How to Create an Agile Content Marketing Strategy (and Stay Sane Doing It)

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I’ll admit it: I spent so much time this past year creating content that I didn’t make enough time to read. And reading is important when you’re a content creator. After all …

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it. ~ Oscar Wilde

I’m determined to change, and I started by making time to read The Business Case for Agile Content Marketing by Copyblogger’s Brian Clark.

What exactly is agile content?

It’s the type of content that responds and adapts to the needs of your audience. It’s what is taking the place of traditional advertising for businesses large and small.

It’s the kind of content we should all be creating.

Here’s my take on Brian’s advice, but don’t stop with this post. Grab the full report: The Business Case for Agile Content Marketing.

Agile content starts with research

You have to start somewhere. At first, your content ideas will be based on guesses.

You’ll have better luck if you make those very educated guesses. And the way to do that is to spend some time and energy on market research. Use your research to figure out:

  • Who you want to reach
  • What challenges they have
  • What their deeply-felt desires are
  • How they’re currently meeting those challenges and fulfilling those desires

When you have an idea about all of the above, you can plan your content to meet these needs. But don’t stop there. It’s just getting interesting at this point.

Move right along to …

Shipping your content

Here’s the tough part.

You aren’t really executing on an agile content marketing strategy until you put it out into the world and start listening to feedback.

This is the reference to staying sane in my headline. It’s cold-sweat-inducing, nerve-wracking, and scary at first. But don’t worry, it gets much easier over time.

And it’s 100% necessary. After all, how will you know if your ideal customer is digging what you write if you don’t put it out there and see what happens?

Here’s a little secret: Those people you admire who have huge audiences who hang on their every word? They have a lot more to worry about than you do.

Let’s say you and a few friends decide to start a band. You start out by playing your living room, in front of a few more friends, and see what they enjoy.

You hone your set of songs, and you move up to playing at the bar down the street. You see what that audience likes, and keep working on new songs and styles based on what they respond to.

Eventually, you’re invited to perform at a college campus. Years later, (let’s pretend for the sake of this analogy) you’re playing for an entire stadium of fans.

It’s okay to start out writing for a small group. With fewer people watching, you can feel free to experiment and see what works. The stakes aren’t so high.

Embrace the process. Don’t take your content too seriously. Watch, listen, and move on to the next step.

Optimize based on feedback

Feedback comes in many forms. It can be comments, social media shares, or email open rates.

It could be people who attend your webinar, ticket buyers to your live event, or sales of your information product.

See what content your audience responds to, and build your business around it.

As Brian mentions, these first three stages are ongoing. You’ll find yourself constantly discovering new details about what your audience wants.

As new people join your audience, the needs you’re meeting will change. Welcome this change as it comes, and continue to make your best educated guesses about what they want, put it out there, and optimize based on your results.

Amplify your reach through connection

Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

If you really want to grow your audience, you have to be an advocate for your content. You have to be its champion.

Get out there and spread the word. Connect with others who can help send people to your pages.

Look for ways to ally yourself with people who have already developed an audience similar to the one you aspire to serve. Don’t be afraid to send an email sharing your latest post, asking if your connection’s audience might be interested in seeing it.

And when you can, attend events, and connect in person, too, because there’s nothing better than connecting face-to-face.

Spiral upward with repeat performances

The technique outlined here really starts to work when you commit to doing it over the long haul.

Research. Release. Optimize. Connect. And then, repeat.

Just like any promotional effort you put together for your business, agile content works best when it’s ongoing and consistent.

This is just a taste. If you want to see how all the parts work together, get the whole story right here.

What part of this process do you get stuck on? What have you done that’s worked really well? I’d love to hear about it in the comments …

About the author

Pamela Wilson


Pamela Wilson is Director of Special Projects at Copyblogger Media. Follow her on Twitter or Google+, and find more from her at BigBrandSystem.com.

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Comments

  1. Be super disciplined with the shipping and connecting portions of your content creation strategy. Love the tips Pamela!

