The term Lean is derived from Lean production, a scientific method of eliminating waste within a manufacturing system. However, “thinking Lean” has strategic advantages in the field of Content Marketing too and can easily be applied in 6 steps.
Why Lean Content Marketing?
According to the annual Content Marketing Institute’s survey on the current state of Content Marketing, lack of both time and budget are among the top challenges B2B content marketers face. The other 2 challenges are “producing enough content” and “producing the type of content that engages”.
As a reminder, Content Marketing ROI represents the following formula:
ROI = Return / Investment.
Investment in Content Marketing consists of the following:
- Cost of producing content
- Cost of sourcing content externally
- Time spent planning and managing a content strategy
- Software and tools
- Content distribution and advertising costs
Return from Content Marketing should include the following benefits:
- Brand awareness and thought leadership
- Leads and revenue
How are those returns generated?
You are the content you publish.
What is Lean Content Marketing?
Lean Content Marketing has 3 characteristics: it is experimental, iterative and places its focus on the learning process.
1) Lean approaches strive to shape content through experimentation and refine topics, length, and other elements of content to land stronger leads and more customers. To stay lean, content marketers would create or curate content; collect data on that specific content; and use the gathered data to shape future pieces of content.
2) Lean content marketing method is iterative and consists of repeating a process and shaping it with feedback until you reach the intended goal. Lean marketers push campaigns live before they’re “perfect,” learn from the data that results, and use that knowledge to make improvements in their next campaign. Essentially, the model promotes learning as you go, saving time and resources in the process. As shown in the chart below, Lean content cycles benefit from feedback loops, involve iterating and perfecting on they go.
3) At the heart of a Lean approach is the need to learn from everything you do. Lean content marketing is about measuring the impact of content and refining it, rather than just doing some guesswork. By learning what works and what doesn’t, you can improve.The key is to learn what’s working as quickly as possible so that you can invest in the right areas and scale up your content based on what’s working. Repeating this process reduces lower-value topics in favor of those that will result in more conversions.
Lean Content Marketing in 6 Steps:
1) Define your pain points: Offering solutions to your audience’s biggest challenges is what all of your content should be trying to accomplish. Too often, content marketers rely on guesswork, or their own industry experience, to define these pain points. A “leaner” approach would be to interview actual customers rather than relying on anecdotal evidence.Lean content marketing is all about taking that next step to uncover data that can be “scientifically proven.” Treat your customers’ pain points as a hypothesis, and then survey them to confirm your theory, the resulting data you gather will prove whether your hypothesis was true or false.
2) Start small: Now, it’s time to build content around your hypothesis. Lean is all about creating high-impact content using fewer resources, which means it’s best to start small. A nice example is content curation: someone else has already taken the time to create testable content. Using that content to see how your audience responds is a low-cost way to start small and scale up.
3) Measure audience engagement: Audience engagement metrics, like social shares, “likes,” retweets, and bounce rates, help inform you on whether or not your content is drawing readers in. Use your past experience to define benchmarks that tell you whether or not your content is engaging your readers.
4) Measure bottom-line impact: Find out which content actually convertsvisitors into new customers and make sure your reader is taking that next step down the sales funnel. It’s easy to get tied up in the surface value of your content, how much traffic it draws and how many comments it gets, for example.
But in the end, it’s all about what drives desired actions; how your content affected those who converted, and those who walked. One converted customer is much more valuable than 100 people who comment and split!
5) Push your next iteration: If you’ve proven your hypothesis true, it’s time to move onto the next iteration. Create longer content, like a 400-word blog post. Take the same approach you used for your micro- or curated content, this time taking a more detailed look at why your story might experience low or higher user adoption.
6) Establish a feedback loop: Repeat the process as many times as it takes, working your way up to longer-form content pieces. As you create, test, and iterate, you’ll come to learn which formats are producing the most effective content results for your business.
Other articles you might find useful:
Why Is Agile Marketing Necessary for Organizations?
The New York Times’ Successful Digital Transformation Strategy in 4 Points