Here’s how five different companies applied agile content marketing and what you can learn from them. In my last post, I explained what Agile is and how it can help organize the work of your content marketing team.
To sum up:
- It allows teams to focus on one initiative at a time, whether that be a month’s worth of content, a campaign surrounding a particular event or an audit of existing content.
- It allows teams to prioritize content projects and keeps them from being bumped by other sudden priorities.
- It prevents interruptions of the content workflow.
- It allows teams to test frequently and pivot easily to meet changing trends and needs.
By the way, here’s another post I wrote, if you’re looking to get started with Agile right away.
Because of its laser focus on a limited number of tasks and its flexibility, Agile has become the work process of choice for major companies from IBM to Santander.
Let’s take a look at how five companies from different industries applied the agile methodology to their content marketing strategy, and what the results were.
Remember, Agile content marketing means different things to different companies (and even different teams within a company). Each of these companies customized the Agile process to serve different needs within their marketing and content marketing teams.
IBM has been talking about and implementing Agile since 2014 and considers itself one of the early adopters of Agile in marketing. In 2016, their new CMO, Michelle Peluso, adopted Agile completely for the entirety of Marketing at IBM.
The asks for the individual marketing departments: Think about how you can apply Agile to your team.
Jayson Gehri, marketing director for IBM’s hybrid Data Management Group, spoke about the first six months of implementation in a podcast.
“IBM has a great approach to this. It’s not ‘let’s be Agile to be Agile,” says Gehri. “Marketing needs a different approach to . . . how we’ve been doing marketing for the last however many years. We have to think about how we sense and respond to things.”
That’s where Agile comes in.
“It’s about being collaborative, iterative and client-centric.”
“I was really encouraged after the first couple of months,” says Gehri. He pointed out that team members commented how the shift had reduced the volume of emails they were getting. Daily stand-ups were keeping them up-to-date, reducing the number of meetings they had to attend.
Communication was kept to their Agile board and Slack, which meant there was more time to work on projects and less time spent setting up calls.
That’s the planning phase. But their testing phase has changed, too.
Now, heads of marketing departments log in to a central data analysis called Pearl, which records and tracks all marketing campaigns. They can move quickly through the system to understand money spend, challenges and successes in order to make better decisions about their marketing plans.
Agile has been so successful for IBM, they have started their own Agile tool to help other businesses make the transition. It’s part of their IBMix business redesign tool.
Mozilla’s CMO, Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, comes from a product development background, a realm where Agile and Lean practices are common. When he started in marketing nearly 20 years ago, he brought Agile with him.
In 2015, he became CMO of Mozilla and quickly began transitioning the entire marketing team to Agile. He says it took about three years to complete the process, but the wait seems to have been worth it.
Kaykas-Wolff now sees a team more in control of their own schedules. They have broken out of silos and acquired skills in other areas as a result of the cross-functional teams.
In a podcast, he described what their process looks like. “A good percentage of our organization runs in adapted model of scrum and the rest run in an adapted model of Kanban. We use product discipline, for the most part, to help us identify what our impact needs to be, predict and communicate what our throughput is going to be, along with our prioritization and do that all transparently.”
In 2015, Santander Bank began sponsoring bikes for hire in London as part of a new marketing campaign.
In 2017, to launch their latest marketing campaign around the bikes, Unlock Your London, they decided to take a different approach in planning, launching and tracking through Agile, testing and tweaking on a weekly basis.
CMO Keith Moor decided to apply some of the Agile methodologies after spending time in Silicon Valley and seeing how it was applied to software teams.
He implemented the concept of daily “huddles” to determine what to prioritize each day. The team worked in weekly sprints to complete projects and assess the success of releases.
The goal of the campaign was to get people to think of the bikes as more than just a means of commuting, but a way to get around London in general.
The Agile approach allowed them to continually test their marketing efforts and integrate customer feedback in real time.
Digital marketing consulting company Vertical Measures provides a range of services for enterprise, medium and small businesses.
In 2016, they concluded that, while their larger clients had time to wait for a fully thought-out content marketing plan, their smaller and medium-sized businesses needed to hit the ground running with content right away.
They came up with their own Agile phases: discovery, strategy, and implementation.
These three phrases allowed them to research their client’s and their content marketing needs, come up with a content marketing strategy and implement the strategy quickly.
After assessment of the initial implementation, the process starts again in a continual loop of discovery, strategy, and implementation to improve content and content plans.
Vertical Measures reports that their clients are delighted with the approach.
Deloitte is a multinational accounting organization that has partnered with the Wall Street Journal as part of their content marketing strategy.
In 2018, Kim McNeil-Downs, Leader of the Green Dot Agency at Deloitte (their marketing and communications agency), wrote a piece on moving their content marketing creation to Agile and the results she saw.
In the beginning, she wondered if it could work for every company and admitted that the process, with all its rules, seemed intimidating.
But her team dove right in, and she found that the process was not scary at all. In fact, it was very successful.
For her team, which is completely remote, it was a matter of finding technology solutions that would allow them to meet and collaborate over long distances.
In the end, the team at Deloitte found that they no longer worked in silos and they collaborated much more readily.
The experiment was so successful, Deloitte is now determining how quickly they can scale Agile for other departments in the company.
For each of these brands, the key to a successful transition to Agile was in their willingness to take it on and make it their own. They pulled together the pieces that worked for their teams and discarded the ones that would have simply gotten in the way.
And, essentially, that’s what Agile aims to do. It boils down the process of development into the bare essentials and allows teams to iterate quickly.
If you’re considering an Agile content marketing strategy, don’t get bogged down in the details of scrums, stand-up meetings, and Kanban boards. Simply apply the elements that resonate with the needs of your team, iterate, test and tweak as necessary.