Expert Interview Series: Part 2
Content Marketing Manager, Litmus
“Agile Email Marketing”
– The Way Forward
Content Marketing Manager, Litmus
“Agile” — It is such an impressive word. In today’s times, every marketer wants to be agile. However, the problem is that as attractive as it sounds, people are neither fully aware of what it means nor do they know how to implement it correctly.
Agile marketing encompasses six disciplines and four shifts, as you can see here:
Figure P.1 The Six Disciplines and the Four Shifts of Agile marketing
Source: The Six Disciplines of Agile Marketing
Proven Practices for More Effective Marketing and Better Business Results
By Jim Ewel · 2020
When it comes to email marketing, the agile methodology helps you to deliver timely content to your target audience while maintaining a consistent pace and sustainable approach.
To learn more about agile email marketing, we got in touch with Magan Le, Content Marketing Manager at Litmus, who has been actively executing the agile workflow since quite some time now.
So, let’s get some great insights into the subject from the subject matter expert, Magan.
You have been emphasizing on agile email marketing. Do you feel it is the future? Why?
Magan: Yes, agile email marketing is the future and the best way to stay ahead of your competitors and on top of your audience’s needs. We’ve seen during the pandemic and chaotic political and social climate how much things quickly changed and still are. Agile email marketing makes it much easier to adapt and focus on your subscribers.
How have you incorporated agile email marketing at Litmus?
Magan: We use our own tools to be quick and flexible in our email process. Our email design system lives in Litmus, so we can quickly drag and drop to create emails. Once we know the content we need to cover, I can start copywriting while our designer mocks up the email. And our developer can start to build it out because we already know what template and modules we’re going to use. Then, it’s just a matter of plugging text and images in and syncing to our ESP. And because Litmus automates QA testing, we don’t have to worry as much about broken emails.
We also have a reviews & approvals tool built in so we can collect everyone’s feedback in one place and we know exactly what it’s for. I hate all the usual back and forth because it’s sometimes confusing and wastes so much time. That’s not agile!
We’re also A/B testing a lot more because some of the things we thought we knew don’t work anymore. We’re all about staying in tune with our customers and subscribers, flexing to their needs.
Agile marketing demands email teams to be able to adapt and pivot at a moment’s notice. What do you suggest for the teams to be prepared for quick alterations?
Magan: The most important thing is to have an agile mindset. Know, accept, and expect that things change. So when you do need to adapt for the sake of your subscribers, everyone’s ready to jump in.
Beyond that, communication and team effort are critical. And email modules don’t hurt! So, even though I mostly do copywriting in our email process at Litmus, our modular email templates make it so that I can go in and easily build emails if I have to. And with my prior email experience, I can jump into our ESP to build lists and hit the send button.
So, set up your processes and tools so that they’re easy for others to spring into action. And then train them as needed so you’re not left scrambling.
Empathy-driven email marketing is getting more and more popular. How does agile marketing help to create emotion-driven emails?
Magan: If you’re not familiar with agile marketing, you might think it’s just about moving fast. I would argue that that’s merely a side effect.
The true purpose of being agile is to test and learn so you can get to know your audience better. And by doing that, you’re creating an experience that’s inherently empathetic.
So it’s not that 2020 forced everyone to change their marketing plans. 2020 changed people’s behaviors and feelings—and that’s what’s forcing brands to empathize and shift to stay relevant. Many companies that weren’t agile enough to do so suffered the consequences—getting shut down or canceled.
What are the main benefits of agile email marketing? Which primary problem does it solve, according to you?
Magan: The main benefits of agile email marketing are:
Saving time in your email workflow
Focusing on your audience’s needs
Greater speed to market
According to our State of Email Workflows report, 52% of marketers spend two weeks or more to complete a single email from conception to hitting the send button. Our email developer can literally build an email in 10 minutes! That’s probably going to be the most noticeable impact for most brands.
If newbie email marketers want to employ the agile methodology, what would be your suggestions for them?
