By Hannah Shain
If you’ve worked with development or product teams, you probably already know how efficient agile methods can be. Now, as the world is rushing into remote work, it’s the perfect time to harness the power of agile marketing and use it to prepare crisp, effective, and fully remote quarterly planning sessions.
Not sure where to start?
I’ve laid out the basics of agile marketing, along with the secrets to running a fully remote quarterly planning session to drive your marketing goals forward.
How Does Agile Marketing Facilitate Smooth Remote Planning?
Agile marketing is modeled after the agile methodologies that have been popular for years. At its core, agile marketing should carve out space in your workflows for creativity and innovation. It’s a quick-hitting approach to marketing that includes sprints, usually 7-10 business days, where you test your ideas, analyze progress, and either take action or adjust.
Agile marketing makes it easier to flow with market conditions or shifting revenue targets. At the same time, it fast-tracks processes and gives your team the flexibility to react quickly to changes in larger projects, such as web development.
Secrets to Running a Fully Remote Quarterly Planning Session
As effective as agile marketing can be, the sharp rise in remote work has thrown a kink in agile planning. Suddenly, your team needs to maintain focus and stay engaged without the aid of flip charts, sticky notes, pocket agendas, or any of those in-person assets that help keep the team on track. Luckily, there are secrets to running a fully remote quarterly planning session from anywhere. Here’s how to do it:
1. Display goals up front
Effective agile marketing needs to be focused and disciplined to work. That’s why it’s important to establish goals and the roles of everyone who will participate in your planning session up front. Although your project themes may evolve throughout your quarterly planning session, your session goals should be an unwavering engine that propels your efforts. Make sure they’re easy to access throughout your planning session.
2. Lay out an agenda
There was a time when you could print off pocket agendas, lay them on seats, and keep the whole team on the same page. Remote work makes that process a bit more difficult. However, I’ve found success by creating personalized digital pocket agendas for each quarterly planning session. Also, by adjusting each agenda to fit the team member’s time zone, you can avoid the confusion that comes with differing schedules.
3. Create working agreements
Working agreements pin down the expectations for all team members and clearly map how teams will contribute to your goals. When working agreements are finalized, it should always be clear who owns what responsibilities, how they will tackle tasks, and when it needs to be done.
One trick that’s worked well for our teams is to keep open space in a virtual slide to develop working agreements throughout your planning event. This keeps everyone engaged and helps team members see the broader strategic vision behind individual tasks.
4. Build a virtual parking lot
During in-person meetings, you usually have a flip chart to jot down ideas that pop up throughout sessions. Unfortunately, you won’t have that same resource during remote sessions, and off-topic ideas can throw your planning day off the rails fast.
That’s why it’s a good idea to include a virtual “parking lot” where you can park ideas that don’t align with the themes you’ve agreed upon. This keeps the meeting on track, while preserving those precious nuggets of information that could be valuable in the future.
5. Work in breakout sessions
I’ve found it’s extremely effective to include breakout sessions in your remote quarterly planning sessions. You can split the group up and use Zoom breakout rooms to tackle plans on a more intimate level.
During these sessions, groups have a chance to give their input on key strategies. Here are some tasks our team usually takes on in breakout sessions:
- Identify target audiences
- Write down 2-3 key initiatives
- Write down the main themes for the quarter
After breakout sessions are done, members will present what they found back to the group. This ensures you’re getting input from the whole group and it widens participation.
6. Tap into silent brainstorming
Silent brainstorming is another great way to lift engagement and push planning forward. In a remote session, pretend you're handing out virtual sticky notes. Ask everyone to write down ideas and have them share them with the group. This exercise will help inform those themes that drive your sprints. If there are ideas that don't fit neatly into themes, don’t worry. Just move them over to your parking lot to explore later.
7. Give yourself time to prepare
When quarterly planning sessions are remote, it’s easy to wrongly think they’ll require less time to build out than in-person events. But make no mistake, you need plenty of time to plan out quarterly sessions. It’s a good rule of thumb to allow 3-4 hours for every hour your meeting is expected to go. That means an eight-hour planning session takes a few days to prepare for, so be sure to give yourself ample time to set up agile marketing success.
Even though it takes work, with agile marketing and these simple best practices, you should be on your way to setting your team up for stellar quarterly planning sessions. But if your organization isn’t familiar with agile marketing, it may take some effort to get stakeholders onboard.
Need to secure extra resources for agile marketing or another marketing project? Try out our Marketing Spend Pitch Template and get the support you need from your executive team.
About the author
Hannah Shain was formerly the Vice President, Marketing at SmartBug Media. She leads demand generation, brand, marketing technology and more, and she is an energetic, ambitious, witty, and data-driven leader with over 14 years of hands-on marketing experience. Hannah brings a unique balance of seeing the bigger picture - assisting with market strategy and the launch of new lines of business - while also rolling up her sleeves to build from the ground up. She thrives in a fast-paced, collaborative environment, where she can lead a team, set goals and hunker down and get to work generating results. She leads all marketing initiatives that drive pipeline, increase lead velocity, and build a lovable brand. Read more articles by Hannah Shain.