I have been designing content marketing strategy in large B2B enterprises for the last few years. If I have to list the top challenges I have had with its implementation there is no doubt that the first was a missing Content Marketing Software Platform. Other major challenges were, in order: 1) setting up proper analytic and 2) moving our content strategy from central pilots to global deployment (see my post on NewsCred Insights).
Our complex marketing technology stack, heritage of endless company acquisitions and integration, miss in fact this critical piece: we had to invest a relevant amount of time thinking at how to replace all processes and functions that a content marketing platform could offer: content creation, content curation, planning, editorial calendar, workflow management, publishing, internal and external content distribution, analytics, and last but not least, intelligence.
There has been a mind-numbing proliferation of technology vendors and solutions to address the needs of content and digital marketers in the last few years. For instance, Curata’s content marketing tools map has increased from 40 to over 130 vendors in its most recent version. NewsCred too has helped navigating across the ocean of marketing technologies with one of its latest posts. Mergers and acquisitions have contributed to make things even more complex.
Now, let’s go back to the basics for a moment, and let’s define what a content marketing platform is. The latest Forrester’s Wave report on Content Marketing Platforms (end of 2015) provides some clarity (note: the report has restricted access).
To address this challenge (the challenge of the enterprise’s content chaos), several technology vendors have developed a single software platform for all involved parties to collaborate on the strategy behind the content and its planning, creation, and distribution; these are called content marketing platforms (CMPs):
[Definition] Content marketing platforms are solutions that help marketing teams collaborate on a content strategy, orchestrate the numerous, concurrent streams of activity by content creators, curators, and distributors inside and outside of the company, and optimize downstream cross-channel distribution to key audiences.
Forrester Wave’s report further clarifies the need for a CMP: CMPs, the report affirms, are a “nascent category of marketing technology stack”, and are quickly growing to provide:
- A single environment for teams to collaborate on content for all phases of customer life cycle
- A replacement for Excel and email and facilitate collaboration across organizational silos
- A place to aggregate data, content, and metrics from many sources
A Content Marketing Platform is this, and much more. CMPs act as a glue among several enterprise technologies managing content, distribution, analytics, pipeline (which is in general the primary goals of all B2B marketers) and insights, one of the new frontiers for such kind of software platforms. It is clear why CMPs have a central role and integrate several pieces of the marketing technology stack.
Where a CMP is supposed to be located within a full marketing stack? Curata introduces the “Emergence of the Content Marketing Platform”:
Sales Force Automation platforms fuel revenue by tracking and supplying sales opportunities and leads. Marketing Automation Platforms drive Sales Force Automation by supplying marketing qualified leads. But what drives the marketing activities and leads of Marketing Automation Platforms? Content. Like a car without gas, marketing automation can’t get very far without content. Content is needed for everything from a website (which is tracked by marketing automation), to email campaigns, to even pay-per-click landing page offers.
Many of today’s content marketers have little accountability and transparency in terms of how their content is performing. Their content is often warehoused and stored in multiple disparate systems and spreadsheets. That’s why a CMP is required.
Now, regardless the market studies you will look at and the marketing domain you belong to (business or consumer) content marketers have common evergreen challenges (source: Curata):
- Limited budget for staff and program spend;
- Creating enough quality content on a regular basis, whether in-house or externally sourced;
- Distributing content across multiple channels, including publication and promotion;
- Measuring the impact of content, i.e., what works and what doesn’t work to drive awareness, leads and sales enablement.
CMPs help marketers addressing all of them.
Back to my past experience and projects, as soon as we recognized the need for a CMP for our organization, we started to list all requirements for the “perfect CMP”. We segmented the requirements in six main categories, which I list here below. Using this simple and repeatable methodology, we evaluated several vendors.
(Download the CMP requirements in table format)
1) Content Development and Workflow Management
- Workflow management capabilities
- Ability to create different workflows based on content type and link those worklows to campaigns
- Ability to view all assets & status of assets related to a specific campaign
- Attach to asset and campaign name additional information such as persona, asset type, brand attribute
- Ability to send emails to content owners, content requestor or project managers about changing status of developed asset
- Ability to send emails to task owners informing them of task and work assigned
- Ability to provide workflow capabilities for translation and associate workflow to master assets, campaigns etc.
2) Editorial Calendar
- Editorial calendar management
- Capability to view content development requests by content type, campaign and persona, where contributors can view tasks assigned
- Ability to share internally the editorial calendar
- Ability to view production and publication calendars
3) Content Management
- WYSIWYG editor for direct publishing, meeting requirements to publish to blogs and major social media platforms
- Ability to manage all content development requests: ebook, infographic, whitepapers, rich media content
4) Integration with existing stack and Distribution functionality
- Ideally connect to company’s DAM to pick up imagery and post content
- Ability to integrate with blog platforms (e.g. WordPress)
- Ability to connect to existing email platforms for content to be emailed as part of newsletter
- Ability to integrate with corporate web CMS
- Ability to connect to Marketing Automation platforms (e.g. Marketo, Eloqua, etc.) for reporting information as well as to send content to be distributed via email or on landing page
- Ability to connect to CRMs (e.g. SalesForce)
- Ability to connect to social media publishing tools (e.g. Sprinklr)
- Sales enablement: ability to provide shared content to sales
5) Analytics and Insights
- Content Performance – Content Pipeline contribution
- Top performing content list by persona, by campaign , by brand attribute
- Amplification and engagement rate on content whether or not we use the CMP platform for distribution
- Internal consumption: which content assets are most used by sales and in which part of the buying process
- Localization rate: how many content assets have been internally consumed and localized
- External consumption: which content are customers consuming in which part of the buying cycle
- Insights and recommendations
6) Mobile app
- Availability as app for Smartphones and Tablets
There is not a single way to evaluate the best fit for your organization. All starts with your company/division objectives. In our case support for our content marketing strategy and in addition integration with the existing stack, support to existing internal processes and analytics were the main goals and then main criteria for selection.
A few months ago I created a comprehensive post outlining an twelve-step Content Marketing strategy. That’s exactly what the implementation of a CMP will support.
Step 1: The Case for Change
Step 2: Finding the Optimal Balance Between Central and Local
Step 3: Editorial Process- the Content Editorial Board and the Content Ecosystem
Step 4: Global and local audience persona, buyer journey and content map
Step 5: Alignment with your company’s Brand story
Step 6: Selecting a Content Hub and Content Marketing Platform
Step 7: Distribution channel strategy – distribution and amplification
Step 8: The POEM Model -Paid drives Owned which drives Earned Media (aka: How to integrate Public Relations with your B2B Content Marketing Strategy)
Step 9: Launching an Internal Communications Strategy
Step 10: Piloting Your Content Marketing Strategy
Step 11: Measurement and Optimization
Step 12: Finally, Going Global
A CMP will definitely address and support most of the points above, and as a consequence, the overall content strategy.