Marketing StrategyResearch and Insights

3 Critical Things Content Marketing and Agile Development Have in Common

By February 4, 2015 No Comments

More and more, I hear enterprise marketing teams strategizing around how to incorporate agile principles into their practices, processes, and team structure—and how Kapost, as a Marketing Management Engine, supports in operationalizing this approach.

What is most interesting is that many of these same teams are in the process of transforming their marketing orgs to follow content marketing best practices, and in doing so, are already adopting an agile way of thinking and working—sometimes without even knowing it.

How, you might ask?

Both agile and content marketing align around three tenants: (1) customer centricity, (2) cross-functional development, and (3) an iterative approach.

Tenet #1: Customer Centricity

In agile software development, you will see functional requirements written as “User Stories.” These get at the heart of what customers want and why; not what we—the company who produces a product—want to build. Historically, over 70% of features built aren’t used (Standish Group), but flipping to a model where your customer’s voice is central to all development changes that bleak picture.

This shift is just as critical in marketing, and the story nearly the same.

CEB tells us that over 60% of the sales cycle is now done digitally and our buyers are overwhelmed with content. And according to SiriusDecisions, up to 70% of B2B content created isn’t used. It simply goes to waste.

By bringing the buyer to the very center of our marketing strategies, we can change that. In fact, the survival of companies in the digital age depends on it.

Adelyn Zamora, global marketing manager for Brady Corporation who uses Kapost, says agile marketing helps their digital marketing department work more quickly and accurately to get results from their target buyers.

“Our digital marketing team is practicing agile marketing…so that we can reach our customers faster.”

This concept of “eliminating waste” is the big reason agile is such a popular methodology. Developers don’t want to spend their time developing features the customer doesn’t want or need. The same goes for marketing organizations pumping out content without understanding the value it provides the customer. Putting the buyer at the center of the conversation and enabling feedback through metrics give marketing the insights they need to deliver high-impact content.

Your content ideation and your integrated marketing program/campaign roadmap should start not with “what product are we launching that we want to promote and create content for,” but rather, “what are the critical concerns of my buyer and how do we strategically plan for programs/stories/content to address their issues.” This customer-centric approach will earn their attention, their trust, and ultimately their business.

Tenet #2: Cross-Functional Development

To effectively put your customer at the center requires cross-functional communication and collaboration. In agile software development, you have dedicated, self-forming, self-managing teams with product owners who represent the voice of the customer and prioritize a backlog of feature requests/user stories with their needs in mind.

Similarly, best-in-class content marketing organizations are forming cross-functional marketing teams, not around the products they sell and their required internal reporting structures, but rather, around their customers—the persona clusters they speak to, and ultimately, sell to. Marketing teams are hiring for roles akin to “Product Owners,” such as “Managing Editor,” “Chief Editor,” “Global Content Strategist,” etc. that prioritize a customer-centric content ideation backlog, to which cross-functional teams contribute, and commit to work.

If you have been through one of our Kapost Marketing Strategy Workshops, you know we coach organizations to “strip down” titles and form cross-functional teams around your persona clusters with the following “roles” in mind: Insight Providers, Communicators, [Internal] Customers, Logisticians, and Optimizers.

This doesn’t require a re-org, but does allow for “intra-marketing alignment,” or the ability for these newly formed cross-functional “teams” to collaborate and hold each other accountable to their modern marketing initiatives.

intra-marketing alignment in the enterprise

And, the cross-functional collaboration at the team level is important, but, for large, complex enterprises, scale is even more important. If you are familiar with SAFe (Dean Leffingwell’s Scaled Agile Framework) you have heard of the “Scrum of Scrums.”

In content marketing best practices, this regular meeting is the similar to the regular meeting of a Content or Editorial Board, where representatives from each cross-functional team roll-up feedback on the work and ideas of each team, review the global editorial calendar, report on status, and problem solve where there are roadblocks or gaps.

Tenet #3: An Iterative Approach

Another key parallel between agile and content marketing best practices is an iterative approach—the ability to break larger components into chunks and to continuously learn. This is a principle that I should have learned a long time ago, when one of my best professors, Dr. Cynthia Weick, would push me to “start something” without knowing all the details…telling me that sometimes you “don’t know the end until you begin.” But I don’t think I truly learned this lesson until my time in sales training at Rally, a leader in agile development software.

Ultimately, you can’t build “the Taj Majal” in one day, or even one quarter. Top content marketers start small—with one cross-channel program/integrated marketing campaign—testing themes, content types, and channels, then evaluating the results and iterating on their next campaign.

Five9 and Brady Corporation did this with the Kapost Quickstart Program. And we, at Kapost, do this all the time—learning from our successes, like: How One Marketing Campaign Grew Traffic by 84%, as well as our failures, such as: How We Screwed Up a Brilliant Marketing Campaign.

Pardot says it best:

“Where waterfall marketing involves setting long-term goals and carefully planning steps towards accomplishing them, agile marketing is characterized by an adaptive, fast-paced, trial and error approach to campaigns. And in an ever-changing marketing world with multiple campaigns and channels to maintain, agile marketing isn’t just a good idea—it’s a necessity.”

To do this, you need to (as agile software companies do) establish a regular “retro” cadence and have the data in hand that allows you to steer your strategy. Insights around your production engine, gaps in your content strategy, content reach, and bottom-line (lead and revenue) performance help you evaluate, and re-evaluate your marketing initiatives.

You also need a platform that allows you to manage your Themes/Initiatives, your Program/Campaign Timeline or “Roadmap”, your Ideation queue or “Backlog,” the workflow or “Kanban” board associated with your production process, the distribution/delivery of content and your analytics (how are you performing in relation to those Initiatives).

As CMO.com puts it:

“The ongoing [agile marketing] process is managed by a series of initial planning, daily status, and post-project review meetings, as well as robust KPI and marketing measurement systems, but the key to success in agile marketing is more than well-structured teams and dashboards. Cultural imperatives, including trust, transparency, and a bias toward action, are the ‘grease between the agile gears.’ These behaviors and values must exist across the marketing organization for agile to really work.”

Most importantly, agile inspires a propensity towards action. The worst thing you can do is to do nothing, because in doing so, you do nothing for your customer.

It is not about you, your company’s operational challenges, or “getting it perfect the first time.” Start small. Test a campaign, a project, or a customer-centric theme, identify issues early, and iterate. Sometimes you will scrap initiatives all together, just as software developers may abandon a feature, but “inspecting and adapting” is what agile is all about.

To learn more about how the Kapost platform operationalizes your agile marketing initiatives, request a demo. Or contact sales to learn about the iterative Kapost Quickstart Campaign and onboarding approach.

Lauren Kiedrowski

About Lauren Kiedrowski

Lauren is a Major Account Executive for Kapost, who enjoys working with some of the world’s leading enterprises. She secretly enjoys writing, but with work, a husband and two toddlers, and the beckoning of the Colorado outdoors, she rarely makes the time. She has spent time in mgmt consulting, direct sales, and sales enablement, and hopes to someday be a Business Professor in a University classroom, where maybe she will finally make the time to do more research and writing.