What You Need to Know About Agile Content Marketing

'Traditional' marketing tactics have become slow and ineffective. Exposed to hundreds of ads every day, Audiences are increasingly cynical toward the concept, flooding to ad blockers by the millions. Efforts to cut through the clutter and regain audience trust with relevant content that your audience actually wants to read can be difficult and takes time.

And yet, it's far from impossible. The solution: combine two separate concepts from marketing and software development. Enter agile content marketing.

In this post, we'll address:

What is Agile Content Marketing?

Agile is not a foreign concept for many marketing departments. In fact, a 2015 study found 63% of marketers across the country using it to their advantage.

But the same study also unearthed a more concerning fact: only 8% of content marketers can say the same.

Given the increasing popularity of content marketing in the digital realm, that's concerning. Combining the two philosophies, of course, requires an understanding of both.

The Benefits of Content Marketing

In recent years, content marketing has moved from a buzzword to an established online strategy. 88% of B2B marketers and 76% of their B2C counterparts now report using at least some content to promote their brand.

Given the increasing audience cynicism towards and avoidance of digital ads, that makes sense.

And not surprisingly, effective content marketing leads to tangible results. Content marketing, on average, costs 62% less and generates three times as many leads as other methods.

Publish quality content, and your web traffic will rise.

Your target audience will begin to seek you out for industry news and advice, leading to increased brand exposure and credibility that ultimately translates to a growing business.

But even given all of these benefits, simply publishing content is not enough to help you succeed. It's frustrating to publish a steady stream of blog posts and social media updates only to get minuscule reach and engagement from your audience. Quality and relevance are key, and that's where agile enters the equation.

The Agile Philosophy

Software companies have realized that for an effective development process, a linear approach to reach the goal is insufficient. Too often, quality assurance and impromptu adjustments were neglected.

That frustration is the origin of agile software development. According to Techopedia,

Agile methodologies promote a project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation. This leadership philosophy encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability. [Agile development] is both a set of engineering best practices (allowing for rapid delivery of high quality software) and a business approach (aligning development with customer needs and goals)

In other words, it's an approach specifically designed to address the shortcomings of a strict, linear development process.

Within the software realm, agile has become the predominant development method, with 91% of respondents to a 2015 survey reportedly using at least some parts of the philosophy. Perhaps it’s time content marketers embraced the concept, as well.

Combining Both Concepts

Embracing agile content marketing, of course, doesn't mean a direct transition and shoehorning of agile concepts into your current content marketing efforts. Instead, it means thoroughly understanding agile, and transferring the parts of the philosophy that match the needs of modern content marketers into your strategy.

The ultimate goal is to improve the quality and relevance of the content you produce to attract your audience and grow your business. To achieve that goal, a closer consideration of the steps of the agile content marketing process, along with a discussion of the team responsible for that process, is necessary.

The Steps of the Agile Content Marketing Process

As mentioned above, agile content marketing is not a linear process. That said, a few steps are still involved in achieving your goal of creating better and more relevant content.

1. Research

Like any marketing strategy, going agile has to begin with research. More specifically, you should come out of this step being able to answer the following questions:

  • Who are my key personas? Developing buyer personas helps better understand your audience and improves your messaging and targeting as a result.
  • What are their user stories? In a few sentences, try to boil down your personas' needs and goals. In agile development as in agile content marketing, your user stories should be formulated as a statement of intent: as a [persona role], I want to [perform a task] so that I can achieve [goal].
  • How can I address their persona story map? We've written in depth about the importance of story maps, 2-dimensional graphics that help you understand the fears, motivators, and hurdles your audience faces as they engage with your content.

Sample Persona Story Map

Sample Persona Story Map for B2B Professional Services

2. Develop

Based on the research above, you have the information you need to begin developing content. Frequent development of relevant content is crucial, so you will repeat this step and adjust your research on a continuous basis.

3. Release

Having developed your content, it's time to release it to your audience. Find the channels most appropriate to the personas and their story maps, and adjust the content accordingly to fit the medium.

For example, you can develop topically identical content for both Twitter and LinkedIn. But the content itself will need to look very different to adhere to the respective network.

Don't go into it feeling like your work is done as soon as you hit the publish button. Instead, consider this initial release your rough draft: you don't know yet how your audience interacts with it, and may need to make changes on an ongoing basis.

4. Optimize

Based on the explicit and implicit feedback you receive both externally and internally, it's time to make changes. You may, for example, only release a rough draft internally to your team for review to allow for changes before it hits your audience.

