Content marketing technology is as much a part of a content marketer’s job as writing and editing, but we’re not always as confident with those skills as we have been with our creative chops.
It doesn’t help that the market landscape is incredibly disorganized; it’s common to find people inside the same organization using different tools to solve the same problem – all the while only using a fraction of each tool’s potential.
For example, at one previous gig, I worked on a marketing team where every person lived in their own martech bubble. The head of marketing used Basecamp for project management, but no one else did it. The creative director was on Trello, the data scientist swore by Monday.com, the product manager liked to work with Asana, and the developer who supported the team ran his work through Jira. Most of the group communicated on Slack. But not the CMO. Most of us used Google Docs, but the business development person stuck with Microsoft Office. WordPress was used for the company’s blog, while the rest of the website used a proprietary content management system.
The team’s martech stack was – and probably still is – in an absolute mess. People were getting less done because of technology, which is the opposite of what should happen. That experience informed my approach to martech, which includes a disciplined review of the content marketing technology landscape and the team’s unique goals and needs.
Understand the Content Marketing Technology Landscape
It’s hard to keep track of all the martech tools out there, but Scott Brinker somehow does. He runs the Chief Marketing Technologist blog and is the vice president of platform ecosystem at Hubspot. There are more than 8,000 martech solutions by his detailed estimates, with more than 1,900 focused solely on content and user experience. That number grew by 13.6% from 2019 and didn’t include plugins. “There are around 60,000 plugins just for WordPress,” Brinker says.
The breadth of his survey shows that no one vendor dominates martech yet. Sure, you have big all-in-one martech solutions, such as Hubspot, Marketo, and Salesforce. And WordPress is the most common CMS, but it faces more competition for new “no-code” tools, like Webflow, that don’t require much of a tech background to use.
The Managing Editor Career Survey Report 2020 found that content marketers have not settled on a standard martech stack. The one gap we discovered is that managing editors may be missing out on tools that create interactive content. Brinker sees interactive content as a growing segment of martech, and Outgrow is one of his favorite new tools in the space.
“My advice to content marketers is not to get carried away with a stack,” Brinker says. “The great thing is if you're a small to medium-sized business, many of these new tools are either free or have a freemium model where you can experiment.” He recommends that marketers spend about 10% of their time experimenting with technology.
Develop a Framework to Evaluate MarTech
Rather than dealing with content marketing technology on a case-by-case basis, follow a documented framework to gauge whether a particular tool is right for your team. The framework should address these questions in some form:
Does the tool help the team manage their time and resources better?
Answer this fundamental question before going through the sometimes long and costly process of adopting any new tool. And don’t just guess. You can use a tool like Harvest, or you can track your time in a spreadsheet. You just need a good baseline to evaluate the real impact of any addition to your martech stack.
Is the martech flexible enough to adapt to the evolving requirements of the team?
The demands on content marketers are constantly changing. Your martech should be easily modified to meet the needs of the team and the business. This may be the most challenging question to answer, and that’s why having a clear content marketing strategy that maps to business goals is so important. The strategy can help you figure out what’s a priority and what’s not.
Does the martech integrate with existing systems?
Siloed systems are less effective than those that can be connected with ones already used by the team. The good news is that many martech providers are compatible with other major solutions.
Can the martech support growth and additional users?
A solution should be able to grow with your business and provide support when needed. Fortunately, many tools operate on a freemium model that lets you try them out before you scale. While everyone on the team must understand the technological capabilities, not everyone needs access to everything. For example, maybe only you and your creative director need Adobe Creative Cloud, while the rest of the team can use Adobe Spark for their design needs.
Do the productivity gains outweigh the cost of the investment?
If the solution costs more than what it can measurably give your team in terms of productivity and collaboration, it’s not worth the investment. Again, this is where time-tracking becomes very useful in gauging the tool’s return on investment. Content marketers need to become more efficient at their jobs as time goes on. If you aren’t doing a better job after adopting a new tool, it’s probably not worth it.
Create Your Perfect MarTech Stack
Martech must adapt to the team based on your content marketing demands and the budget. The perfect martech stack fits your team and is integrated into your workflow as much as possible.
Consider the team’s preferences when developing your stack because finding the team’s best fit is essential. Here's a rundown of our preferred systems for content marketing technology at Rep Cap:
- CMS: WordPress. Roughly 35% of the websites run on this content management system.
- Email: Campaign Monitor. The publisher of Managing Editor, Mary Ellen Slayter, loves email marketing in a way few in the world do. And she really loves Campaign Monitor.
- Project management: Basecamp. We run Rep Cap by this project management tool. Everyone on the team uses it, but you can do similar things with Asana, Trello, and others. The key is to use one tool for the team consistently.
- SEO: Raven Tools. We like Raven for its relative affordability and clean reporting, but if you do in-depth SEO work, Ahrefs and MarketMuse are worth the price.
- Editorial calendars: Google Workspace. It’s ubiquitous and an easy way to get everyone on the same page with editorial calendars. Cloud collaboration tools, like Airtable, can work too as long as the team uses it regularly.
- Social media scheduling: Buffer. We’re preparing to deploy Paiger in 2021.
- Editing AI: Grammarly It doesn’t replace a great copy editor, but it gives a piece a thorough review.
For people looking for a comprehensive platform, Hubspot is our favorite. We work well with Marketo and Salesforce too. Again, it’s not about the perfect martech stack for us; it’s one that works best for you and your team.
Got a content marketing tool that’s changed your life? Please let me know.
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