Content Marketing is an ideal way to touch, influence, and engage the right customers for your business. But to do so efficiently in today’s competitive marketplace, you need to rely on powerful Marketing Tools that work together efficiently. That’s why more and more organizations are building their own Content Marketing Tool Stack.
But doing this right can be hard. One of the biggest obstacles is simply the sheer number of products to choose from. According to Scott Brinker at the Chief Marketing Technologist Blog, in 2016 there were more than 3,800 marketing technology solutions on the market! To really bring this home, here’s Scott’s attempt at representing just the logos of all the products available in this space:
In 2015, IDC predicted a compounded annual growth rate of Marketing Technology budgets of 12.4% by 2018, with spending reaching $31.7B. Businesses clearly see value in this technology to make such investments. But just buying whatever technology looks promising and throwing it at the Marketing team is a sure-fire way to fail.
One approach to dealing with this problem is the concept of a Marketing Tool Stack. This is the set of tools that your organization uses to do your job. But it is more than just a random collection of tools. As Kayleigh Moore explains:
“…a marketing technology stack is a group of technology-based tools (think SaaS platforms, traditional software, social media tools, etc.) that marketers use to efficiently and effectively conduct and monitor their marketing efforts.”
In other words, a Marketing Technology Stack is a set of tools that works together to help you get the job done s efficiently as possible. But there is no one-size-fits-all Marketing Tool Stack out there. The specific tools that belong in any stack depend upon the organization’s marketing strategy as well as the tools they are already using, the size of the organization, the target audience, and the human and IT resources available. And of course the available budget.
Given this, we are going to focus a bit. Instead of trying to define a generic Marketing Tool Stack that applies in every case, we are going to talk about the core elements of an effective Content Marketing Tool Stack. We still won’t be able to specify exactly which products belongs in your organization’s stack. We will, however, be able to pin down the types of tools you should look at and how they interact to help you touch, influence, and engage the right customers with your B2B Content Marketing.
Choosing Your Content Marketing Tool Stack
Here’s a list of tools that should be a part of any B2B Content Marketing Tool Stack:
- A Top-Notch CRM Tool
- A Compatible Marketing Automation Tool
- A Powerful Content Management System (CMS)
- An Email Marketing System
- A Web Analytics Tool
- A Top-Notch CRM Tool
To truly influence and engage B2B customers, you need to understand them in great detail. Understanding factors such as each customer’s pain points, challenges, and content preferences is crucial if you are to keep them engaged and influence them to buy your product. This deep understanding also helps you to target the right customers for your product or service.
More and more, B2B customers expect to be treated to B2C-style marketing, with infographics, video, and social media touches. But to compete successfully, you need to do better than this kind of broad brush analysis.
This is why you should consider making a top-notch CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool the heart of your Content Marketing Tool Stack. A good CRM tool will integrate well with other functions within the organizations such as Sales and Customer Service. In addition, your CRM should provide dashboards depicting KPM’s as well as quality reports suitable for use by executives.
Another key thing to look for in a CRM tool is its ability to integrate with other products. Can the CRM tool you are interested in integrate with business and Marketing tools that are already in use in your organization? Many CRM tools integrate with other popular tools right out of the box and offer custom integrations for situations where they do not already integrate with a particular product.
A Compatible Marketing Automation Tool
To effectively touch, influence, and engage potential customers you will need to deliver a lot of content (preferably personalized) to each prospect. This makes a Marketing Automation tool a crucial part of your stack. As with all the other tools available to us as Content Marketers the capabilities of each Marketing Automation tool vary. You should look for a tool that handles the most labor-intensive aspects of the job, such as email and social media marketing, customer segmentation, and lead management and scoring. A/B (a.k.a. split) testing is another capability that you will want to see in your tool.
It is crucial that the Marketing Automation tool you choose integrates with your CRM. Without this, you are likely to waste much of your Marketing efforts. It does you no good to generate quality leads if they fall through the cracks due to weak communication with Sales.
