In February 2001, a bunch of software developers got together in Snowbird, Utah to discuss lightweight development methods. They published the Manifesto for Agile Software Development to define what is now known as agile software development.
“The Agile Manifesto” defined their core values, which was:
Individuals and interactions over Processes and tools
Working software over Comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over Contract negotiation
Responding to change over Following a plan
They emphasized that they valued the items on the left more than the right.
Further definition was given:
Individuals and interactions – in agile development, self-organization and motivation are important, as are interactions like co-location and pair programming.
Working software – working software will be more useful and welcome than just presenting documents to clients in meetings.
Customer collaboration – requirements cannot be fully collected at the beginning of the software development cycle, therefore continuous customer or stakeholder involvement is very important.
Responding to change – agile development is focused on quick responses to change and continuous development. (source)
These software developers picked up on something that now reverberates throughout the business world.
Which is: success belongs to he who can anticipate change and respond intelligently with disruptive innovation.
I believe the same applies to marketing.
The days of spending a year to launch one campaign are over. Technology has increased time to market in a way that still has most marketers scrambling.
Content marketing is a way to keep up with the speed. It takes me a few hours to write a blog post, find a decent image for it, publish it and then promote it.
Going back to The Agile Manifesto, I can see a correlation to marketing that goes something like this:
Individuals and interactions – in agile marketing, communication is paramount, both between departments and with current customers.
Working methodologies – agile marketing needs strategy but also frameworks that demonstrate development and growth.
Client collaboration – agile marketing needs to be aware of the social media conversations revolving around their brand and leverage them.
Responding to change – agile marketing relies on quick responses to change with Internet search trends, social media and any outside forces that affect the delivery of content marketing and pivot quickly to address those changes.
The factors that influence buyers have increased. A news event could cause a consumer to buy today rather than later. Or hearing about a hot fashion trend on the West coast could make a young Midwestern high school girl decide she suddenly has to have it.
Marketers will survive by first, paying attention and then second, using that information to make quick decisions.
Goodbye Mr. Perfect
The French novelist, Gustave Flaubert, said that perfection is the enemy of the good. One can spend days, weeks or months trying to perfect their creation, meanwhile losing out on developing other ideas.
Alex Lickerman, M.D., a Buddhist physician, talks about why a pursuit of perfection can paralyze:
We lose perspective on the quality of our creations the moment we create them. And the more we pore back over them in pursuit of a fresh perspective, the farther it moves away from us. Combine this with the need for perfection and the result is often paralysis.
The irony, of course, is that while “perfect” may exist as a concept that impels us to keep trying to better our work, any judgment that we’ve achieved it in any particular instance remains entirely subjective and therefore by definition imperfect. This almost certainly explains why we can judge something perfect one minute and then hopelessly flawed the next without making a single change. (Psychology Today, Why Perfect is the Enemy of Good, June 26, 2011)
The problem with marketing is that it now has to get the “green light” from more people. And each person has their own perspective that will affect whether they approve of it or not.
Many people are so afraid of making a mistake that they end up obstructing progress because they’re waiting for perfection.
It’s an exercise in futility. Marketing is rarely perfect because we’re trying to target a moving object, mainly—a consumer’s desire to buy.
Long ago, I kicked Mr. Perfect out the door and embraced Mr. Good Enough.
Mr. Good Enough and I have become very close.
The artist in me (who was obsessed with Mr. Perfect), would insist on dabbling the paint just slightly more on this particular part of the canvas. Or fiddle with the arrangement of words in this particular sentence.
This means that every once in awhile, there will be a typo in my newsletter. Or a misspelled word. Or an overlooked key point in a presentation.
However, saying “good enough” to one project so I can move on to the next one has been enormously beneficial for my own creative process.
For me, it’s the secret to productivity.
This does not mean that I’m happy with creating mediocrity, either.
I strive to create my very best any time I work on a project. But as I continue to improve my skills, I also realize there comes a time when I need to say “it is finished”—even though I may feel I’m far from the reality of that statement.
Every marketer must face this battle.
It is the same battle that must be waged by those in the C-level suite, too.
In the age of agile marketing, you cannot wait to achieve perfection. You don’t have the luxury of time.
You must instead decisively pursue the good and then pursue the next good. And in time, the good will get better and become excellent.
And I think that process is pretty close to perfect.