6 Ways Agile Saves Your Content Marketing from Chaos
The longer you’ve used content marketing as part of your overall marketing strategy, the more you realize that your best laid plans will often go out the window when new information or business opportunities force you to pivot. Responding to shifting priorities is part of marketing, especially in the digital era. Being hyper-adaptive can have its downsides though, especially when being reactive prevents you from being proactive, and therefore prepared for what’s next.
As Percussion ramped up our content marketing efforts in 2013, we needed a solid governance structure that allowed us to be as efficient as possible. Having long been managing our product lifecycle using agile development, it was a natural fit for us to use agile practices to manage our marketing efforts. These are the guidelines that have kept us sane, productive, and focused on the big picture even as new projects crop up daily.
1. Make your Content Strategy your first deliverable
A content strategy is a critical component of content marketing, and in an agile framework, this needs to be the first deliverable. If you are just starting your content marketing efforts or even trying to improve them, there is a strong desire to just keep producing and figure out what’s working as you go. But to avoid a “ready, fire, aim” situation, it is best if you take a step back conduct a content audit, identify personas, and map content to personas at each stage of the sales cycle. Taking this step back will ensure you have a clear list of what is needed and a prioritized set of deliverables.
2. Use sprint barriers to ensure things get done
For anyone who has ever worked on a strategy, be it corporate, product or marketing, you’ve probably experienced how difficult it is to declare a strategy as Complete. More data can always be analyzed; more stakeholders can have input; wording and presentation can continue to be refined. Agile helps with that. Sprints can force urgency. Rather than noodle on perpetually refining “the best” strategy, use a sprint barrier as a way of declaring that the current version is done so that you can move on to other deliverables. This can work for any set of content deliverables. To avoid working on 20 different things but never completing any, sprints can help you to force urgency and delivery.
3. Use Sprint reviews to reassess what’s working on a regular basis
Each sprint begins with an assessment of what needs to be done next and ends with a retrospective of what was delivered. Both of these are opportunities to reassess what is working, what isn’t working, where there are gaps and adjust accordingly. When done with a deliverable, rather than automatically moving on to the next stage, sprint kickoff and sprint reviews allow you to regroup and make right whatever is turning out wrong before building on top of a shaky foundation.
4. Iterate in a more structured fashion
One of the principles of agile is that releasing something isn’t the end of the journey; it’s the beginning. The content you develop will inevitably need to be updated, revised, and improved. Agile helps you manage that in a more structured fashion. For example, we reassess our content strategy approximately every quarter. Our content strategy serves as the lighthouse that we use to help frame our sprint work. Knowing that we are going to reassess it as part of a future sprint gives us more comfort that it doesn’t have to be perfect in its current incarnation.
5. Avoid distractions
There is always the temptation to drop everything to solve the “problem du jour”. But Agile helps put a framework in place that allows you to ask questions like “does this take priority over commitments I’ve already made?”, “Can I get this done without impacting my deliverables?”, and if something does take precedence “who do I have to let know a deliverable will be delayed?” Two-week sprints are typically a nice balance because it will minimize the chances that you have to drop what you’re doing to accommodate unplanned work. Most of the time, “crises” can usually be handled in the next sprint, allowing you to finish your current commitments.
6. Get everyone rowing in the same direction
Sprint kickoffs, sprint reviews and stand up meetings are a great way of creating transparency and alignment. Our marketing team members know exactly what’s being worked on, what’s at risk, and where help is needed. If you can include other stakeholders such as Sales Ops, Product Marketing, IT, etc in kickoffs and reviews, the whole organization can see exactly where you are at any given time. (At Percussion, we have a marketing kanban board that we use to track our work powered by Trello that anyone in the organization can see what’s happening.) These meetings also help with getting commitment from resources outside of Marketing to assist in Marketing deliverables. When looking for blog posts from our customer success team or sales engineers, getting them to commit in a sprint ensures can ensure you’re not perpetually priority 2 on their list.
Ultimately, the goal of Agile is continuous improvement. You’re trying to make great content that helps inform your audience and achieve your organization’s goals. Using Agile methods will help you deliver the content you planned for, as well as step up when your to-do list gets a little heavy on the unexpected.
Dan is a product management specialist with over 15 years of experience building new enterprise products and launching them successfully to market. He has extensive customer and sales facing experience, outlining product solutions that have been successful for customers from 300 to 300,000 employees. Well over 3 million users are using products he has launched. In his spare time, Dan spends his disposable income on Apple products and dreams of seeing his name in TechCrunch.