Marketing methodologies and techniques have drastically evolved in the last decade.
No longer is it advisable (or even affordable) to create a 12-month or a 6-month content marketing plan, with reviews at the end of the sprint. In today’s extremely dynamic digital space, a single Google update can pull the carpet right out from under your feet if you’re not careful enough.
While traditional marketing places the producers and their sales cycle at the center of the business, agile marketing prioritizes the customers and their buying process instead. Let’s briefly understand more about Agile Content Marketing.
Understanding Agile Content Marketing
Taking inspiration from the Agile technique for software development, Agile content marketing is a strategy in which teams work collaboratively towards a common, short-term goal, in a defined time period. Team members actively track results of their output and proceed in an iterative manner to improve over time.
Broadly speaking, Agile content marketing is about:
- Iterating rapidly over long-term campaigns.
- Responding to changes and flexibilities in content plans.
- Relying on data and numbers instead of assumptions or opinions.
- Performing small tests and experiments instead of working on standalone bets.
- Collaborating and communicating with different teams and ensuring transparency of operations.
Agile is not just a paper tiger – it has shown proven benefits. According to a research conducted by VersionOne, 97% of organizations say they’ve experienced success with an Agile content marketing project. Likewise, 55% of Agile marketing teams are able to modify their plans on the fly based on the feedback and undated requirements.
Agile Marketing Mitigates Risk
There is an element of risk that comes associated with any piece of content you create. This risk is basically about the ratio of the time and effort you’ve put into the piece and the returns from the asset.
This is the risk every content marketer faces with everything they create – and generally, they try to mitigate this risk with their “creative process”. However, the problem with creative processes is that they generally operate not in reality but in abstractions of reality.
As content marketers, it is easy to slip into the thought that we can outsmart customers by being creative. As a result, we tend to go all guns blazing with our creative hats on – but forget two important elements in this process:
- Iterative feedback
- Including the customers
In doing so, we’re setting our content pieces and campaign ideas for failure. The statistics reflect the failure on the part of the content marketers, here:
- 35% of the entire marketing budget is used to create content.
- One third of marketers take more than seven weeks to create a medium-length piece of content.
- 71% of B2B consumers said they have faced disappointment with the content they engage with.
- Only 5% of all leads generated by best-in-class marketers will be generated into revenue.
These are all concerning numbers – and the reason behind this is a flawed content marketing process. This is precisely what Agile content marketing aims to solve.
Agile Marketing Values to Streamline Your Content Process
Let’s look at some Agile marketing values and strategies that you can quickly put to practice and streamline your content marketing process!
Most of the time, content marketers and creators tend to create content without paying a close attention to the users’ needs. Such pieces of content don’t end up being helpful to the client, and therefore don’t give much results.
To avoid this problem, the Agile approach suggests using customer stories. Also known as user stories, customers stories are to remind the content teams about the audience (or the customer) of the content piece, the purpose of creating the content, and the value it adds.
Customers’ stories are not very elaborate or long-winded – they’re usually just a couple of sentences. This should be just enough to give your content marketing team all the information they need in order to churn out the most user-empathetic content.
A simple format can be used to come up with customer stories for your content pieces:
“As a <persona>, I would like some <kind of content> to achieve an <outcome>”
So, for this blog post, following the above template, we can come up with the following customer persona:
“As a content marketer, I would like a well explained blog post about best values of Agile Marketing”
You can add more variables, create multiple personas, and do a lot more to personalize your content efforts even more. There are no hard and fast rules here, and this was just a template to get you started with creating the very basic user stories.
A content marketing team that follows the Agile approach generally releases content frequently. The purpose of doing so is to not just have a high publishing velocity, but also to get any kind of feedback – both positive or negative.
By shipping content faster and routinely testing what works and not, and acting on the feedback received, content teams are able to work in sprints and create micro-campaigns to achieve more targeted goals. These smaller campaigns can be released every couple of weeks and the results can be monitored.
Creating and publishing content frequently does not mean sacrificing quality. A great example to look up to in this regard is Santander’s ‘Unlock You London’ campaign. Instead of creating one large campaign, they broke it down into weekly campaigns and evaluated the piece based on the feedback received. Using this approach, they were able to scale the campaigns that were getting tractions, while the unsuccessful campaigns got abandoned – saving the company a lot of time and money.
Evidently, Agile content marketing is a dynamic, fast-paced approach to content marketing. So, in order to keep all the parties well aligned, it is important to have daily check-in calls or standups.
In an Agile environment, these daily standups go beyond just giving an update on the work. These sessions help everyone involved to get on board with common goals and objectives.
The length, agenda, and content of these daily standups will vary depending on your requirements, but the importance of having daily check-ins can’t be overstated in an Agile marketing atmosphere.
Generally, here are three broad things that can be discussed by everyone during the daily calls:
- What did I accomplish yesterday?
- What do I look to accomplish today?
- What are the roadblocks or obstacles I’m facing along the way?
When everyone involved in the content creation and marketing process introspects based on these questions, the entire team gets a lot of clarity in terms of working towards a common goal.
