The marketing software landscape is a confusing one. With so many platforms out there, it’s difficult to choose the best solution for your organization. And, often, there’s frustrating miscommunications between vendors selling their products and the marketers looking to buy.
Part of this problem stems from the fact that content marketing—a relatively new discipline—is constantly evolving.
As new vendors emerge to keep up, comparing the features and solutions of the many kinds of technologies under the “content marketing” umbrella becomes extremely complicated.
As Rebecca Lieb states in her recent report, The Content Marketing Software Landscape: Marketer Needs and Vendor Solutions, “Because content marketing has so many permutations across hundreds of platforms, the content marketing tool landscape is a mishmash of vendors, categories, and technology platforms that make it difficult, if not impossible, to make apples-to-apples comparisons between solutions.”
As a result of this confusion, marketers end up investing in software and tools that don’t align with their needs.
So what’s the solution to this content marketing technology conundrum?
Identify your content and process needs first. Compare vendors second.
All too often, marketers buy the tool and align their activities to it, rather than aligning their activities to the tool. The result? Chaotic team processes, miscommunication, and ineffective content—usually at a costly price.
This post will guide you through the steps to take before investing in content marketing software, including the questions to ask and the features to compare.
1. Identifying Content Needs
The first step to finding a software solution that aligns with your business is to identify your content needs.
And the best way to do it is to ask questions like:
As you answer these questions, and identify content needs, get practical about your content strategy, your content development and your content schedule.
Develop a Strategy
Assuming that your company believes in the power of content to drive traffic, generate leads, and deliver business value to your organization (if not, here’s a guide to getting internal buy-in), developing a strategy is the first step to figuring out what your content needs will be.
Gather stakeholders from across your organization at the beginning of each quarter to identify major business goals, customer needs, and industry trends. Then develop content themes that directly address those priorities.
Identify Your Content Types
The type of content you create depends on what your goals are for your content. If you only want—or have the capacity—to drive traffic and boost social engagement, you should focus your efforts around building a solid online community across social channels.
If you are building a more sophisticated content marketing operation that generates leads and drives real business for your organization, you’ll want to develop a variety of content for each stage of the sales funnel—from engagement to conversion. One of the best ways to do this is with the content pillar approach.
Establish Your Content Cadence
Producing a steady stream of high quality content is essential for the success of your marketing team. The frequency of publishing depends on the content type you’re developing. Generally, the smaller, more top-of-funnel content like social posts are published with greater frequency than bottom-of-funnel, more in-depth assets like eBooks and whitepapers.
Another great way to think about the difference between high-frequency short assets and low-frequency longer assets is the Content Curve, a graph which plots content types into two “tails”: (1) A long tail of high-frequency, short-length posts, and (2) a fat tail of low-frequency, high-length assets.
2. Identifying Process Needs
There’s no one-size-fits all process for the development, management, and distribution of your content. To figure out what will work best for your organization, ask questions like:
Content processes are just as (if not more) important than the content itself. It’s not enough to know what content you want to develop. If you aren’t crystal clear on how to develop content, why it’s important, where it will live, who will review it, where it will be distributed, and how you’ll measure it’s success, your marketing efforts won’t be successful.
You’ve identified some of your most imperative content and process needs. Now, you’re ready to compare software.
This is usually where the real confusion starts.
3. Aligning Needs with Software
The best way to compare software is to build a checklist that displays all of your needs, and scores how the vendors you’re considering stacks up to those needs.
We’ve included a sample table of what that might look like below. Because every organization and team has slightly different content needs, your version of this table might be slightly different.
You can customize this checklist by copy and pasting this template.
Get Your Content Cart behind the Horse
Your organization might not be in need of a platform that checks off all of the boxes above. Maybe you just want something to manage your social efforts, for example. And that’s okay.
What matters most here is how you go about comparing your content marketing software. Resist putting the content marketing software cart before the horse. In other words, don’t adjust your needs to match the capabilities of your technology. Pick a software that meets your needs. Evaluating vendors and software solutions in this way will set you up for content marketing success.