Lean Content Marketing
May 2021 in Mindset + Strategy

Lean Content Marketing: Pragmatism over Perfection

Good content marketing requires more effort than the result would suggest. It starts with a kick-off meeting, leading to many internal consultations with other responsible parties and management departments, this results in the first strategy drafts, meets blocked budgets and tight deadlines - and time is always running against you.

This more often than not, leads to frustration among both agencies and customers. Small and medium-sized companies in Germany often feel deterred when they see the mountain of work and then decide they would rather carry on as usual. It is better to risk nothing than to break new ground in communications and marketing. The perceived risk is too high for many, and from an entrepreneurial point of view, this is quite understandable.

Start-ups and SMEs have both too little budget and too little capacity to be able to lift a fully comprehensive and perfectly orchestrated content marketing strategy.

A major stumbling block - especially in Germany - is perfectionism. The meticulous planning that is mandatory in technical and scientific industries falls flat on its face for everyone involved in creative coordination rounds. Because by the time an idea has made it through the numerous feedback loops at the customer, the content is very likely no longer up-to-date. As a result, it also loses value for the target group - not to mention the high implementation costs.

Make. Learn. Improve. Repeat.

Get stuff out there. Make it happen!

The solution comes, as it often does, from software development. Agile principles can and should also be applied in marketing.

True to the Minimum principle concept from economics, lower costs, less effort and faster production times are valued more highly than the perfect result.

The permanent development and revision of strategies and topics leads to the desired goal.An agile marketing culture enables lightning-fast reactions to changing markets and current issues.

However, lean content marketing requires a change in corporate culture. Many start-ups find it easy to set up their teams in an agile manner. For medium-sized industrial companies, this would mean lengthy restructuring of processes that have grown organically in some cases. Without a convincing reason, this should be avoided.

Minimum Viable Content

Minimuim viable content refers to the least effort-intensive, most self-contained content that meets one of the following two points:

  • It influences the behavior of your community
  • You learn about your community

What does that mean exactly?

Nothing works without a content marketing strategy. Not even in the new age of lean content.

According to a study from 2020, only 9% of respondents rate the content marketing strategy their company is pursuing as fully mature. The same study suggests that 23% of respondents have no content marketing strategy at all. This is regrettable, as it is a good illustration of how much potential is still not being fully exploited.

What does a lean content marketing strategy look like?

Of course, you still have to run analyses, conduct a content audit, evaluate data, define target groups, and determine personas.

Lean content doesn't mean "driving just by sight in the fog"

These questions can help in creating a scaled-down strategy:

  • Why do we want to do content marketing?
  • How will content marketing support our business goals?
  • Who are our buyers?
  • What do our audiences look like who will consume and share our content?
  • How do points 3 and 4 differ?
  • Who is responsible for what? (At the customer and in the agency)
  • What can we offer our target groups at each stage of the customer life cycle?
  • How does our target audience find and consume content?
  • How should we differentiate ourselves within our market (not only from direct competitors, but also within our subject area)?
  • How do we define success?
  • How do we define failure?
  • Which channels do we want to focus on when distributing our content?
  • When do we publish content? (When is an intermediate task ready?)
  • When do we measure results?
  • How do we measure results?

Instead of planning large campaigns that last for months, start small.

Several small sprints are better than a strenuous marathon

Set specific content production goals within your team. They could look like this: two posts on Facebook and Instagram every week, two blog posts a month, a YouTube video every four, and a technical article every eight weeks. Whereas eight weeks is almost too long. For content marketing sprints, production times of 3-4 weeks are expected.

Define all the steps necessary to achieve these production goals. Determine who is responsible for each of these steps. Each step has a defined deadline by which it must be completed. Checklists facilitate coordination and provide an overview. Determine in advance when and how it will be determined that a piece of content is ready. Content is ready for use when you see it activating your customers or other audiences.

Post the heck out of it

Only optimize the content when the first feedback from the target group and consumers comes in. If you think that your target group is not commenting on their own, then explicitly ask for feedback.

If you are brave, you can even publish a small error in your content.

Critical comments are not malicious, but testify to a very high level of commitment. As difficult as it may be - because lean or not, heart and soul goes into everything! -, be grateful for this feedback.

Improve the commented content and explicitly address the whistleblowers. Involve your community in the process. A valuable psychological side effect: Your customers and target groups recognize their own value for your company and automatically feel more connected to you.

Ultimately, the usefulness of the content - both for you and for your target groups - determines success!

So you have received and processed the feedback from your customers. What happens now?

Start continuously revising and optimizing your content production goals and content. Derive new tasks. But never stop developing the content and topics by publishing content and being in constant dialogue with your target audiences.

Don't reinvent the creative wheel every time

You may and should reuse content. On other channels or in other formats: Multi-channel storytelling!

Success control in lean content marketing

In the digital age, everything can be tracked and analyzed. But this is exactly the crux of the matter. Because the sheer flood of data overwhelms every marketer. That's why success control is also implemented with the principle of agile project management.

Decide on the numbers that are most important to your content production goals. These can be:

  • Range (quantitative/qualitative)
  • Shares (by whom? Through which platform?)
  • Likes
  • Subscribers / Followers
  • Visitors to your website (first-time / recurring)
  • Dwell time and bounce rates
  • Registrations (Newsletter / Give-aways)
  • Downloads
  • Leads (MQL, SAL, SQL, SQP)

Here, too, the rule is: less is more. Because you have the freedom to also revise and further develop your performance review.

But before you spend countless hours on a vague analysis of possible KPIs (because that's all we all do before the first post, we're poking around in the dark), set off with a handful of data.

If you find that the corresponding query does not provide you with added value or you are not satisfied with the result, then delete KPIs or replace them with other data. Be a creative analyst.

Agile marketing for our highly dynamic world

Whether you are a start-up or a medium-sized company, coming from the IT world, are involved in global trade or are at home in engineering - we know how to reconcile the requirements and wishes of customers, sales and marketing.

Join us in breaking new ground for your audio and video formats. When it comes to visual trends and hypes, we can decide very quickly whether something is worth implementing or whether you'll burn your fingers on some shooting stars.

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