How is content marketing technology different than other marketing solutions? Does anyone really need yet another segmented view of marketing software solutions? These are questions that, candidly, we at CMI started asking ourselves just after the first Content Marketing World event in 2011.
At that event, we met with dozens of new technology companies that were either making their debut or would soon formally introduce themselves to the many attendees focused on the practice of content marketing.
As we began to dig into some of these companies, and understand the real-world problems they solved for enterprises big and small, we discovered that they were indeed different. And, as the second Content Marketing World approached in 2012, we saw even more new technologies — and new demand for tools specific to the practice of content marketing. But, we thought, surely this was a space already being covered by someone.
Yet to our surprise, when we looked around, we discovered that no one had really done an adequate job of stratifying the market for enterprise buyers of this technology. And those buyers, along with agencies, interested venture capital firms, and even some of the technology companies themselves, were coming to us and asking, “What’s the difference between X and Y solutions, and what challenges do they really solve?” Not only were we unable to point them to the right answer, we couldn’t even point them to a resonant resource that might have the answer.
So, we decided that we would take the reins, spend the time to research the space, and try to provide a pragmatic map of these technologies.
Starting with traditional technologies
Ultimately, software tools are meant to make it easier to facilitate some part of a process that is difficult to execute by other means. And, in our experience, if you can map your process to the stages outlined below, it becomes easier to identify gaps — and, perhaps, a solution that can help fill those gaps.
In our book, “Managing Content Marketing,” Joe Pulizzi and I discuss the internal content marketing process. While it’s certainly no revolutionary content map, it’s as good a model as any in describing the major components of a successful content marketing approach.
We speak to four steps:
1. Create, Edit, and Manage: To create content for content marketing, a company needs to assemble a team, develop a work flow that makes sense, establish the rules everyone will play by, and agree to follow a predetermined game plan.
2. Aggregate, Curate, and Optimize: In this step, the company aligns content across a larger narrative; pulls content in from disparate locations and teams; curates it to provide a consolidated, distinct point of view; and optimizes it for various channels.
3. Promote, Converse, and Listen: Here, the company stays focused, managing inbound conversations and publishing outbound content. It understands that it has to promote content through traditional marketing methods, as well as socialize it within communities.
4. Measure, Analyze, and Learn: During this phase, the company measures and analyzes data to understand how the content is changing or enhancing conversion rates, engagement, loyalty, or other KPIs and, ultimately, consumer behavior.
Taking these categories a step further
As an exercise, we took these four steps and started to map existing technology solutions to them. As you might expect, many of the well-known solutions fit neatly into one of the steps.
- The Create, Edit, and Manage stage included all of the modern web content management systems (WCMS) and blogging solutions, along with file-sharing technologies such as Dropbox, Box, etc.
- The Aggregate, Curate, and Optimize stage included classic content optimization, testing, and personalization tools such as Adobe Test & Target, Optimost, and Monetate.
- The Promote, Converse, and Listen stage included social channels, as well as enterprise listening tools such as Radian6 and Attensity.
- The Measure, Analyze, and Learn stage included many web analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Webtrends, and Adobe SiteCatalyst.
However, we began to notice that some of the newer, disruptive solutions fit somewhere “in between” — in the spaces where the “classic,” enterprise-focused tools (WCMS, content optimization, marketing automation, and analytics tools) weren’t flexible, fast, or robust enough to meet the demands of new, adaptive content marketing processes. Figure 1, below, depicts these “overlap” spaces.
We then took the newer technology solutions, mapped them into the overlap areas, and grouped them as follows:
Content collaboration tools — where Create, Edit, and Manage overlaps with Aggregate, Curate, and Optimize. These tools facilitate content editorial work flow, empower the enterprise to manage teams (either external or internal), and enable collaboration on content for content marketing purposes.
Curation and conversation tools — where Aggregate, Curate, and Optimize overlaps with Promote, Converse, and Listen. These tools help to promote, publish, and aggregate content in meaningful ways; in many cases, they also help manage the content optimization process by using social signals, and can even facilitate some level of unified content conversation.
Social content analytics tools — where Promote, Converse, and Listen meets Measure, Analyze, and Learn. These tools help to maintain relevance in conversation, while also providing insight into what we should be talking about — from specific niche social channel analytics, to semantic processing of social media conversations.
Engagement automation tools — where Measure, Analyze, and Learn comes back around to overlap with Create, Edit, and Manage. Beyond classic marketing automation, many of these tools not only have the ability to manage some form of content, but they can do so from the point of view of helping the marketer “optimize” content for engagement and conversion purposes.
Is this the right way to map these technologies? Well, the answer is a most definite “maybe.” Given the fast-moving and disruptive nature of this market, and the number of solutions that are actually overlapping one another, this is the best way in which we’ve been able to make sense of the current landscape.
Want to learn more?
To help you better understand content collaboration tools, I recently developed a 49-page guide based on hour-long briefings with key vendors in this space. To get an inside look at this space and these tools, download Content Collaboration Tools: An Analysis of 13 Technology Solutions in a Disruptive Marketplace.
Cover image via Bigstock