Retrospectives After Sprints
At the end of each campaign or sprint, Agile marketing teams discuss three important things:
- What went wrong?
- What worked well?
- What can be improved / modified?
- What needs to be dropped / abandoned?
To keep these after-sprints discussions on track, Andrea Fryer, co-founder of AgileSherpas, suggests these three rules:
- Involve only Agile team members in these retrospectives. Don’t include any outsiders, including stakeholders. The Scrum Master can attend the meeting, but the Product Owner and other management can not.
- Have civil and positive discussions. Focus on the process and tasks and NOT the people. Avoid playing the blame-game, and instead, look forward towards the next campaign.
- Focus on actionability. Identify issues that can be fixed, and allocate resources to fixing the said issues.
Just liked Daily Standups, Retrospectives are also a chance for team members to improve on their work and have transparent communication with one another.
Work In Progress (WIP) Limits
Content teams are infamous for trying to juggle with multiple projects at one time.
To ensure timely completion of projects, without spending additional money or resources, Agile marketing teams use WIP limits. The purpose of having these limits is to eliminate excessive multitasking, and instead focus on achieving small goals, and getting smaller amounts of work accomplished. In doing so, the teams are not only able to take care of deadlines and such, but also they get to ship content faster and iteratively improve.
As an example, imagine you’re managing a small content team of 3 writers and an editor. You have a backlog of 10 articles to complete. In order to get the project completed ASAP, you might decide to assign all the articles to one writer, and ask them to submit all the articles by the end of the week. In taking such an approach, you might be faced with one (or several) of the following problems:
- The writer may rush through their work in order to meet the deadline, thereby compromising quality.
- The writer might end up multitasking on several pieces at once, without being able to pay proper attention to any one specific piece.
- The finished content pieces might come just a day before the deadline, leading the writer to be overworked.
- The articles might not pass the editing process, and all the efforts will go down the drain.
On the other hand, if you take the WIP limits approach, you’ll see a completely different picture.
Instead of assigning all articles to one writer at once, you’d want to use multiple writers and assign 1-2 articles per writer, and set short deadlines. If you have a resource cruch and can use just one writer, you should still assign just 1-2 articles per day, and ask the writer to submit at the end of every day. In doing so, you’re not overwhelming the writer with 10 topics and also allowing enough time for the editor to do their magic.
Instead of sending all the articles when done, the writer can keep sending each content piece as and when it is completed. Then, the editor can start reviewing and editing the first few articles while the writer works on the other articles. This way, content quality won’t be compromised, none of the involved parties will be overwhelmed with work, and content will ship a lot faster.
Use WIP limits to assign achievable tasks to your team members and set reasonable and short deadlines. In doing so, you’ll realize that you’ve removed most of the bottlenecks while monitoring the entire progress till the whole task is complete.
Build a Marketing Tech Stack
WIP limits and Daily Standups are not the only weapons in an Agile team’s arsenal. In fact, a successful Agile marketing team needs to be expert at using different tools to curate, create, publish, and promote content in an agile manner.
There are various marketing tools to pick from. These few tools should be good to get you started with setting up your content marketing tech stack:
- Task management tools – like Trello or Asana, to make work more transparent, visible, and manageable.
- Collaboration tools – like Basecamp or Slack to help teams have a clear communication channel.
- A CMS (Content Management System) that integrates easily with your digital resources and helps you easily publish your content.
- Digital Asset Management Tools like Adobe Experience Manager Assets in order to store and share digital assets.
- Emailing, campaign tracking, and overall MarTech tools like MailChimp, HubSpot, or Drip to plan, perform, track, and analyze your campaigns.
Content marketing tools are spread across both the length and the breadth – in the sense that not only are there tools for many different uses, but also there are several tools that cater to one particular use case. As a result, it gets difficult to narrow down to the exact marketing stack you’d like to use for your agile approach. TO help with that, here are some pointers from Agile Sparks.
- An agile tool should speak marketers’ language and not force marketers to learn the language of IT.
- The tool should be flexible and scalable. It should allow marketers to follow agile practices.
- It should allow different teams to co-exist, cooperate, and communicate while easily adapting to the tool.
- It should emphasize on simplicity and streamlined workflows, and easily integrate with other tools you’ll use.
- It should give actionable insights that you can utilize for further campaigns.
The practices and techniques discussed above are good enough to help you quickly get started with Agile marketing strategies, while figuring out what works and what doesn’t for your content efforts. However, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and therefore, the values and strategies are also not hard and fast. Based on your requirements, budget, resources, and deadlines, you can alter the strategies to suit your needs. The only thing you should keep in mind is to improve your content efforts iteratively and always weigh the feedback of your previous content pieces. If you do this, you’re on your way to making your content process Agile and streamlined.
That said, if you’re still unsure about how to utilize Agile marketing for your cause – reach out to the good folks at ContentNinja. We’re pretty agile and lean, and so are our approaches. We’ve helped all sorts of clients, belonging to different domains, streamline their workflow with an Agile approach – we can help you, too!
If you have any concerns on the article, please drop a comment below!