We recently talked to nearly 20 professional marketing teams about major problems they encounter. Project management, time management and general workload visibility were recurring issues. Which got me thinking...

Marketers are time-strapped. They're constantly being pulled in multiple directions. Between the endless meetings, daily tactics, and large strategic campaigns, it can feel like things get off pace quickly. Deadlines turn into emergencies and you compensate with late nights or blown opportunities - projects get rushed or deadlines are never met. 

Agile is a great framework adopted from software technology teams. That said, you might be thinking, "how does this apply to marketers, then?" 

For marketing teams specifically, we're used to constant change. Many of our tactics are beholden to external tools like social media and search engines that can (and often do) shift the rules frequently. 

Adding concepts from Agile can add to the flexibility that modern marketing teams require. 

One important concept of Agile Marketing is breaking large marketing projects down into smaller pieces using sprint planning. This post will walk you through what Agile sprint planning is and how you can create your own Agile sprint planning process to double your team's results.

By working in smaller chunks, your team can focus on completing one task at a time, as efficiently as possible.

Here's how to do it on a practical level.

1. Define the Project

Before you get started with Agile sprint planning, you'll want to make sure that the project is a good fit for an Agile approach. 

Agile is best fit for big projects like website redesigns or marketing campaigns that have many moving parts. 

Think of the 10x vs 10 percent framework. 10x projects are the things that will produce 10x growth for your business; while 10 percent items are things that will only result in 10% growth. 

Any 10x project you take on will benefit from Agile sprint planning. These projects will likely take multiple weeks - breaking them down into smaller parts i.e. sprints, makes the project more likely to be completed on time and on budget.

2. Schedule A Sprint Planning Meeting

The next step involves scheduling the actual sprint planning meeting. 

Everyone who will be working on the project in any capacity should attend this meeting. The meeting sets out to walk everyone through each task and the project deliverables. The meeting itself is primarily about breaking down the project into small pieces that are easy to accomplish. 

3. Task Breakdown

Each task within the project needs to be broken out during the Agile sprint planning meeting. You'll want to get fairly granular with this. For instance, writing an email and proofing an email will be separate tasks.

At this time, the project manager will ask for a clear definition of time budgets. I.e. how long it will take to complete each task? 

You can use a point system where 1 is the least complex task and 3 is the most complex. This book is a great resource Scrum: a Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction.

4. Add up Points (or days) and Confirm Timeline

The idea here is to add up all the points and estimate the velocity or sprint length. 

Every project has a deadline. For the sake of this exercise, let's say that the project needs to be completed in 4 weeks.  

Once you add up all the points in your project, you can determine if 4 weeks is a reasonable amount of time to complete the work. 

Let's say that your project adds up to 58 points and your team determines they can complete 15 points per week - you should be able to complete the project in under 4 weeks.

If your point tally adds up to 80 points, you are off budget. To rectify this, start going through your tasks and removing items that add too many points. You're essentially lessening the scope of your project so you can hit your deadline. 

5. Daily Scrums 

Once you've backed down on the scope and you have all your tasks planned, teams break out and begin completing their work on the project. 

From here, you will begin daily check-ins called scrums or stand-ups. These should only take 5-8 minutes. 

You will ask three questions: 

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What will you do today? 
  • Any roadblocks? 

Roadblocks your team encounters may mean that additional time is needed to complete a task. This could mean additional tasks will be added to the list or others removed to stay within budget. Keep tracking points for every task added or removed to ensure you stay within budget and can hit your deadline. 

By adopting Agile sprint planning, our own marketing team has doubled our results. We have clear project visibility, projects get completed on time, and we spend less time tracking down progress updates.