Even if you decide to go live right away, never lose sight of the optimization process. If a piece of content either gets active push back or fails to gain traction, determine the cause and adjust accordingly.

5. Connect

Finally, it's time to close the loop. This is where the fact that agile content marketing is not a linear process comes into play.

Even if you publish a great blog post, don't rest on your laurels. Learn why it worked, and how you can apply these lessons in the future. Apply any knowledge you gain to the next piece of content in order to optimize your research.

A core tenet of agile is continuous development. The same benefits and requirements, of course, apply in content marketing.

You're not looking at publishing a single piece of content; instead, you need a continuous flow of new content in order to attract your audience on an ongoing basis. Using your insights to connect with new content going forward will significantly improve your efforts.

Agile Marketing Sprints

The agile philosophy divides work into several sprints - individual, intense projects that the team works on together in order to achieve a larger, overarching goal. In software development, each sprint is a step toward the final product.

But the same process can be just as beneficial in agile content marketing. Sprints are defined by focused teamwork with little interruptions. Imagine the philosophy working toward building individual pieces of content along with strategies for your individual digital channels.

A sprint takes place during a defined period of time, beginning with a kickoff meeting and ending with an opportunity for review and feedback. For a sprint to work, of course, you need to have the right team on board your agile content marketing efforts.

Who Should Be Involved?

Any experienced marketer knows: long-term success begins and ends with assembling the right team. Finding the best team members for your sprints depends in large part on the roles they occupy.

Product Owner

As the name suggest, this role owns the product and process. Armed with the authority to make decisions on an as-needed basis, they are responsible for making sure that the vision of the project remains on every team member's mind.

The product owner is also responsible for organizing and keeping the product backlog, helping to set and keep priorities that best move the project toward its desired goal.

Content Producer

In the software industry, this role generally describes (and is named after) the developer or programmer. It is, simply put, the person(s) who are responsible for the ground work within the project.

A core benefit of the agile philosophy is the fact that each member of the development team has input into the other phases of the process. Still, developers focus on actually creating the content that will form the core part of the strategy.

Delivery Manager

The best content does not matter if it never gets in front of the right audience at the time they need it. The delivery manager, as a result, focuses on finding the channels on which the content will be distributed, along with planning out a strategy that optimizes the timing.

A content calendar is a crucial tool of the delivery manager, as is research into the optimum times and days of the week to post on various social media outlets. The goal of this role is to maximize the content's potential, using a strategic and data-focused methodology.

As you can probably imagine, delivery manager and content producer have to work together closely. As mentioned above, content will differ based on the marketing channel. Only a close cooperation between both roles can truly maximize the success of your agile efforts.


The editor is the QA assurance on the agile team. They work with the content producer to both ensure quality before publication, and monitor the success to suggest improvements for the future.

In other words, the editor works as an intermediary between the organization and its audience. Constant feedback enhances the ability to adjust swiftly to changing needs, and maximizes the continued quality and relevance of your content.

Subject Matter Expert

This role is occupied by the person on the team with the most content marketing and agile expertise. They help provide background on content marketing to team members who may not be familiar with the concept and its intricacies.

Subject matter experts act as advisors, distributing their knowledge to the entire team. They are the defacto knowledge base of the group, and should be available to answer questions and provide resources as frequently as possible.

Adjusting the Team to Your Capabilities

Of course, depending on the size of your team, these roles may differ slightly. Small agile teams, for example, will often see the content producer and delivery manager condensed into a single responsibility. Large teams, on the other hand, can have multiple content producers in order to maximize their output.

Roles, in other words, are not always in a 1:1 relationship with the number of members on your team. Still, it's crucial to have at least someone fill the above roles to maximize the benefits of agile content marketing.

Once the personnel system is in place, it's time to reap the rewards of the philosophy on both the marketing and business side.

How Content Marketing Can Benefit From Going Agile

Executed correctly, embracing the agile philosophy can improve your marketing in a variety of ways. A few of the benefits include:

Enhanced Flexibility

If your content marketing strategy is not flexible, you have a serious problem. User needs constantly change, as do the channels on which you plan to publish your content.

Google algorithm updates occur at breathtaking rates, requiring adjustments in your content's search engine optimization. New social media networks emerge, and established ones continuously evolve to better serve their audience. Your strategy needs to be set up to adjust to these developments as they occur.

Fortunately, going agile can prepare you for these adjustments. Quick adjustments are possible thanks to small sprints, along with a constant information gathering process that allows you to be proactive. The result is a more adaptable strategy.

