Lean Content Marketing

By Liam Gooding | 1:58pm 18/02/2013

This post is the beginning of something bigger.

I want to be honest with you. By reading this post you’re now part of an experiment  An experiment designed to test a hypothesis. So in the spirit of transparency, I’ll tell you what it is:

Marketers, publishers and entrepreneurs would like to spend less time producing valuable content while still achieving the same outcomes.

If that is true and there is a painpoint, requirement, demand, I have a solution that makes solves it. I’m going to explain, explore, discover Lean Content Marketing and how to apply it to your own business. Starting with a blog post. A short blog post too. Which may or may not grow into a larger blog post, or a blog post series – depending on how you, the reader, engage with this first experiment.

What Is “Lean”?

Lean is the concept of iteratively, methodically and scientifically executing a process to produce a product that fits the market demand, in less time and using less resources than would have otherwise been spent.

Ouch. I’m not sure if that’s a dictionary definition, but it’s the most formal way I’ve ever explained Lean. Sounds complicated, but it isn’t.

The reason why Lean is popular and well known is thanks to a few successful entrepreneurs & authors, specifically Eric Ries with his ‘The Lean Startup‘ book which chronicles his Lean approach as co-founder and CTO of IMVU and how it helped to build a company with annualised revenues of $40million.

Side Note: People keep confusing “The Lean Startup” with “Lean”, which dates back to the 80’s when Toyota’s car manufacturing principles were analysed in detail. However the effect is a positive one: People are now embracing how Lean principles and exploring how they can be applied to other business functions, and thats a good thing.

What Is Lean Content Marketing?

We should approach Lean with the following goals:

  • Always have a valid hypothesis that can proven true or false
  • Always define an experiment that requires the least resources an effort to successfully test the hypothesis
  • Always produce each product/experiment using agile development methodologies
  • Test very early and very often

And more specifically, we should approach Lean Content Marketing with the following goals:

  • Always have one specific pain point that your content is trying to solve
  • Always define benchmarks which will be the point of reference for proving the painpoint as valid or not
  • Always start small – tweets or blog posts, before moving to higher investment content formats
  • Always publish content following an 80/20 principle, and iterate on each piece of published content over time. Don’t be afraid to publish a 250 word blog post before editing it and building it into a 1,000 word post

Following these simple rules and applying them to each individual piece of content will result in a more efficient content production output, that fits with your audience’s needs.

Overall, each piece of content should start to:

  • Get more tweets, likes, stumbles, shares
  • Get more comments if a post
  • Get more downloads if a PDF or other valuable content format
  • Produce more follow up enquiries or conversions (Advanced)

That’s great for each piece of content, but how about for the overall content strategy?

How To Apply Lean Content Marketing to A Wider Content Strategy

Have you been asked to produce a 3, 6, 12, 24 month content strategy and content schedule? Quick answer to make this Lean: forget the schedule, keep the strategy strategic and leave tactical in it’s place.

A 6 month content strategy should not be thinking about the types of content you’ll be producing, or specific titles of content. I keep seeing marketers, even senior marketers, allowing tactical considerations to creep into their strategy documents.

The really smart marketers don’t even have strategy documents – they have manifestos, guiding principles, commandments. Write them on a wall. On an intranet. Make them colourful. bring them alive. Do whatever you need to do with the format to help avoid management or other colleagues from confusing tactical with your Lean Content Marketing Strategy.

A 6 month strategy should contain statements about what you want to achieve. What you want to get out of it. What you want your customers and audience to get out of it. You should discuss the Lean methodologies you’ll be using, and you can discuss some of the assumptions you currently have about your audience and their needs which might be solved through content. But leave out the tactical. That’s not very strategic.

The Lean way to produce a Content Strategy is to review, rebuild and redesign the strategy on a monthly and quarterly basis.

Summary and What Next?

I’ll get a warm feeling if you take the next steps after reading this post:

  1. Review your content strategy and see how Lean it currently is
  2. Review your process for executing your strategy and see if you can construct a Lean approach to the next content you produce
  3. Post a comment on this post discussing where you think Lean fits into Content Marketing
  4. Tweet this post if you think it was valuable to you: if it gets over a certain number of tweets, I’ll be building this out into a post series, guide, webinar, book etc. depending on my own Lean Content Marketing hypothesis

Lean Content Marketing will make your content marketing more efficient, effective and increase the engagement between your audience and your content.