If you plan to acquire new technology to support your content strategy, don’t look at the eye-popping Marketing Technology Landscape Super Graphic from Chief Martec.
The most recent version (from 2020) details 8,000 products categorized into advertising and promotion, content and experience, social and relationships, commerce and sales, data, and management.
Whether you viewed this intimidating graphic or chose to skip it, here’s the takeaway: You have a lot of options. How do you choose the technology that’s right for your needs?
We asked the experts presenting at ContentTECH Summit in March for their best advice. They came up with insights into the tech selection process – and pointed out ways to tackle the hurdles you’ll face in successfully integrating new tech into your content and brand operations.
Take tech for a test drive and visit other drivers
When possible, take the technology for a test drive and speak to people who are actually using the product in their companies. Seeing what the technology looks like in everyday usage is vital. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other marketers in groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Reddit: The community is here to support each other. – Zontee Hou, director of strategy, Convince & Convert
Test drive any #Content tech and talk to people who use it now through LinkedIn, Facebook, or Reddit groups. The community is here to support you, @ZonteeHou via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Ask fellow employees
Talk to everyone and anyone, inside and outside of your organization. You may find other content teams in your organization need similar technology. Or they may have already explored the technology you’re considering buying and can save you time or frustration. Find out if there’s an opportunity to sync up with other teams to reduce costs, redundancies, and situations where content can’t connect across silos. – Gavin Austin, principal tech writer, Salesforce
Talk to coworkers in other groups about #Content technology. They might have explored the options you’re considering or need something similar, says @GavinAustinSays via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Begin with a workshop and a technology audit
Start with what you want the new technology to do for your content strategy. Identify those needs in a cross-functional workshop. Invite representatives from around the organization. Map what “good” looks like and what is needed to automate and personalize those content experiences at scale.
Before you buy anything, audit your existing tech stack to see if it can fill some of the gaps. If not, create a scorecard with the top 10 benefits you expect and rate your vendors against them. Read reviews, draw up a short list of solutions, meet vendors, run through demos, and speak to existing users of the technology if you can.
It may sound like a long process, but no one wants to re-platform after a tech investment does not deliver on its promise. And finally, make sure you have a robust technology onboarding plan for your team and map your processes and ways of working. – Karen Hesse, founder and CEO, 256
Secure blessing from users
Look into the future
Ask, “How will I use this technology to future-proof my content for at least the next 10 years?” As cool as new technology can be, it is only half the equation. Future-proofed content is componentized and written in a way that it can stand alone no matter the context.
New technology can help you with the componentization, but the writing? That’s still on you. Alongside your new technology, what new processes will ensure your writing team creates accurate and engaging content even if it were to appear on a platform that no one has envisioned yet?”– Josh Anderson, associate information architect, Precision Content Authoring Solutions
Think about how to use #Content technology to future-proof your content. But also consider how to create content for platforms that don’t exist yet, says #JoshAnderson via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Take control and ask ‘what if?’
The conventional wisdom says that technology should support your goals. Implementation of new technology is not an IT project. It’s your project, and it must be driven by your needs. You must have a clear understanding of where you are going and why. Based on your vision, you can compile use cases and write scenarios that will be the foundation of your requirements for the technology. That’s true, and it works in many cases.
However, new technologies are emerging. They can offer you fundamentally new opportunities that you haven’t had until now and maybe haven’t ever thought about. These opportunities were not part of your vision and goals. In this case, technology may inspire some new ideas and a new vision of your goals. For example, what if pharma companies could use technology to tailor information in drug leaflets to a patient’s profile – age, personal medical conditions, chronic diseases, etc.? How would that change the way these companies create and deliver content? How would that change the way patients engage with the content? – Alex Masycheff, CEO, Intuillion
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Think fresh, not refresh
Don’t select new technology using old methods. Apply “design thinking” to create an agile, empirical selection process, as I explained in detail in the book The Right Way to Select Technology. – Jarrod Gingras, managing director and analyst, Real Story Group
Invest in people and process before tech
Tech should always be the last thing you invest in. Using the triangle of people, process, and tech, I believe that is the order. Great people are the core to getting things done. Then those people need process, so we’re not taking on non-scalable ideas. Once we’ve proven success, tech allows that true scale to happen. – Randy Frisch, CEO and co-founder, Uberflip
Go beyond the demo
My best advice for any content marketing team is don’t believe the demo. Make the provider set it up as a real account using your data, content, use cases, etc. Then, you can really see if the product will perform as you expect. Every time that I’ve failed to do this, the software purchased has failed to deliver on the promise. – Tom Martin, president, Converse Digital
Know what you need it to do
Ask what problem it solves. Not if the tech is shinny or flashy, but what specific problems will this purchase solve? – Rob Walch, vice president of Libsyn enterprise and platform partnerships, Libsyn
Match to your business goals
Consider your business goals and what you want your content to do for the business, now and in the future. Look for technology that supports those goals. Let your business needs and content strategy guide your selection and use of technology. Also, think about where you can adopt new ways of working. Too many teams end up customizing the new technology to match current processes rather than modernizing how they work. – Regina Lynn Preciado, senior content strategist, Content Rules
Streamline across organization
Make sure it talks to your other systems. The tech stack will only get more confusing and burdensome when systems become redundant and disconnected. – Ali Orlando Wert, director, marketing strategy, SmartBug Media
Answer these questions first
Triple check if you really need the new tech. All new tech asks for transition and change: Are you up for it? Is it worth it? Can the same be achieved with a different approach? – Tim Hanse, principal consultant, Crossphase
Don’t forget the big picture
Selecting the right technology is only a part of the challenge in a successful strategy that combines content and tech. Make plans to tackle the bigger picture, too.