Staying True to Your Vision

It's easy to get side tracked. A simple blog post turns into an ebook, or a quick check on your Facebook analytics leads you down a rabbit hole of insights.

Agile allows you to stay true to your original marketing vision and strategy. It helps the entire team stay focused on individual tasks at hand, as sprints are specifically designed to minimize external distractions.

Lowering Risks

A core benefit of agile development is its ability to minimize development risks. Naturally, the same is true in your content marketing.

Continuous quality assurance and content refinement helps maximize the chance your efforts are actually successful. At the same time, breaking up a major strategy into small sprints decreases the risk of spending time and resources on a major project only to see it fail without sufficient QA.

Finally, going agile means helping your team stay true to its strategy. Despite the ubiquity of content marketing today, only 32% of marketers actually have defined strategy. Naturally, a strategic approach minimizes risk, and agile provides you with the framework necessary to accomplish that.

Increasing Value

Agile content marketing, at its core, is made possible by extensive and continuous user research. Every decision should be guided by user intentions, goals, and needs.

As a result, each marketing effort connected to the philosophy will ultimately be more valuable to your audience. If you know your audience's pain points, you can better develop content that provides solutions to these needs.

Organizing Priorities

As suggested by the role of the product owner above, priorities are a major reason why agile continues to be successful across industries.

During individual sprints, you can and should develop a number of tasks that can help you achieve your overarching vision. Prioritizing these tasks is crucial to ensure efficiency and avoid wasting time on low-impact work.

Maximizing Speed

Content marketing tends to be deliberate. You spend precious time trying to figure out your audience's needs, and build an entire strategy designed to meet those needs. Too often, that effort results in long hours and significant time commitment from the entire team.

Contrast that with agile content marketing. Through multiple sprints, you break down that overarching strategy into small components. Continuous improvement means spending less time trying to determine success on each of your efforts, while a focus on your vision and overall goal minimizes lengthy and costly distractions.

Working Smarter, Not Harder

Ultimately, the core benefit of agile content marketing can be boiled down to a simple concept: it allows your marketing team to work smarter, not harder.

Rather than spending and wasting time on large projects that may not end up successful, you prioritize your tasks and focus everything on the main goal. Through a commitment to teamwork and embrace of continuous improvement, you can focus your time on the most effective marketing efforts.

Estimating the Benefits of Agile Content Marketing to Management

Of course, the benefits of agile content marketing go beyond the marketing team. In fact, managers in the C-suite can walk away from implementing an agile philosophy with significant wins in their pocket, as well.

Distributed Responsibilities

In agile, every marketer is involved. That, in turn, means everyone shares responsibilities to get projects done.

If something goes wrong, the team shares the blame The result is a greater chance of a productive resolution instead of blame-throwing.

Shared Commitments

Similar to the above, embracing agile means an agreement to share commitments. In individual sprints along with overarching strategy meetings, the marketing team gets together to distribute their tasks and lay out a roadmap to success. Then, each team member assumes a role that helps the team achieve that stated goal.

For management, that means assigning commitments is a thing of the past. Rather than simply burdening your marketing department or its individual departments with the tasks you see as important, the process will solve itself through audience research and continuous QA.

Flexible Team Capacity

Everyone in marketing is involved, which means the team in an agile content marketing approach is much more flexible than it would be otherwise. That, in turn, means each member of your marketing team can jump in and help each other as needed.

This type of flexibility, it turns out, is a crucial way of avoiding employee burnout. Even the most talented marketing team will fail if its members are overworked and burdened. By adopting an agile approach, you can help to prevent these pitfalls and keep your team motivated, fresh, and poised to succeed.

Increased ROI

Finally, don't underestimate the positive return on investment for your shift to agile content marketing. The philosophy, in fact, helps you improve your ROI, ensuring that the funds you invest in the department will actually pay dividends.

As Optimine president Matt Voda points out in a Forbes.com interview, the ROI of agile marketing is more easily measurable thanks to its adaptability and QA focus. Not surprisingly, then, nearly 70% of CMOs in a recent survey said going agile has increased their revenue.

Turning Your Content Marketing Efforts Agile

Given these benefits, it's tempting to look at agile content marketing as the magic bullet that will solve your promotional woes and act as a failsafe to grow your business. In reality, a simple truth remains: to succeed, you have to do it right.

If you already engage in content marketing, consider how you can turn it agile. Which processes can you improve, how can you break up your channels, and how would you organize your team to occupy the above roles? The answers to these questions will provide you with a roadmap of going agile and reaping the rewards of the philosophy.