    By creating and shipping you gain instant feedback. Create more and the feedback you crave will flow in. Well, maybe you crave some of it and shudder at some of it, but either way you need to listen in to how your audience receives your content.

    The connecting part leverages your presence at a breakneck pace. You reach out, promote other people and other people will promote you. Works like magic.

    Thanks!

  2. “Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum.” — this is probably the most important line. Especially online, you need to be able to shift focus, adjust things, and adapt quickly to demand or customer responses. Look at Instagram in the news lately, the community was in an uproar over the ToS and they fairly quickly clarified them.

    The web lets you adjust quickly. You just have to make sure your mindset and even your company can make those adjustments.

  3. “Don’t take your content too seriously. ”
    Excellent advice. I think some brands get so caught up in making sure their content is “perfect” that it never actually gets out the door. You can’t be perfect at something you’ve never done before! There is a learning curve as you find your voice/style as a writer and learn what your audience responds to.

    • I think perfection is overrated, actually. How boring!

      I’d rather aim for a target and get closer and closer over time. It’s challenging, but that’s what makes it interesting.

  4. I guess I get stuck on getting the word out there and then that problem results in a “connecting” problem. I’m getting better at being consistent with content and then systematically getting the word out. And I now have quite a few connections from the internet so I am definitely improving. Thanks for the tips.

  5. Pamela,

    The key for smart beginners is found in your “Amplify Your Reach Through Connection” section or else NO ONE will ever see your content. So I’d like to add that as a smart beginner, you MUST have a “hit list” (and constantly add to the list) of people and groups that you seek to connect with. It’s the only way toward getting just enough traction that gives the tiniest bit of feedback. Then you have to do it again and again to keep getting those trickles. Eventually it will lead to stream.

    thanks

  6. Sometimes I have so many ideas..I don’t know WHERE to start…I guess my take-away is..START somewhere and just keep on….somehow I’m trapped in the “old school” notion–that whatever I do has to work..the success/failure trap—but I’m hearing you say..if it doesn’t work, try something else…..this is not a “set it and forget” type-thing

  7. The power of feedback cannot be underestimated for our agile content strategy efforts!
    Though we usually start with a strong understanding of our target market, the process of gaining feedback for our content gives us an even richer landscape of user characteristics- even the tone/style on an email response can give us clues to knowing our audience even better.
    Thanks for the great article!
    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  8. This was really informative and inspiring. I loved the quote from Oscar Wilde. So true. And then, right as I was starting to feel some anxiety, you reminded me of why now is the time to relax and learn (I do not have a vast audience). So I have time…but need to get serious about it too. Because some day I want a vast audience! Thanks!

  9. Great thoughts on research. My blogs and website are so not business oriented, yet they are a business themselves in that I want them to grow, reach, influence. I really appreciate this clear and applicable post about research and the references to more on this that you share. As an “inspirational” blogger, I tend to shy away from the business mentality of doing my research. This is an empowering post. Thanks!

  10. This was great! That’s exactly the strategy I plan to follow as my blog grows and becomes more interactive. It seems to me that an actively participating audience would naturally fuel this type of agile content. It would be a shame for bloggers to ignore all the great ideas stemming from the discussion with their readers.

    Content should be dynamic. That’s what keeps it fresh and exciting.

    Cheers!

  11. You always want to be disciplined when promoting your content! Stay ahead of the curve

  12. I really loved this post! I think one of the biggest things is to focus and to keep moving forward! I think it is important to focus and do what you said, “Research. Release. Optimize. Connect. And then, repeat.” I feel like you have to keep putting forth effort. You can’t give up after the first time if it doesn’t work out. You need to figure out how to make it better, and more appealing. So when you are on the “repeat” of this cycle, you need to figure out how to improve from what you had before.

  13. Great article. It has all the information I need. I already have 28 posts in my website but I feel like I’m just starting this long process. But I’m glad to see some progress, though.