As marketers, we produce more content than ever.  In a recent study from the Content Marketing Institute, nearly half of the respondents of a B2B marketing study said they produce content daily or several times a week!  That is a lot of content!

Frequency is not our only problem.  We also produce more than just one type of content.  Long gone are the days of basic sales sheets, service pages, press releases, and whitepapers.  Today, we continue to produce all those items but have added podcasts, videos, blogs, infographics, presentations, webinars, social media messaging…. The list goes on-and-on.  Our teams are being pushed harder, but our old planning approaches (or lack thereof) have shown themselves to be the next problem we have to address.

How can we keep producing content at a pace that is sustainable?  Let’s look to our friends a few departments over in software development and see what they do.

Getting Started with Agile

Software development teams have been using strategies for years to help them control the similar chaos that entered their world after the dawn of the web application.

These practices have been analyzed, tweaked, and implemented for several cycles and have proven to be beneficial.  Let’s look at some of the key tenants of these processes to better understand how to get started.

What does it mean to be Lean?

  • Eliminate waste
  • Amplify learning
  • Deliver as Fast as Possible
  • Empower Teams

Being lean is exactly like it sounds, trimming waste or unwanted items from an area of our life or work.  To best identify waste, we have to look at what we know makes us perform well and what slows us down.  To do this, we continue our education on a regular basis. We should look for insight into our struggles and team dynamics.  As items are removed or replaced with high performance processes, we start delivering content faster and/or high quality.  However, the individual team needs to play a key role in this process.  Sometimes an outside strategist is needed, but the team will be the focus of understanding the current problems.

What does it mean to be Agile?

  • The highest priority is customer satisfaction
  • Change happens
  • Items are released on a frequent basis
  • Simplify everything
  • Review the process regularly
  • Maintain a sustainable pace

You can start to see there are some similarities in the definitions of Lean and Agile and some distinctions.  Much like Content Marketing, Agile is all about providing value to the customer.  To do this, we have to review through learning, remove anything unnecessary to simplify, deliver that value often, and change when needed like Lean.

One of differences is the acknowledgement of a sustainable pace.  Lean can and should be sustainable, but it is core to Agile.  Burning out your teams for quick wins is a surefire way to up your costs as a business.  This can actually cause more sickness at work, higher stress levels (and related productivity issues), and team members leaving for greener pastures.

5 steps to get started with your Agile Marketing Team

Start Small – Buy lunch for your team and bring everyone to the table.  Have each one of them brainstorm at least 4 ideas on their own in 5 minutes that would make the team happier and more productive.  Then afterward have each person share with the person sitting next to them.  Next, do this process again but with the two people brainstorming together and based on their conversation.  Find another group of two and review ideas.  Continue this process until you have two groups and have them present to the whole group.  Come up with the top three things the group can do and a plan to do them.  Revisit with the group and repeat the exercise in a few weeks.  It may cost the organization $100+ dollars for the lunch, but it will be paid back with productivity in dividends.

Estimate All Work Before You Start – Before you do any work on a piece on content, estimate how long you think it will take to complete.  If you have a list of items to get done in a day, use hours.  If your items go beyond the scope of a few days, start using days for estimates.  Also, use numbers that are not sequential, but represent size.  For hours, consider 1, 2, 4, and 8.  If you are measuring days, from 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20 (See Planning Poker Sequencing) instead of consecutive days.  This will allow for items to be estimated with your current understanding and allow for fluctuation when grouped.  Sometimes a 3 is a 5 and an 8 was really only a 5.  Having these gaps will help make your team deliver on time when looking at the big picture.

Plan Your Day Before It Gets Started – Write down a list of items you want to get done for the day every single day.  Do this each day, first thing in the morning.  Print out a form or use a small notepad and list out every item you want to get done today.  Associate a measurement with each item to make sure it fits within your day.  The goal is to make sure we are not applying unnecessary pressure on ourselves at the end of the day, as well as, ensure we know what we are doing from the beginning of the day on.

If you do this, you will never get home and wonder what you finished today, you will know.  As other items come up during the day, adjust the priority of all outstanding work and let the items that have to roll to the next day, actually roll to the next day.  When you arrive the following morning, add the open items to the new list.  If they are open because you got distracted, take steps to remove the distractions.  If other items came up you had to address, assign the new priority based on today’s items.

I use circles on my tasks sheets to represent thirty minute blocks.  I have a timer on my desktop that runs for 25 minutes and then a 5 minute break.  During my 5 minutes, I check email and other messages and review my tasks.  To learn more about the tool called the Pomodoro technique, click here.

Identify Content Cards Before Starting Work – Just knowing the title or basic concept about what you are working on is ok during the brainstorming process, but when you are getting ready to produce work, you should know a lot more.  In this blog post on Content Marketing Strategies we outline some key fields like Content Story and How to Demonstrate Value that will help flesh out the content you are produce and ensure you are driving toward a goal from start to finish.

Learn, Learn, and Learn – Always be learning.  Subscribe to agile blogs outside of marketing, watch videos, join user groups, purchase books, and/or talk with agile teams inside and outside you organization.  These will help you bounce ideas off others who have been there and done that.  We want to minimize mistakes and not every idea we come up with will work.  If we can learn from others early, we become more effective and our teams and organizations will benefit faster.

Take Action

If you have taken any of these steps and are working to follow the core tenants then you are agile!  There isn’t a level of agile or a gold star when you reach a certain point.  But I promise, you will be much happier, maybe even healthier, if you can start working your way out of the stress that is modern marketing and towards a more effective approach to planning and executing your work.