The tools themselves won’t unify content creation across various outputs or content teams, says Salesforce’s Gavin Austin. That unity only comes when you provide resources, examples, or justifications to help everyone learn and understand the strategy.
As Regina Lynn Preciado of Content Rules says: “Organizations try to do too much at once and end up giving up – they lack a phased plan. People don’t all understand and commit to the vision (if there is a vision), so the efforts become scattered.”
Of course, tech won’t be helpful if it extracts trustworthy data about your customers’ behaviors, says 256’s Karen Hesse. You also need a written content strategy that details where your customers’ needs intersect with your company’s expertise. Only then can “martech innovations can really help to personalize and scale the customer content experience,” Karen says.
Before you start
Combining content and tech to execute your strategy won’t happen in one week, month, or quarter.
The overarching lesson in selecting the right technology for your content strategy is this: It’s OK to feel overwhelmed. Just take a breath (or two) and get started.
Create a step-by-step plan – with the helpful advice from these experts – to make it more manageable and more likely to be successful.
What tech investments are you considering this year? How are you approaching the search? Let us know in the comments.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
What Will It Take To Drive Content Marketing Forward?
You’re doing everything in your power to craft amazing content.
You sweat over quality, optimize everything to the last keyword, and feed those greedy channel beasts more and more and more.
But the results you get don’t match the effort you put in. What are you doing wrong?
The game has changed. Simply doing the once-right things – and more of them – won’t guarantee wins.
Playing to win now means doubling down on strategy
“The content you create provides no sustainable competitive advantage for your business.”
Robert Rose kicked off Content Marketing World 2022 with that bold statement. Even the most exceptional work will be copied, remixed, reimagined, and reissued by other brands and consumers.
But don’t take that statement as a eulogy for our beloved practice. Instead, celebrate new and different ways of looking at your work, Robert said, starting with your strategy and structure.
Having the right resources (including the strategic roles, teams, and repeatable procedures) lets you fluidly change and evolve all the time.
And that’s where you’ll find your new competitive advantage.
Invest in a remarkable (and human) voice
Take Netflix, for example. The streaming giant made the strategic choice to invest in real, live humans to write the closed caption subtitles for its smash-hit Stranger Things. That choice paid off with the kind of online buzz no brand can buy.
Most streamers use automated transcriptions to help people with hearing difficulties follow what’s happening on screen. But Netflix assigned marketing writers to craft vivid descriptions of the sounds accompanying the Stranger Things action.
The evocative and unsettling words they used (wetly squelching, tentacles roiling) caught the attention of younger viewers – a segment that watches shows with captions on regardless of their hearing ability. Earned media mentions skittered across the web, entangling viewers in a whole new viewing (and reading) experience.
The lesson, Ann said, is that voice can carry your brand’s unique personality, even when your brand isn’t mentioned. Investing in it is a strategic choice that sets your brand apart.
“A warm, relatable brand voice is increasingly crucial. It’s how we need to start developing relationships with our audiences, especially in this world of content abundance,” Ann said.
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Do what others don’t dare
While writing a book about how mobile phones transformed communication, he hit on a unique idea. Why not put his phone number on the cover, so readers could reach out and continue the dialog?
