Dispelling The Myth Of Failing Fast In Agile Marketing

Fail Fast Agile Marketing

Fear is a driving factor for not doing many things. Maybe it’s going after that dream job or going on an adventurous vacation. One thing fear should not drive is your marketing.

Agile marketing is known for the concept of ‘failing fast’. To a traditional marketer, this is a scary statement, and why shouldn’t it be? If you’re used to huge campaigns that take months to get done using large sums of money, failing at all sounds like a bad idea.

This is what separates agile marketing from traditional marketing. In a traditional waterfall marketing environment failure can be, and generally is, completely devastating to a marketing campaign.

With the use of smaller sprints to make a larger overall campaign, agile marketing has the advantage of being able to fail fast.

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If you are new to agile marketing and run across any terminology that you don’t know, check out our Glossary of Agile Marketing Terms.

Don’t Waste Your Agile Marketing With A Fear Of Failing

Agile marketing sprints are smaller and more manageable than a traditional marketing campaign because each of the sprints is a part of an overall, larger campaign. Because these sprints only last one to two weeks (generally), they have much less risk associated with them.

If you’re not familiar with agile marketing sprints then check out our slideshare How to Run an Agile Marketing Sprint.

Avoiding a sprint altogether because you think there is a possibility that it won’t succeed the first time is only going to limit your marketing efforts overall.

If anything comes up that is important enough to be a sprint, then the best thing to do is find a way to complete that task, even if that means failing the first time round.

If the first sprint fails, then you can figure out why and if necessary, make a new iteration of the sprint split into two separate sprints in order to better address the cause of the previous failure.

Why It Is Important To Fail Fast In Agile Marketing

In agile marketing, it is actually very important to fail fast. This doesn’t mean that you should be aiming for failure of course, but instead be willing to recognize failure and accept that failure quickly and logically.

Trying to avoid failure on something can lead to more time and money being wasted unnecessarily.

There are two key benefits to failing fast:

  • Learn from Mistakes
  • Find success faster

Learn From Your Mistakes

One very important aspect of failing fast in agile marketing is learning what mistakes were made to cause a sprint to fail. At the end of sprints there is a retrospective to look back at all of the sprints for that week.

This time is used to determine which sprints had success and what made them successful, as well as which sprints failed, why they failed and what can be done for success in future efforts.

Find Success Faster

By having more short iterations of a sprint to fix any failures that may occur you can find a successful way to complete a sprint faster.

Failing after running a big long term campaign not only wastes a lot of money and time, but it also makes it much more difficult to identify what went wrong.

Even if a sprint fails multiple times, each time gives you the opportunity to figure out what went wrong, make corrections, and find a successful iteration of the sprint within a few weeks.

It is much better to only have ‘wasted’ a single week on a sprint than to have had a massive failure for the entire project.

Fail Fast, But Don’t Fail Twice

This is the key factor in the fail fast concept of agile marketing, specifically to fail fast but don’t fail the same way twice. Why this is important should be relatively obvious; having a sprint fail for the same reason multiple times means that nothing was changed between the sprints.

The whole idea behind failing fast is to learn from your mistakes in order to succeed faster. So this doesn’t mean that a sprint can’t fail more than once (although we all would prefer that every sprint succeeds the first time).

Making changes to a failed sprint in order to fix the previous failure is what makes the fail fast concept work so well.

If a sprint fails multiple times for different reasons each time then that means that you have found that many issues with your campaign that would have still happened if you went with a big campaign.

The difference is that by finding these issues within short sprints, you found success for the campaign that much faster and affordably.

Where You Can Fail Faist, And Can Not

If you are new to agile marketing or are looking into adapting agile marketing, it is important to note where failing fast is okay and where it is still a big no no.


One type of sprint where failing fast is nothing to fear is when you might be testing out new subject lines for an email campaign. With this, the worst that can really happen is a possible diminishing in open rates for a single week, or more likely, not seeing a difference.

If you are really nervous with this sort of risk, you can always monitor with vigilance and change the subject lines back a few days into the sprint if the open rates start to go down.

A place you should never go into with a fail fast mindset is a project like a new PPC campaign. A mistake with a PPC campaign can have drastic effects as well as being very costly.

Make sure that you know the possible outcomes for failure before starting a risky sprint.

Failing Fast As A Newbie To Agile Marketing

As a newbie to the agile marketing world, there were a lot of new things to learn, and for myself the hardest to swallow was the idea of failing fast. Many a time in the past I’ve had minor panic attacks from the fear of failing on a project.

Throughout my life it was always ingrained in me that failure is not an option, that not only did I need to do my best to succeed, but what implications came with failure.

The idea of what one failure can cause can be very intimidating to anyone.

The issue that I had was with being able to accept a failure, even if it was very minor. Feedback that says that what I just put so much effort into wasn’t a 100% success was difficult to handle at first.

For myself, what changed that was when I finally understood how sprints worked. Understanding that sometimes a sprint will need a second iteration, or maybe even a third iteration, to get it right.

I wasn’t the only one on our team that was a newbie to agile marketing, so we wrote about the experience of Our First Six Weeks As An Agile Marketing Team.

Conclusion: Don’t Fear Failing Fast In Your Agile Marketing

If you expect to be successful in agile marketing, or if you’re hesitant about switching over to agile marketing, be sure that you get rid of that fear of failing fast.

It is key that every sprint, whether successful or not, is analyzed for what worked, what didn’t, and how to use this information for later sprints.01

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Alan Meyer
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Alan Meyer

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