There was a time when Agile just applied to software development, but there’s a reason why it’s now being applied across all kinds of business functions. According to VersionOne, 98% of organisations say they’ve experienced success with an Agile project.
As B2B tech copywriters, we write a lot about Agile in technology and development. Which is why I attended Agile on the Beach – an annual Agile conference hosted in Cornwall (just up the road from Radix Towers, in fact), with delegates from a host of sectors and industries.
But early in the conference, something else caught my attention: we rarely consider how we can apply Agile within our own copywriting practice.
I picked up five distinct themes from Agile on the Beach that struck me as highly applicable not just to developers, but also to copywriting – and any other organisation that needs to deliver multiple, high-quality projects at speed.
It doesn’t matter what you call them – Agile processes, logic, common sense – they can deliver significant value to the way we all work.
5 Agile themes we can all apply
1. Always seek to learn more and ask more questions
Experience is valuable – but it should also teach us to constantly ask questions and refine how we do things. The key to any project we haven’t encountered before – whether it’s a new content marketing format, or a new kind of tech – is to research, and test and learn. How are we supposed to demonstrate authority if we haven’t read around a subject or tried and tested the possibilities?
Nobody’s perfect, but those of us who ask more questions are most likely to get it right – so let’s be open-minded and keep looking for new ways to improve.
2. Never think you’re the best at what you do
A tendency to compare ourselves with others can sometimes be a curse, but it also allows us to refine what we do. And keep in mind, there’s always someone better at what you do – which should keep you striving for more.
Many of us reach a point where we consider ourselves experts in a field, which is great for whatever you’re working on. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be mindful of what’s going on around us and be willing to try out new and alternative ideas.
3. Don’t be afraid to fail
One session at Agile on the Beach, run by Ilan Kirschenbaum, focused on seven dangerous things to try with your development team – an idea derived from the book by Gever Tulley, 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).
“Failure is not an option” is a phrase often uttered in some organisations. But then, how do you learn – or test new ideas? Instead, create a structure that gives room to fail in a controlled way. For example, at Radix we have content leads and internal reviews, so we can try approaches, and learn from mistakes, without risking the quality of the finished client work.
The result? We’re free to make bolder choices – which means our clients’ content can stand out, more of the time.
4. Listen to what customers do, not what they say
Market-based validation, or observing customers’ habits, should influence all B2B technology copy. One of the biggest mistakes organisations make when writing is believing they know what customers want, without confirming these hypotheses beforehand.
In Agile marketing, this might involve monitoring what your customers do online – even without them realising it. But however you achieve it, the important part is to truly discover what your customers think, and how they react to your copy. It means you can keep learning more about your customers’ mindset.
5. Understand the difference between utilisation and flow
Any writer will know that being consistently at capacity is not an efficient way to work. Take roads as an example – a full motorway is completely utilised, but it’s as inefficient as an empty one.
As Scott Brinker says in Hacking Marketing, it’s a fascinating time to work in marketing, and as copywriters, we feel that too. But it’s also a dizzying time with so much change happening around us.
Having a little wiggle-room to deal with unforeseen tasks and issues that crop up enables teams to become highly efficient and more productive. Just like in the world of software development, it’s about managing workloads more intelligently.
Agile processes: are we new converts?
At Radix, we’re always seeking to improve the way we do things, and find ways to deliver better quality, more efficiently. We may not refer to our practices as being Agile, but the principles are similar to how we work day-to-day.
Like our friend Lyssa-Fêe Crump, Marketing Manager at Cornwall-based software developers Headforwards said in her session:
“Marketing is hectic, and could benefit from Agile processes.”
This makes a lot of sense – strip away the noise around Agile and you’re left with a set of logical, common-sense approaches which you can apply to most organisations and departments.
It’s true, there’s still significant debate about the value of Agile outside of software development – how much is really a step forward, and how much is clever branding and hype. But if we can embrace at least some aspects of Agile thinking and practice, there’s potential for organisations (including copywriting teams) to deliver smart, efficient projects that meets customers’ needs more closely. And that has to be a good thing.