His publishers balked. So, Bonin purchased the rights from them and published the book his way. Since 2016, more than 50,000 readers of Txt Me: Your Phone Has Changed Your Life. Let’s Talk About It have called to create a personal connection with him.
A co-founder of Group Black – a media collective and accelerator focused on advancing Black-owned media properties – Bonin built his groundbreaking marketing career by thinking differently about what others consider impossible.
Bonin offers advice on how to challenge convention into meaningful marketing actions:
- Aspire, but have a plan to see ideas through: While aspiration is a significant first step, you must develop the muscle memory to see your ideas to completion. Allocate the time, resources, and effort to execute the ideas.
- Operate in real-time: The set-it-and-forget-it mentality doesn’t work anymore. Think about how you can change your business to deliver products in real time.
- Be resourceful: Experimenting with content is not about how much money is available. It’s about how well you use the assets, talent, and resources you have.
- Operationalize innovation: Look for models you can reverse-engineer to guide the development of your ideas and create guardrails and structures that make innovation more manageable.
- Be curious: If you build the skill of curiosity, you can foster environments that create change.
- Don’t give up: A no from stakeholders doesn’t mean your idea is bad. It just means it’s not the right fit under the current situation. Keep workshopping it. If all else fails, consider developing it elsewhere or on your own.
Advocate for a clear content career path
People remain the most valuable (and expensive) content marketing assets. So cultivating content marketing careers is one of the most strategic choices an organization can make.
Upcoming CMI research shared at the conference shows most content marketers are at least somewhat satisfied with their current roles. Yet few feel sure about how they’ll grow in those roles. And of those who do have a clear career path, 20% say they’ll have to leave their employer to get there.
“We have to build a career path into what it is we do. There’s no way content becomes a strategic function in the business if we don’t look at this. It will always be just a content factory,” Robert said.
Jessica Bergmann shared how Salesforce did this. Working with the employee success team, Jessica and colleagues documented a career path for content team members to follow to progress from individual contributors to executive management.
Each company should build a path that suits its structure and culture. But Jessica shared some ideas any brand can use to start seeding opportunities and laying a professional path for content team members:
- Advocate for integrated content teams: “It’s important that you show up as one company with one voice. We can’t have all different teams creating content everywhere and showing up with different voices and perspectives,” she said.
- Define content roles and responsibilities clearly: Understand how content-centric teams across the organization collaborate and align their efforts to help content strategy get a seat at the decision-makers’ table.
- Create democratized performance dashboards: Empower company leadership to see each content asset’s performance without asking for it.
- Automate the ordinary: Using your automation tools to reduce time spent performing mundane tasks will allow content teams to focus on creating extraordinary and impactful content experiences.
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Set your vision on meaningful change
Perhaps the most urgent strategic question today is this: How will you create content that leads to a meaningful change in the world?
With trust declining in government and other institutions, audiences now expect brands to work toward something beyond their balance sheet. Robert Rose pointed out in his talk that the subhead for Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer is this: “Societal leadership is now a core function of business.”
Mark Harrison brought home the role of content (and individual content practitioners) in this function. A volunteer and entrepreneur who founded sponsorship agency T1 to work exclusively with impactful brands, Mark is committed to making a difference.
“I have a simple personal vision, and that is to create a world of belonging,” he said. “No matter what you look like, what you sound like, or where you come from, you will feel that you belong.”
Mark executes his mission by building what he calls the above-ground railroad, giving the nod to the underground railroad that helped thousands of enslaved people escape to freedom in the United States. The above-ground railroad activates networks of people to bring greater equity and opportunity to those who have been marginalized by society.
Part of that work involves amplifying their struggles and their strengths to those who have the power to increase inclusivity.
“Amplifying voices is not giving your social pages over to somebody that doesn’t look like you. It’s about showing real courage,” Mark said.
Mark shared a brand example that shows how powerful courageous content can be. When Harry Met Santa, a video from Posten Norge, tells the story of a developing relationship between a man (Harry) and Santa Claus. The video ends with a romantic kiss between the two, followed by this closing line: “In 2022, Norway marks 50 years of being able to love whoever we want.”
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How will you make content better for everyone?
These and other Content Marketing World conversations make one thing clear: You have your work cut out for you.
But you also have an opportunity to rethink your content strategy to create something remarkable. That strategy might include investments in:
- Talented creators who help develop your brand’s distinctive voice
- A clear career path that helps you keep your talent
- New and different approaches to content possibilities
- Making a societal impact
What takeaways resonate with you? Where do you plan to focus your strategy for the rest of the year and into 2023? Let us know in the comments.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
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