Over recent years, marketing has become a critical lever to deliver long-term business growth. A lot of this positive change has been driven by an increase in our ability to access analytics and track performance, which also means we’re more accountable. And there’s been a massive rise in the variety of technology available to power organisations’ efforts.
Naturally, this means the role of a marketer now involves much more than knowing your customers and building strong brands – it’s crucial that all marketing professionals are skilled at operating and unlocking the power of digital technology: content marketers included.
According to chiefmartech.com, there were nearly 7,000 tools classified as marketing technology in 2018. There is a solution for almost every task you can think of: managing workflow, visualising data, organising and hosting digital assets, personalising customer experiences, optimising conversion, or automating distribution. A common challenge I hear being discussed at industry events and around the boardroom table is developing the right content marketing technology stack.
While I’d never bill myself as a technology expert, I’ve curated a list of tools I’ve used throughout my career, and others that clients and peers swear by. Hopefully it steers you towards technology that can help scale your content marketing operation.
Strategy first, technology second
When it comes to technology (or anything for that matter) it pays to begin with a solid plan. A good content strategy is handy, as it will outline your operational model and content marketing goals. If you don’t have a content strategy, you will need to start by mapping your processes and workflow, and auditing your content marketing ecosystem.
However you form an understanding of your business, you will swiftly find where technology can improve bottlenecks, increase productivity and drive efficiencies. But crucially, you’ll have clear requirements on what technology needs to do for you and what other technology it needs to plug in to.
A selection of the most essential content marketing tools
Plan and collaborate
SEMrush – for all you content strategists, editors and writers out there, SEMrush is essential. It helps you to analyse your competitors’ digital publishing and advertising, content on your own website, and what people are searching for. It’s great to identify content gaps, inform your editorial planning and guide your SEO strategy. Plus, the tool is constantly evolving and recently introduced a social media capability too. Plenty of other tools complement SEMrush, such as Google Trends and Answer the Public. And a good alternative to consider is Moz.
Canto (DAM) – as one of the leading digital asset management platforms, Canto is used by many of the world’s largest brands. It helps you to organise your digital content assets in one central place and even collaborate across your team. Plus, it has many integrations with other common tools. We use it daily.
Buzzsumo – part content marketing tool and part social media tool, Buzzsumo has a wide range of applications. My main use for Buzzsumo has always been to find what content people are sharing, as I feel it’s a good indication that the content resonates at some emotional or sociocultural level. There’s much more under the hood than that though, so take a look.
Blinkplan – if you’re a magazine editor you need a specific set of tools and Blinkplan is going to be your best bet for flat-planning. It’s effortless to use and allows you to dynamically plan and manage each issue, upload images, categorise content and share flat plans with key stakeholders, all from a web editor. There’s even a workflow capability.
Workfront – one of the hardest things to manage in any content marketing and brand publishing operation is workflow. Workfront is one of a handful of slick tools that enables teams and agencies to work together and get content from an idea to fruition seamlessly. Another one worthy of a mention is Gather Content.
Attract, amplify and engage
Mailchimp – I simply love Mailchimp. Probably not quite an enterprise-level tool, but still extremely powerful and great for start-ups right through to medium-size businesses. Mailchimp got its reputation for beautifully simple email marketing but today you can use the platform for so much more including paid advertising and campaign optimisation. You can also benefit from integrations including Eventbrite and Salesforce.
HubSpot – this is a fantastic tool for managing your content, social media, email database and sales prospecting under a single login. It links everything together so you can easily track leads through the entire customer journey. For example, you can build your blog and landing pages on HubSpot (while retaining the look and feel of your own website) and acquire email addresses through lead capture forms. From there, you can track users’ every interaction with your pages, while also feeding them lead nurturing emails using HubSpot’s sophisticated email workflow tools. The whole platform is incredibly powerful for advanced content marketing, and the good news is that there are different membership tiers, so you can pick and choose the features you need. The HubSpot blog alone is well worth visiting for marketing tips.
Hootsuite – probably the market leader in social media management, Hootsuite allows you to schedule, post, engage, amplify and listen across a variety of social media channels. It has some good analytics too and is very handy at the enterprise level when you may want to have secure access and assign roles.
Hashtagify.me – a great tactic to increase visibility on your social media content on Twitter and Instagram is to adopt hashtags. To identify the most popular and relevant hashtags for your content you can’t look past Hashtagify.me.
Shorthand – most web and blog platforms have a suite of templates that allow brands to publish different types of content. They tend to be quite basic and reasonably static, with the ability to embed rich media. To take your site experience to the next level and generate deep engagement for hero articles, you might like to consider Shorthand. It helps anyone who is a little digital-savvy to develop interactive and immersive stories using a WSYIWYG editor and has easy integration to most CMS platforms. Another tool that is similar and worth a look is Ceros.
Measure and optimise
Google Analytics – there really is no comparison to the simplicity and sophistication of the Google Analytics suite. It’s part of the Google Marketing Platform that also includes Data Studio, Search Console and Tag Manager and plenty of other great tools.
Hotjar – if you’re a visual person like me, you’ll love this tool. It helps you optimise the user experience and conversion by understanding their behaviour through elegant heatmaps and visitor recordings. Seeing your website through a user’s perspective – literally – will allow you to develop empathy and restructure your content according to their needs. You can also capture feedback and recruit your audience for user testing. A perfect complement to Google Analytics, it gives you the next level insight to how people interact with your brand online. If you're new to usability testing, check out this great guide. I recently learnt Crazy Egg is also a great alternative.
Optimizely – pitched as an “experiment platform” this tool allows you to embrace a test-and-learn mindset and unlock growth based on science. That all sounds a bit fancy, but that’s because they take A/B and multivariate testing very seriously. Optimizely also publish a great range of resources to help with optimisation too.
Incites – this is a pretty new platform built right here in Australia. Dubbed “insights for words people”, it automates content marketing analytics and pushes regular insights to your team workspace 24/7 (think Slack). There’s an off-the-shelf version where you can self-serve and the Incites team can also work on custom solutions
Tableau – every content marketer is on the hunt for actionable insights, but they are also overwhelmed with tons of data that can be hard to make sense of. Tools like Tableau allow you to create dynamic and interactive visual dashboards and literally see your data. Another one that could better suit Office 365 subscribers is Power BI.
All-in-one content marketing platforms
In addition to specialist technology platforms, there has been an influx of content marketing platforms (CMP) in the last five to ten years. They allow you to manage your entire digital content marketing operation from planning your editorial calendar to publishing, distribution and analytics, as well as hosting all of your assets, all through one single tool.
Two of the most widely used CMPs include Newscred and Contently. Each has its pros and cons, and they certainly come with a decent price tag, but if you are investing a significant portion of your marketing budget to produce content, it could be worthwhile investigating. Perhaps check out this recent Gartner report to get more detail and see what might suit you.
Kate Thompson is strategy director at Hardie Grant Media. If you want to win her over it’s best to bring coffee, craft beer, or both.