The marketing world is abuzz with two major methodologies. Neither is particularly new. Both are built on simple principles of common sense. Independently, they are changing the way marketers work. When combined, they completely redefine how we achieve and measure success.

What are they? Inbound and Agile. If they aren’t already pillars of your marketing strategy, read on because they should be.

What is Inbound?

Inbound marketing focuses on delivering such value that prospects are pulled toward your business, gravitating to your expertise, credibility and actionable information. This is in contrast to more traditional marketing, which works to push messaging and ideas onto a target audience in hopes that they will be convinced to take action and move toward conversion.

Does it work? You bet.

According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound Report, 54% more leads are generated by inbound tactics than traditional paid marketing. And companies that choose to invest more in inbound marketing than in outbound tactics save $20,000 each year. What’s more, twice as many marketers agree that inbound marketing delivers lower average cost per lead than traditional outbound methods.

You can’t argue with results like that.

What is Agile?

The agile concept, as it applies to workplace processes and efficiencies, emerged from the world of software development. While there are structured components of agile development, its basics are as follows:

  1. Start with a simple idea.
  2. Work alone or with a small team to execute quickly and without too much planning.
  3. Immediately after finishing the first iteration, seek out ways to improve it.
  4. Quickly make those improvements and release the next iteration.
  5. Repeat.

The goals of an agile methodology are increased efficiencies, continuous improvement, and the ability to respond faster to user feedback.

As for the most recent results delivered by agile, VersionOne’s State of Agile Report found that 73% of respondents indicated that by implementing agile, they achieved faster time to project completion. Respondents also reported the top three benefits of adopting agile to be the ability to manage changing priorities, increased productivity and improved project visibility.

Inbound + Agile

Inbound marketing drives conversions by delivering value to prospects that will draw leads in and convert them into customers. Agile focuses on rapidly releasing iterations and then collecting, analyzing and acting on feedback to continuously improve. Together, you have an approach to marketing that is quick, nimble, relevant and customer-centric from beginning to end.

Here’s how to make it work for you:

Create Buyer Personas – Now

How much do you have to think about and strategize what you’re going to say to your best friend, your kids or your better half? Not much, right? It just comes naturally. Why? Because you know them.

The same goes for your target market. The better you know your audience, the more effortless and effective your communication will become. It’s simple; only when you fully understand your target market, not just as buyers, but on a personal level, can you successfully – and quickly – appeal to them.

The most effective way to do this is by creating – and then actually using – buyer personas. You’ve probably at least heard of buyer personas before and it’s possible that you have actually created them for your target markets. But how committed are you to continuously refining them and working to serve them?

There are so many resources available to help you get started on creating buyer personas, so I won’t focus on them here. Instead, I’m going to use this opportunity to help you see why they are so important, and in fact foundational in converging inbound and agile for more effective marketing.

Reasons to Get Serious about Buyer Personas NOW:

  1. Understand your customers to serve them more effectively. Buyer personas allow you to create content your audience will love, campaigns that will engage them, and conversion opportunities they will respond to.
  2. Identify where your customers go …then be there. Creating buyer personas helps you to think through where your customers go for content, resources and information. This allows you to deliver content and promote it in the places your prospects are most likely to see it.
  3. Ensure Sales and Marketing are chasing the same targets. Buyer personas create a consistent, shared, well-defined understanding of each group of customers you’re targeting. Sales and marketing are in the business of generating, nurturing and closing customers together, so it helps when you have a united understanding of who it is you’re chasing after.

Deliver Value – Quickly

One of the fundamentals of inbound marketing is providing value to your target audience. One of the fundamentals of agile is moving quickly. Now that you have your buyer personas, this is where the rubber really meets the road in bringing the two methodologies together for your marketing success.

Use your buyer personas to identify opportunities to help them overcome challenges, answer tough questions and meet needs. Think about their daily lives and the obstacles they face. What content can you deliver today to help them tomorrow? Seek out ways to support your personas quickly.

Here are a couple of tips for integrating agile into your content marketing strategy:

    1. Quality and Value? Yes. Perfection? No. While your content should always be high in quality and rich in value, it does not have to be perfect. When you really know your audience, you should be able to deliver content that they will find useful and relevant. Focus on their needs and challenges. Make it personal. Show them that you understand and that you’re there to help. Provide actionable information and data they need to do their jobs better.But don’t worry about getting that content just right before publishing it. In today’s rapidly changing marketplace, there isn’t time for perfection. You’ve got to identify a need, create content to address it, deliver that content to the right people as quickly as possible and move on to the next opportunity. Don’t get paralyzed by perfection. Instead, stay agile by quickly and continuously helping your target personas overcome challenges. Remember, they want your help more than they want perfect content.
    2. Ask and Answer. One of my favorite ways to create content is to ask myself the same questions my customers ask – then answer them. We have conversations all the time with clients and they almost always have questions, right? Right down those questions and ask your sales reps to do the same.Armed with these frequently asked questions, you can churn out content quickly that you already know your target market will love. You and your team are already answering these questions in emails, phone calls and meetings. Why not document these answers in your content?Depending on the type of question, your answer may come in the form of a blog post, white paper, case study, video, infographic or some other form of content. But if you keep your target audience in mind and focus on answering their questions, you should be able to deliver helpful, relevant content rather quickly.

