What’s the difference between scrum and agile?

When people say “agile,” they usually refer to it as a mindset. Scrum is a framework for how to organize people and work in an agile way. If you’re practicing Scrum, you’re working in an Agile way.

Learn more about the relationship between scrum and agile. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Scrum design

What are the three pillars of Scrum?

Scrum is founded on three essential pillars, and each leads the team to ask a critical question.

  1. Transparency. How does this make things more visible?
  2. Inspection. Where does this create space to evaluate?
  3. Adaptation. When does this encourage growth?

Learn how to apply the three pillars of Scrum and then explore the most common terms in a Scrum glossary.

What are the values of Scrum?

There are five values critical to the practice of Scrum: commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect.

  1. Commit to achieving the goals of the Scrum Team.
  2. Courage to do the right thing and work on challenging problems.
  3. Focus on the Sprint's work and the Scrum Team's goals.
  4. Open about all the work and the challenges with performing the work.
  5. Respect each other to be capable, independent people

Learn how to align Scrum values with your organization and then explore the most common terms in a Scrum glossary.

What is the sprint goal in scrum?

The sprint goal encapsulates the product owner’s vision into a concrete statement for the development team to measure the sprint against. The sprint goal provides a theme for the sprint’s work helping the team see how all the parts come together. 

Learn more about the role of the sprint goal in scrum and explore the essential Scrum glossary.

How to use Scrum

Why use Scrum?

It forces clarity and prioritization, which provides the focus necessary for teams to be effective. Scrum embraces complexity and change by keeping many things simple and iteratively evaluating and adapting. 

You can learn more about why to use Scrum and three challenges Scrum solves. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

When does Scrum not work well?

Scrum isn’t always the best option for teams. Scrum can fail when there is a substantial mismatch between organizational culture and the Scrum values. It also depends on the nature of the work you do. If you work if very linear, predictable and tightly defined, you may not experience many benefits Scrum provides.

Find out more about aligning your organizational values with Scrum or how Scrum might fit in your context. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

How do I know when to use Scrum?

Scrum functions at its best when you have a dedicated team focused on developing a singular product. Its agility shines when there are time constraints combined with uncertainty. 

Explore the pros and cons of Scrum along with expectations vs. realities with Scrum. Then browse the most common terms in a Scrum glossary and learn what is Scrum.

Scrum backlog

What is the backlog in Scrum?

There are actually two backlogs, the product backlog and the sprint backlog. They each contain the definitive list of work to be done. The product owner keeps the backlog ordered by priority. 

Learn to use the backlog in Scrum and check out the sprint backlog vs product backlog in Scrum.

How are the product backlog and sprint backlog different?

The product backlog prioritizes the features needed in the product. It is a singular visible source of requirements for the product.

The sprint backlog represents the work to do in a given sprint. It is a definitive list of all the scrum team is being asked to produce for the sprint. 

Learn more about the sprint backlog vs product backlog in Scrum.

What is a PBI (product backlog item)?

Each item in the backlog represents precise work and value to deliver. Often these PBIs are written using both user stories and acceptance criteria. The PBIs are what gets refined during the backlog refinement session, and if one is too large, it may be broken down into smaller PBIs.

Learn more about how backlogs are used in scrum, the sprint backlog vs product backlog in Scrum and explore the essential Scrum glossary.

What is the Scrum sprint backlog?

The Scrum sprint backlog is a prioritized list of items from the product backlog that the development team plans to complete during the upcoming sprint.

It is a plan for the Sprint and is created during the Sprint Planning meeting where the Development Team decides on how to build the functionality that meets the Sprint Goal. The Sprint Backlog typically includes user stories, bugs, technical work, and other items that the development team needs to work on during the sprint. Each item in the Sprint Backlog has a clear definition of done, so the team knows when the item is considered complete.

The Development Team is responsible for creating and updating their Sprint Backlog throughout the Sprint, making sure they are on track to meet the Sprint Goal. The Sprint Backlog is a working document that helps the Development Team visualize their progress and make any necessary adjustments to their plan as they go along. The Sprint Backlog is also transparent, allowing stakeholders to see what work is being done during the Sprint.

Learn more about the backlogs of Scrum.

What is the Scrum product backlog?

In Scrum, the product backlog is a prioritized list of features, bugs, technical work, and other product-related items that need to be addressed by the development team.

It serves as a single source of truth for what needs to be done on the product.

The items in the product backlog are ordered based on their importance to the product owner and the value they bring to the end-user. As the project progresses, the product backlog is constantly updated to reflect new priorities, changes in requirements, and feedback from stakeholders.

The product backlog is a living document that evolves throughout the project's lifecycle. It provides transparency and enables collaboration among all members of the Scrum team.

Learn more about the backlogs in Scrum.

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