The Secret to Better Content Marketing Comes From the World of Software Development


agile development

Agile is the prevailing trend in software development, and its philosophy is simple: Keep things loose and remain flexible as the nature and requirements of the project evolve.

Rather than collecting detailed project specs at the beginning of an initiative and developing exactly what the specs require, developers are starting out with a framework or sketch of the project specs, and then adjusting their approach as they learn more and get deeper into the project.

There are several advantages to this. Most notably, it prevents the possibility of wasting an entire project’s worth of development on a product that isn’t going to work or fulfill client expectations. It also allows for faster development cycles, and progressively improves an understanding of the project.

My realm of specialty is content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), so why am I talking about software development? Because the agile methodology can be conceptually applied to the content marketing world—and it might be the best thing to ever happen to your online marketing campaign.

The advantages of agile content marketing

So why is an “agile” approach good for content marketers?

  • Conceptual mastery. First, taking on an agile approach forces you to consider the broad concepts and goals of your campaign far more than details like how many posts you want to publish per week, or how you’re going to promote them. Before you get wrapped up in the step-by-step processes or the ground-level details, you should be defining the high-level vision of your campaigns—which is where many new content marketers go wrong. They think in terms of blog topics and exposure, rather than mastering the principles behind them.
  • Acknowledgment of flaws. Adopting an agile approach is also an admission to yourself and your team that your campaign isn’t going to be perfect—and of course it’s not. If you sketch out the “ideal” content campaign and spend months executing it, you might never realize (or realize too late) that there’s a fundamental mismatch between your ideal audience and target audience, or that there’s an inefficiency in your execution that keeps you from seeing a positive ROI. Agile methodologies give you time and reason to spot and correct those flaws.
  • Competitive preparation. Content marketing is more popular than ever, which means there are probably dozens of companies like yours already participating in the strategy, and once you enter the market, there will be more to threaten your reign. An agile strategy gives you breathing room so you can plan to encounter the competition, and make changes to account for it.
  • Industry change preparation. SEO and content marketing are also industries marked by change. Every year, there are new technologies that consumers can use to consume content and new rules to abide by on the SEO front. An agile strategy makes it easier to proactively identify these changes and adjust your strategy so you can survive in a world that features them.
  • Riding the growth curve. Content marketing is a strategy that relies on an extended timeline; the longer you invest in it, the higher your ROI will be, but getting started is notoriously difficult. An agile strategy, which relies on loosely defined parameters and expectations then gradually becomes more detailed and specific, fits this growth curve perfectly. It allows you to make the most of your ambiguous, low-ROI beginnings, and gradually become more adept as that ROI starts to rise and you gain more experience.
  • Complacency avoidance. An agile content marketing campaign is one that requires you to constantly assess your performance and make ongoing tweaks to your approach. These requirements force you to avoid complacency, the tendency to accept your current level of performance without any significant alterations.

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How to get started

So how can you make changes to your existing infrastructure and processes to make them more agile, without starting over from scratch with a brand-new strategy?

1. Define your goals. Before you do anything else, outline your main goals as concisely as possible. Do you want more organic traffic? Are you hoping to achieve more conversions? Do you want a better brand reputation? Or some custom blend of the three?

2. Start with broad topics and directives. Instead of digging deep into keyword research or delving into a specific niche, start with a broad topic and experiment with different types of content. Ordinarily, it’s good to define your brand voice and style early on so you can remain consistent, but an agile approach affords you some wiggle room.

3. Give creative power to your creators. Since you won’t have specific parameters to dictate how your content is created and distributed, give more freedom to your creators to experiment and see what sticks. You’ll find some interesting strategies you might not have uncovered otherwise.

4. Schedule monthly reviews. At least once a month, spend some time analyzing your newest decisions, your current strategies, and what you could try in the future. Agile requires you to touch base with your team regularly and evaluate how a campaign is going.

Adopting an agile approach to content marketing shouldn’t be too disruptive to your existing campaigns, yet it has the potential to save you money and earn you better results. Why wouldn’t you take a chance on it? In today’s rapidly changing content environment, flexibility is a must for your new strategy.

RELATED: What 10 Years of Content Marketing Did for This Startup



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