There it is, hanging on the wall, staring us down—its massive, white face with a blank, squeaky-clean stare. Sitting in its shadow, we spitball and brainstorm while leaning back into the most ergonomically creative position (sneakers up on the table).
It’s our ritual, our process, and the way we tackle each new piece of content. But we need to ask ourselves: with the amount of content we must produce, is the same old process we’ve done for years the best way to move forward?
The scene above is the same in every company. Content creation is seen as a creative experiment, following a linear process that begins with brainstorming, moves into production, gets released into the wild, and then is measured according to its aggregate engagement at a future date.
In 2012, a group of marketers got together to find a better way. They created a systematic way to get better results faster, and with less effort. This was the birth of the agile marketing manifesto.
Agile is a process of creation that believes in the power of iteration, and in user feedback over singular genius. Agile has proven to be so powerful, it is used by Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, and just about every other leading technology company today. However, agile is such a simple idea—“Ask, Create, Revise”—that its true value is often misunderstood.
Here is breakdown of the true value of agile content marketing, and why a simple change in the way you create content will systematically increase the value of each piece of content you create, allow you to do it in a third of the time, and reduce the risk of content failure.
Agile Marketing Mitigates Risk
With each piece of content we create, there is an obvious risk. The risk is that the return on the asset will not be worth the investment we put into it. This is the same risk for everything we create, and we try to mitigate this risk with the creative process. However, consider the creative process’ flaws as described by Don Peppers in his quote:
“We must operate in realities, not abstractions of realities.”
— Don Peppers, The One to One Future, 1993
These eloquent words express the point clearly. We as marketers have been trained to think we can outsmart the consumer by being creative. Trying to craft ads, messages, and other content for consumers without involving them in the process leads to disastrous results.
Gallop proves this with their annual “Trusted Profession” poll, which ranks Advertising Professionals as the fifth most distrusted profession, outdone by congressmen and car salesmen. Distrust isn’t a business metric, but these are:
- 30% of the entire marketing budget is used to create content. (CMI)
- One third of marketers say it takes more than seven weeks to create a piece of content. (Techvalidate)
- 70% of the content we create never gets utilized. (Sirius Decisions)
- 71% of B2B consumers said they have been disappointed by the content they engage with. (Pardot)
- 25% of those disappointed will never engage with that brand again. (Pardot)
- 5% of all leads generated by best-in-class marketers will be generated into revenue. (Forrester Research)
The risk is not just the cost of production, but rather in the outcome of the experience the consumer has as well. If we are spending this much time and money to drive 25% of our consumers away from our brands, then we really need to rethink the true value of content.
Here is the risk we run: If we follow the same process of getting creative and then producing something, we run the risk of losing time, money, and customers. This is because we are only taking one shot at creating the content, rather than looking at the content creation process as an iterative process of creation. If you follow the agile process, each iteration you have on your piece of content reduces the risk by a significant margin. Here is a chart showing the decreased risk after each iteration in the agile process:
Agile Increases Value
Not only does risk decrease, but value also increases with each iteration. Each iteration involves a review where increased value can be determined and implemented in the next version. “Value” is measured both by consumer experience and increased engagement and will be more valuable to both sides of the engagement. This is the real goal of content: to provide consumers with value.
Agile Increases Speed
Creating content is a very time-consuming process, as illustrated in these stats from Techvalidate on how long it takes the average content marketer to build a piece of content. Notice that when marketers were asked how much time it takes for them to create content, the majority of content marketing projects are rated at 3-8 weeks.
The Standish group found that agile projects succeed three times more often than those following the traditional “waterfall” process, as well as spending much less time and at a significantly lower cost.
Agile not only allows you to create something faster, but create it better as well. (highlight to tweet) This will allow you to keep up with the pace of your marketplace and your consumers—not to mention that, as content marketing increases in popularity, all corners of your business will likely be asking you to produce some form of content for them. Being able to produce content faster and more effectively is the only scalable way to solve this issue.
We’ve all been taught by math that the shortest way to get somewhere is a straight line. But in those math equations, we know where we are going. If you do not know where you are going, a straight line is not the fastest or best way. Consider this proof as an example of the increased speed and accuracy of agile versus linear.
Draw two dots at opposite ends of a sheet of paper:
Place your pen on one of the dots, close your eyes, and without picking up your pen, try to draw a straight line to the other dot. Stop when you think you’ve gotten there and open your eyes. Your line will likely look like this:
If you were able to reach the dot, great job. Now try to do it three more times. The odds are very slim that you can do it once, much less three times in a row. The point here is repeatability. You may put all the resources and energy into a piece of content, but if you only take one shot at it, you will likely fail.
Now try again, but follow the agile process. This time, place your pen on the dot, and feel free to stop whenever you want. You will need to leave your pen on the paper, but you can open your eyes. Recalibrate and try again. You can do this as many times as you would like. You’re second line will look like this:
Your agile line will always reach the mark faster and with less energy. This also is 100% repeatable. Agile is the only way to create content reliably, with limited resources, and at a value level high enough for your consumers. It is scalable, sustainable, and highly effective.
The need for content will never decrease, and the bar, which we must rise above, will always continue to be heightened. This puts marketers into a very tough spot. We must find a way to produce more content consistently and at a higher value. The value of agile content marketing is clear: you can produce more faster, with much higher value than ever before. Agile does not require an investment in a tool or a platform, but rather adopting a new way of creating your content.
To learn more about agile content marketing, visit the Agile Marketing Blog, follow @rsmartly on Twitter, or check out “The X Factor: Creating Better Content Though Agile.”
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