Magan: I wrote a helpful guide on the agile email workflow, but to summarize, my suggestions are to:
- Get your team and tools in place. Cross-team collaboration is important to staying lean and agile without adding a new headcount. And with the right toolset, you can fill in skills gaps and streamline or automate parts of your process.
- Align on email strategy. Otherwise, there can be miscommunication and confusion which results in even more work and time wasted.
- Write, design, and build at the same time. Finishing one thing before doing the next takes too long. Standardized email design and a visual email editor can help your team do these tasks concurrently.
- Collect feedback in one place. Juggling feedback from different people in different places is a pain, not to mention hard to keep up with.
- Analyze and share insights. It’s the best way to learn what resonates with your audience so you can fine-tune your emails and make sure your time is spent working on what matters.
There are many small businesses who might be struggling with their email execution process. How can they go agile?
Magan: Get help from someone else at your company, even if it’s not their role. Maybe your web developer can code emails and tinker with design. Agile is definitely not about being perfect; as long as it’s on brand, works, and meets your audience’s needs, you’re good to go.
There are also a lot of free or very affordable tools out there that can help speed up execution. Some kind of WYSIWYG or visual editor would be a huge asset. There are also plenty of free email templates and stock images you can use so you can whip something up real quick.
And remember to learn as you go! As a small business, you’re likely more nimble and closer to your customers than larger businesses with lots of red tape and hoops to jump through. Use that to your advantage.
This methodology is all about multi-tasking. Wouldn’t it get too overwhelming? What’s the right way to go about it?
Magan: Agile marketing isn’t really about multi-tasking. Sure, it’s about doing tasks in tandem, but that doesn’t mean it’s one person doing multiple things at the same time. Agile marketing is about collaboration, using the expertise of others across your company. It’s not an excuse to be overworked. But that’s why it’s critical to have strategy alignment so you’re not wasting time. And if you don’t have the team, then you should have tools to help fill in the gaps.
What can go wrong when an organization chooses this methodology? How can it be avoided?
Magan: It depends if you’re doing true agile marketing or if you’re just taking ideas from it to make your email workflow agile.
You talked about being overwhelmed. That can happen—as well as being slowed down—if not everyone is on board or understands what agile means. Getting buy-in and support across the company is a must! In a previous role, we had focused teams doing agile marketing projects and then other folks doing business-as-usual (BAU) work. But we worked closely with sales and legal teams who were not agile, and that was painful. And if you don’t set boundaries (and have the support for that), then if you’re doing agile work, people are going to expect you to do BAU work, too. That’s not good for both your workload and the agile project.
If you’re just using some ideas from agile in order to do more with less, the risk is that you may be working too fast—and that leads to mistakes. Automation tools like Litmus Test can do the heavy lifting for you because QA testing emails for things like broken links are so easy to miss.
Which are the tools that assist the agile methodology? Any specific ones an email marketer would need toinvest in?
Magan: If we’re just talking tools, some helpful ones are:
- WYSIWYG or visual editor, preferably one that’s drag-and-drop to make it easy for literally anyone to build emails (there are several choices out there, including Litmus Builder)—and even better if it also syncs your code instantly to your ESP
- Collaboration or messaging tool to keep everyone on the same page and to make the feedback process seamless (of course I have to mention Litmus Proof but even something like Slack works; just avoid email threads!)
- Automated QA testing tool because it’ll save you a ton of time and catch critical issues you might overlook
- Automated reporting tool because manually pulling data takes way too long (and please don’t skip post-send analysis)
The recurring theme is efficiency! Get what you can to do great email marketing fast. Automate and use artificial intelligence (AI) as much as possible if it’s in your budget.
Any parting thoughts you would like to share with our readers who wish to employ this technique?
Magan: My biggest advice is to start small. Start with one email. One reusable code module. Or one part of the process. Take a half-step if you need to.
Change is hard and won’t happen overnight. Going agile isn’t an all-or-nothing deal. Even one tiny step will make a world of difference. And those tiny steps add up.
We hope this interview has added to your knowledge about agile email marketing and got you all prepared to go agile.
Thank you Magan for your time and this valuable information. It will surely inspire all our readers to try out agile marketing methodology.