Measure and Analyze – Constantly

Alright, so you know your audience. You are creating content that you think will really help them. You’re delivering that content quickly. Now what?

Measurement and analysis are critical components of the agile methodology and any successful inbound marketing strategy. It’s not enough to simply churn out content that you think should be effective. No, you’ve got to go back and see just how effective it actually was. And you have to do it all. the. time. If you want to see what’s working, a snapshot now and then won’t cut it. You’ve got to constantly monitor the fruits of your labor.

The good news is that there are a million ways to measure your marketing efforts. The bad news is that there are a million ways to measure your marketing efforts. With so many options for what to measure and how to measure it, where are you to start?

Here a few simple things to focus on in your measurement.

  • Traffic: Check in on your content regularly to see what pieces are doing well and which ones aren’t meeting expectations. Watch the traffic to the posts and pages, as well as the reach of your related social media posts.
  • Engagement: As you monitor traffic to your content, also look at what people are doing when they see it. Are they filling out the forms on your landing pages? Commenting on your posts? Sharing your content with others? Claiming your offers? Clicking your CTAs? Opening your emails?
  • Feedback: What are you hearing from your clients, your leads, and your target audience as a whole? And don’t forget your sales reps! Look for feedback about your content at every turn. What are people saying in their comments on your blog posts and on social media? What is your sales team saying about the content you’ve provided? What qualitative data can you pull from the feedback generated by your content?

Iterate and Improve – Endlessly

You may have noticed that the last section focused on measuring and analyzing the effectiveness of your efforts, but it didn’t get into what to do with that information once you collect it. This is another aspect of both inbound and agile that is absolutely imperative. In fact, I would go as far to say that without iteration and improvement, you have not truly implemented the agile methodology or an inbound marketing strategy. Neither one.

Harsh huh? Not really. Because this step is what separates the good from the great. The traditional from the progressive. The marketers who will truly be effective from those who will continue to settle for the status quo.

To really hit a homerun with a combined agile and inbound strategy, you must take that continuous flow of data and feedback you collect about your content and use it.

OK, but how? I thought you would never ask.

Traffic + Engagement

When you review your content to see what kind of traffic it’s pulling in, take note of the following:

What content is seeing high traffic and high conversion rates?
These are obviously indicators that you’re doing something right. But don’t give yourself a gold star and move on just yet. Try to understand why that content is working. Who is it attracting? What might you have done differently in creating and/or promoting this content? Take good notes on these gold nuggets. Don’t let them become anomalies.

While this knowledge is fresh in your mind, capture it. Take note of new content you can create to use the factors that you believe worked well in these types of content. Test your theories and see if you can identify some trends for creating effective content for your target audience.

What content is seeing low traffic, but nice conversion rates?
What these stats tell us is that the content and your conversion opportunity is working, but too many people aren’t missing the content altogether. Look closely at how it was distributed. Did it simply not get promoted enough? Perhaps it was put in front of the wrong people. Also, take a look at your headline text. Was there something about your title, subject line, header, or leading copy that could have turned off your target audience?

Make adjustments according to your observations and iterate. That is, release a new version of your content with modifications. Then watch to see how it performs. Take note of improved (and hopefully not worsening) results based on your changes.

What content is seeing high traffic but low conversion rates?
This content is the inverse of the previous situation. You’re reaching people and they’re accessing your content. But something is amiss in your conversion opportunity.

Possible culprits could be that your subject line or title doesn’t actually align with the content, the conversion opportunity doesn’t hold enough value for your audience or perhaps the placement of it made them overlook or miss the opportunity altogether.

Again, this is your big chance to iterate. Look for ways to make that content better. It’s getting the traffic, all you need to do is find the formula to capture leads from the pool of people consuming your content. This is a great time to use A/B testing to see what tweaks work and what don’t.

Feedback

Any feedback is good feedback, if you ask me. Read those blog comments and social interactions. Pay attention to what your audience is retweeting and sharing. Ask your sales reps for their opinions, too.

Numbers will tell you a lot, as we just saw, but qualitative feedback is invaluable, as well. Listen to what your content consumers have to say and pivot accordingly. Is your content too long? Try a few shorter versions. Would video be more appealing? Give it a whirl. Do your targets crave more detail? Get down and dirty with more information.

Listen. Apply what you learn. Release modified content. Measure. Repeat.

There’s a lot that agile and inbound can learn from each other and there are so many ways they are naturally complementary. Savvy marketers will put the best of both methods to good use with nimble, quick, smart, ever-improving marketing movement. Just remember to keep pushing forward with content that is valuable for your target market and never stop improving it.

How are you implementing elements of agile and inbound together? I would LOVE to hear it!

This post originally appeared on the Inbound Marketing Agents blog

Inbound + Agile = Marketing Magic
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