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Why Content Marketing Needs Agile

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As marketers we love to embrace the next shiny new thing, rebrand it and call it our own.  Agile Marketing is one such example of this “shiny new thing”, offering much opportunity for improving the impact of content marketing.

Agile marketing, as described by Jake Sorofman of Gartner, “dictates an iterative approach to planning and execution that allows organizations to deliver continuous value back to the business, using frequent delivery as the probe to solicit feedback from customers (both internal and external) that informs—and improves—subsequent iterations. Agile is about delivering business value through rapid learning—when we plan, execute and measure in tight, consecutive loops, we get smarter, faster.”  It’s an approach to marketing that borrows from agile developers, mainly centering on adaption to change. Yes, agile marketing will improve response rates, increase brand awareness and/or inspire your CMO to give you a big raise; but more specifically you should consider it as a management framework for your content marketing programs for the following reasons:

1. Content marketing in an uncertain medium – Sure, we have all created blogs or eBooks that we believe are earth-shattering, but the truth is that until we release them “into the wild” we don’t truly know what will happen.  We can reduce the risk of failure by “borrowing” from others or reusing and repurposing content that worked in the past, but the sad truth is that content marketing is a risky venture that requires trial and error.  Learning and adjusting are essential and Agile is a management approach that acknowledges this uncertainty.

2. Content marketing is typically digital – If you are building a content marketing program with a strong web component, then there is a good chance that your developers are familiar with Agile.  While this approach might be new to your marketing team, you can use it as a way to mitigate project risk, get closer to the coders and launch on time.

3. Content marketing is part of a moving conversation – This means it is challenging to create a “plan” to handle blogging and responding in a fast moving environment.  I respect the need for a high level editorial calendar but in reality you can’t predict what your competitors or industry pundits will do so why waste time building a plan and pretending you can?  The short planning cycles and frequent meetings ensure learning and adaptation to what is happening in real-time.

4. Content marketing requires cross-functional expertise – Agile provides a simple, transparent process that spans teams and functions.

5. Content marketing is being held accountable – Pretty much all of marketing is being held accountable for delivering value to the business…. quickly.  The short planning cycles used with Agile allow team members to gather data, digest and adjust.  This minimizes those uncomfortable moments of explaining when a big program delivered poor results.

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While Agile is “the rage” in marketing today, most marketers are still embracing waterfall-planning approaches with accompanying plans, work- back schedules and spreadsheets.  The fact is that not everything must be agile.  If you have to “go agile” then I suggest:

  • Start small – Pick a small project with measurable results and a history of delays
  • Choose a project that looks like software development – For example, digital marketing projects are great places to start and often you can pull in a developer who already knows about Agile to help the team.
  • Consider areas with rapid change or less certain outcomes – One idea is managing your blog with Agile.  One can really never know what post will “pop” and what won’t.
  • Start with Something that has strongly measurable ROI – If you can’t demonstrate results, how are you going to convince someone that it worked (or didn’t work)

Also, be sure to pick a content marketing project and fill the team with people who are comfortable with uncertainty.  Agile will not overcome lousy design, poor grammar, or bad social media manners, but it can help your team adjust to improve results.

For more information, take a look at the presentation I gave on Agile marketing at Curata’s Content Marketing Forum in July.

To learn more about putting a content marketing strategy in place, download Curata’s Content Marketing Tactics Planner.

 

Frank Days

Frank is an experienced technology CMO who is currently working at an early stage software startup. Previously, he served as the director of new and social media at Novell after a decade of heading marketing organizations at high-growth organizations, including TwinStrata, Experian-QAS, and Ipswitch. He also hosts the Marketing Agility Podcast.

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