A Powerful Content Management System (CMS)
A powerful Content Management System (CMS) is another key element of any Content Marketing Tool Stack. You need an efficient system to create, modify, and publish your content. A CMS typically separates the content itself from the presentation of that content and will support multiple content creators. This division of labor lets content creators concentrate on that, while the CMS ensures that the content is presented to the world in a consistent manner.
While there are many different CMS with many different capabilities, for B2B Marketing, you should consider a CMS that does more than simply manage the content of Web pages. You will be generating a huge volume of content and will need a centralized system for managing it all. Depending on your content marketing strategy, you may need a CMS that has some or all of the following capabilities:
- Format management
- Revision management
- Version control
- Content indexing
- Content search and retrieval
- Industry-specific standards compliance
- Enterprise content management
What about integration with the other tools? If part of your overall plan is to use forms on your website for lead generation or support, you will at least want a CMS that can talk to your Marketing Automation tool.
An Email Marketing System
Email remains an important way to touch potential customers. Marketing Automation tools make heavy use of email to distribute content and keep engagement alive. This being the case, many CRM and Marketing Automation tools have built-in email functionality that could save you significant training and integration work.
A Web Analytics Tool
Web Analytics measure and analyze data related to the performance of your website. These tools will give you information such as: the number of unique visitors, number of pages per visit, and which keywords the visitor was searching when they arrived at your site. The goal is generally to see how well your website converts visitors into leads, and to determine which content and marketing channels are most productive for you.
As with other parts of the business, measuring the performance of your website is vital to getting the best results. As Brad Messinger from Marketing Insights points out,
“The creativity and storytelling that is often associated with advertising and marketing are no longer the only skills needed to succeed in the industry—and there’s enough data to prove it. Today’s marketer has many more channels to choose from, access to unprecedented amounts of data, and ultimately, more responsibility across the entire organization. Needless to say, if the 20th century was all about the creative, the 21st century is all about the numbers.”
Note that Web Analytics tools are hampered by the privacy tools many web users employ. This means that the results gained from this kind of tool will never be 100% accurate and may even vary from tool to tool.
Additional Tools to Consider
Once you get beyond the key tools we’ve just discussed, there are all sorts of options depending on your unique business needs.
Social Media Tools
If your business relies on social media to engage your customers, consider integrating social media marketing tools into your stack. Tools are available to automatically distribute your content across social channels on a schedule you define. Others track and analyze engagement across the channels enabling you to target your marketing where you get the best ROI. Still others monitor social media channels looking for mentions of your product or service so you can react to positive (or negative) messaging immediately.
Content Research Tools
It can be challenging to continue to generate good ideas for new content day after day. A good content research tool helps you generate new ideas for content. In reality, you may well find that you want to use more than one of these tools, as they take varied approaches to the task. Here are some of those approaches:
- Find the most popular topics on a competitor’s website
- Find the best-performing content related to a specific topic
- Find which search keywords other sites rank for
- Find all trending topics in a specific industry
This kind of tool is definitely optional, but could be just what you need to keep fresh, engaging content flowing over time.
Choosing Specific Tools
Now that we’ve pinned down what kinds of tools you need and how they interact, it is time to choose. Unfortunately, this will be an iterative process, as many of the tools need to integrate smoothly with the others.
To begin with, you need to be clear about your Content Marketing strategy as your stack needs to support this. Someone in your Marketing organization needs to understand the available technology to know what is strategically possible. At the same time, with literally thousands of vendors offering marketing technology products, it is clear you need some way to narrow your focus even beyond what we have done so far.
Getting your IT department involved in the decision-making progress early can help. You need their buy-in since you will be relying on them to implement and support whatever technologies you choose. They can also help you avoid wasting time and resources evaluating products that are incompatible with existing company systems.
To facilitate interactions between Marketing and IT, some companies are implementing the position of Marketing Technologist. The person (or persons) in this role act as the liaison between the two departments. This requires a strong understanding of the technologies available, the needs of Marketing, and the technical capabilities of IT. This function will become more important as the number of Marketing tools explodes over the next few years.
Even with the guidance offered here, creating the right Content Marketing Tool Stack will take time. But the results, in terms of more efficient, productive Content Marketing should be well worth it.