Departments and, ideally, enterprises embrace the intelligent content model to make it possible to deliver the right content to the right audience, at the right time, and in the right way. “The right way” generally means on the right device, in the right format, and in the right language.
The trick is getting all those things right and still managing to release more than one piece of content a month.
My marketing team at MarketerGizmo has begun the move toward what I think of as intelligent agility, and the results have been stellar. In this article, I describe one instance of our early success, and I describe the Agile approach to intelligent content that made it possible.
Laying an Agile foundation
As shown in this illustration, an Agile approach – with its focus on rapid iterations, adaptability, individuals and interactions, numerous small experiments, and testing and data – can be an ideal way to produce intelligent content.
With its focus on rapid iterations, adaptability, individuals, small experiments, and testing, an Agile approach is by far the best way to produce intelligent content.
Read on, and we’ll dig into the following aspects of this topic:
- An early success story from my own marketing department
- Convergence of an Agile approach and intelligent content
- Rapid iterations and right timing
- Adaptability of content – and of focus
- Right people and individual interactions
- Reusability and numerous small experiments
- Reconfigurability, testing, and data
- Taking steps toward intelligent and Agile content
An early success story from my own marketing department
Recently, our marketing team noticed that we were getting a significant amount of traffic coming from organic searches related to examples of how to use software like ours. While we had a couple of guides on our website, they weren’t truly examples.
We saw this as an opportunity to meet our customers’ needs more effectively. Our Agile approach made it possible for us to take advantage of the opportunity almost instantly.
At our weekly kickoff, we decided to tackle this deficit by creating six new examples that targeted the most popular search topics. To improve the usefulness of the page, we also created companion templates that people could download into their account with a single click.
We run week-long sprints in our marketing department, so after seven days we successfully relaunched our examples page with highly targeted content that would help our customers use the software better, help our website rankings, and (we suspected) increase our conversions.
This experiment was very low cost and virtually without risk.
One month later, the page views on our examples section have increased over 150%, and the new templates have been downloaded over 1,700 times.
We’ve extended the success of this experience by repurposing the written examples and their corresponding templates into an email series, which is providing yet more data for future iterations and experiments.
Our approach is intelligent in that we designed the pieces of content – both the written portion from our marketing website and the templates we created – for manual reuse across multiple formats, audiences, and media.
The level of effort is higher than if we had large-scale automation in place, but our size and budget don’t yet justify that type of setup. By keeping this ultimate goal in mind, however, we can incrementally prepare for future adoption of automated content reuse while still benefiting from manual reuse in the short term.
In short, our experiment combining an Agile approach with intelligent content principles gave us outstanding ROI.
Convergence of an Agile approach and intelligent content
Having the right kind of content (structurally rich and semantically categorized, automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable) is certainly vital, but we also need the right kind of process helping us along.
An Agile methodology constitutes a tactical approach in which teams identify and focus their collective efforts on high-value projects, complete those projects cooperatively, measure their impact, and then continuously and incrementally improve the results over time.
As part of this process, the team values the following:
- Responding to change more than following a plan
- Rapid iterations more than Big Bang campaigns
- Testing and data more than opinion and conventions
- Numerous small experiments more than a few big bets
- Individuals and interactions more than large markets
- Collaboration more than silos and hierarchy
Diving into Agile values and the goals of intelligent content makes it clear that employing an Agile methodology will give your content creation teams the best chance for success with intelligent content, regardless of what department they’re in.
Rapid iterations and right timing
In order to deliver the appropriate content to a consumer at the right time, speed is often vital. If there’s an emerging topic that’s relevant to your content strategy and you want to talk about it with your audience, response time can be measured in minutes.
If you’re creating intelligent content, you have adaptive, findable, reusable content ready to grab. And if you’re using Agile processes, you can grab those relevant chunks of content on a moment’s notice and respond to emerging content opportunities immediately. You don’t need to create a new resource from scratch. Your semantically categorized content can be pulled together rapidly, so you can fulfill your audience’s needs and wants faster and with more impact.
For example, Agile marketers might meet daily in a 15-minute stand-up to discuss their current projects and any blocks between them and their goal. These regular check-ins ensure that they can immediately address both problems and opportunities. Stand-ups enable a content marketing team to identify a viable newsjacking opportunity (an angle on a breaking news event) and then to reprioritize their current sprint tactics to embrace that opportunity and get quality content out the door and into their audience’s waiting arms – quickly.
Adaptability of content – and of focus
Intelligent content strives to make content adapt to shifts in readership, format, language, and beyond. Similarly, one of the primary goals of the Agile approach is to enable its practitioners to adapt to shifting conditions without being fettered by an unyielding, long-term plan.
Putting both together – content that can adapt on a micro level and a content team that’s prepared to adapt to more macro conditions – will create a content engine that can produce ultracustomized content because it can adapt both its products and plans.
Right people and individual interactions
When someone consumes a piece of intelligent content, it should be so tailored that they feel that it was crafted for them. The Agile approach, rather than trying to reach huge audiences, aims to create content that stimulates meaningful interactions with individuals.
Combining the two produces a powerful system in which highly customized content can produce targeted touchpoints with the right people.
Additionally, the focus on testing and rapid iteration that an Agile approach brings to the table can help ensure that if the results of these interactions aren’t up to expectations then they can be improved and repeated until they’re producing the right outcomes.
In a short time, the combined forces of intelligent content and Agile methodologies can enable you to speak to your audiences on an intimate level and establish a long-term affinity with your content, brand, and message.
Reusability and numerous small experiments
Instead of a few big projects that determine the success or failure of an entire quarter (or year), an Agile approach focuses on lots of smaller experiments. Results come in, pieces of content get adjusted, and outcomes improve bit by bit.
The incremental improvements that come from these tests add up to larger, long-term improvements. Intelligent content is particularly suited to this approach because small portions of it can be easily adjusted for testing purposes without affecting the whole.
It also takes much less effort to create two versions of intelligent content than it would with “regular” content, so we can more readily test which content will perform best in a given situation.
Bringing both intelligent content and Agile methodologies to bear on our content has the possibility of drastically increasing both the speed and size of the improvements we are able to make.
Reconfigurability, testing, and data
The ease of reconfigurability that we achieve with intelligent content lowers the cost of testing and experimentation significantly. Lower-cost experiments can be repeated and replicated more often, so we get better, faster, more-frequent results to act on.
Semantically categorized content that we can pull together easily means that we can set up experiments on practically any content-driven project. And experiments produce data that we can use to iterate on the project to produce consistent improvements in its outcomes.
If we’re able to act on this type of data for all of our campaigns, even small upticks in their conversions add up rapidly. And, even without these incremental achievements combining to produce serious gains, we are still constantly collecting information about which content performs well with our audience and which falls flat.
More importantly, the ability to make small adjustments to our intelligent content helps us know why particular pieces perform better than others.
The prospect of learning exactly how to craft content that your audience wants is a tempting vision indeed.
Taking steps toward content that’s intelligent and Agile
Whether you start with the intelligent content piece or the Agile piece doesn’t matter. It primarily depends on where you think the most significant opportunities for improvement lie.
- If your content is under control but your process needs help, tackle the shift to Agile first. I’ve written a guide to getting started with Agile that will start you off right.
- For more inspiration, see Agile Content Development: Five Companies Tell How They Do It.
Powering your content with both agility and intelligence will take commitment. Your outcomes may more than justify the time you invest. If you can combine intelligent content with an Agile approach, the possibilities are practically endless.
How have you combined Agile methods with principles of intelligence with your content? Tell us about it in a comment below.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute