“PYRO Experiment” by Savannah River Site is licensed under CC BY 2.0
By adopting the lean build—measure—learn model, content marketers can test new methods of audience engagement PHOTO: Savannah River Site

With more and more organizations jumping onto the content marketing bandwagon we face a question: How do we make our content marketing stand out from the crowd? 

One approach is to experiment. We could adapt the lean startup methodology for building products to our content marketing approach. 

Lean employs an Ideas —> Code —> Data loop to ship code, then iterates based on data from real-world use. What would this look like in content marketing?

4 Content Marketing Experiments

I asked four leading content marketers how they’re experimenting. Here’s what I learned.

Margaret Magnarelli: What's Old Is New Again

Margaret Magnarelli is managing editor at Monster, with more than a decade of leadership experience at household-name consumer media brands. Her specialties include personal finance, careers and service content.

What’s one element of content marketing you’re doing differently in 2017?

Margaret Magnarelli
Margaret Magnarelli
This year, we’re going to be producing less new content than we did last year, and instead will spend more time honing our old content. As one of the earliest URLs on the internet, Monster has more than 5,000 pages of career advice content aimed at helping job seekers “find better.” 

While a lot of brands need to be filling the whitespace to drive organic traffic, we need to do some decluttering! A full-scale content audit will be followed by a full year (or more) of spring cleaning. We’ll be revisiting pages to see if they’re in need of updates for content, search or brand style — or whether we want to pull them completely. 

How will you measure the impact and know whether it worked?

Our goals are to optimize for search, make sure our brand messaging is consistent and leverage existing content in other channels. So each of these has a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) naturally attached to it. If we’re doing it right, we should see higher organic traffic to article pages and higher rankings in search engine results pages. 

Hopefully we’ll see greater engagement in metrics like longer time spent on page and reduced bounce rates. And we’ll also know we’ve been successful if we’re able to recycle more content for CRM campaigns, social sharing, retargeting and the like.

James Carbary: Time for a B2B Road Trip  

James Carbary is founder of Sweet Fish Media and co-host of the B2B Growth Show podcast. At Sweet Fish Media, the singular offering is producing podcasts. Their work has been featured in Time, Business Insider, Inc., Huffington Post and Social Media Examiner.

What’s one element of content marketing you’re doing differently in 2017?

James Carbary
James Carbary
We're introducing two video series in 2017. One series will be focused on distilling our 12 to 15 minute podcast interviews into 1 to 3 minute videos. We're launching the second video series in April, and it will be a vlog-style show called "Walk & Talk." 

I'll be traveling around the country meeting with a variety of B2B marketing leaders. We're going to have a videographer follow us as we walk around the marketing leader's office and town, talking about different elements of B2B marketing.

How will you measure the impact and know whether it worked?

We’ll examine the quality of the community that our video content creates. If our videos are good enough to get our ideal buyers (e.g. B2B marketing leaders at companies with over 50 employees) engaging with our brand, then the videos have done their job. 

We’ll also track the number of new clients that we acquire as a result. In talking to each of our clients shortly after they sign up for our service, we'll ask them if our video content played a significant role in their decision to work with us.

Jacob Warwick: A Strategic Approach to Content 

Jacob Warwick is director of communications at Skedulo. Warwick's expertise is in B2B technology and SaaS, with a concentration on enterprise copywriting, public relations and content promotion strategies. 

What’s one element of content marketing you’re doing differently in 2017?

Jacob Warwick
Jacob Warwick
I am more concerned with creating and executing impactful content, rather than lots of content. I am not interested in littering the industry with more noisy, fluffy or click-bait content. I concentrate more on creating compelling content that unites my clients and their business interests with relationships that I am interested in developing over time. 

I want my copywriting to promote people that I find interesting, as well as clients that I work with. I am thinking about content more holistically and strategically — and that perspective has been very eye-opening and rewarding this year.

How will you measure the impact and know whether it worked?

I am focused on measuring how the team's content is reflected across the customer journey by monitoring KPIs throughout each stage in our funnel. We anticipate reaching our goals, even though we are buying into a "slower content" mentality. 

Our KPIs are a strong barometer, but I am also interested in recapping the connections that we created with possible customers, industry experts, and thought leadership benefits: these include speaking opportunities, guest appearances, podcast interviews, and more.

Andy Crestodina: Increase Frequency

Andy Crestodina is co-founder and strategic director at Orbit Media Studios. Crestodina has provided web strategy and advice to more than a thousand businesses. As a speaker at national conferences and a writer for many blogs, Crestodina has dedicated himself to the teaching of marketing.

Andy Crestodina
Andy Crestodina
What’s one element of content marketing you’re doing differently in 2017?

We're increasing frequency. Our newsletter has been bi-weekly for the last four years. Now we're experimenting with weekly. The idea partly came from the data in the 2016 blogger survey

Yes, we all know that quality correlates with results. But the survey also found a correlation between quantity and results. 

percent of bloggers who report "strong results" by frequency

Bloggers who publish more often are more likely to report "strong results" across the board. This suggests that it's worth giving greater frequency a try. It might not last, so we're considering this a "sprint" for the first few months of 2017.

How will you measure the impact and know whether it worked?

We measure the performance of content in two ways: blog traffic and conversion rates from visitors to subscribers. For traffic, we measure three sources: search, social and email. Since a lot of our content is keyword-focused and rankings can take time to build, we're going to give it several months before we measure the impact on search traffic. At the same time, conversion rates should hold steady.

We increased our total traffic by 90 percent last year. If the additional effort and sweat doesn't give us at least a 50 percent increase in traffic, I'm calling this a failure. So a 50 percent increase in total blog traffic is my definition of "strong results." Ask me in June how I'm doing!