Over the last two decades the world of marketing has undergone a massive technical revolution. Marketers now have the ability to serve content directly to audiences as platforms that enable them to deliver targeted messages, buy media programmatically and automate distribution have dramatically changed the marketing landscape.
Because of this, content marketing has become an industry of its own to aid and improve marketers' efforts to sell their brands.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, "Content marketing's purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior. It is an ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and it focuses on owning media, not renting it." However, as the market has become flooded with information, it has become increasingly difficult for marketers to integrate content with a variety of distribution options, and to catering to risk-averse buyers.
The has led to the creation of Content Marketing Platforms, or CMPs, which has vastly influenced the way that marketers collaborate on, plan, and produce content. While the variety of CMP solutions are massive and with hundreds of dedicated solutions for social media management, email, automated marketing, content management and digital asset management, the process of finding the right CMP to solutionize your content marketing strategy can be a daunting task.
In this article we will go step-by-step through everything you need to know about CMPs. From what exactly they are, to how they can help you to whether you even need one at all and finally, which vendor to choose.
How to Choose the Right Content Marketing Platform Vendor for your Business
What is a CMP?
CMPs are software solutions that enable marketing organizations to centralize and streamline their upstream marketing processes from beginning to end, including planning and briefing to collaboration and approvals. While different CMPs have different purposes, their main aim is to assist enterprise brands in solving difficult coordination and management challenges and garner concrete business successes by improving the efficiency of the content management process, increasing the effectiveness of content, and reducing risks to brands.
In short, CMPs help marketers ensure that the content that gets targeted, served, and optimized in the distribution phase of their process is meaningful, engaging, on-brand and compliant with the ultimate aim of enabling marketers to drive awareness, leads and revenue from content. It also helps you save time in the creation and the promotion of content, while the measurement can focus on the wider business objectives, going beyond the social KPIs.
When it comes to CMPs, there are plentiful options. Choosing one of them is a major decision that will profoundly influence the efficiency of your organization and the satisfaction of your team. Doing thorough research and carefully considering your options before committing to a platform is crucial.
A CMP should not be confused with the following:
A Content Management System (CMS), which is software that lets you build websites and blogs without html. Where CMPs develop and deliver content to CMSs, they are not themselves content management systems. Examples of well-known CMSs are WordPress and Wix.
CMPs are also not project management programmes that lets you plan, schedule, collaborate and communicate projects amongst teams and stakeholders. Examples of these include Trello and Basecamp.
Lastly, CMPs should not be confused with marketing automation platforms (MAPs) which automates repetitive marketing actions such as emails or social media posts. MAPs are focused on lead generation. While they can be very useful for content marketing, they are mainly geared towards distribution and not towards the content itself.
Do you need a CMP?
With the myriad of ways brands can reach consumers these days, many content marketers find it difficult to track exactly how their content is performing throughout the entire sales cycle. Many still rely on spreadsheets and emails to manage their marketing. But these manual tools offer little opportunity to improve “upstream” marketing operations. This is where CMPs come in.
The right CMP will empower you to have one, unified view of your content supply chain all the way from conceptualization to production to marketing. It will allow you to manage this supply chain on a data-driven, scalable way that adds to your business growth. It will also give you a bird's eye view of how your content is affecting lead and revenue generation, as well as on the marketing and sales process.
When deciding whether you need this type of thing for your business, consider weighing the pros and cons.
The cons are mostly cost-related as the roll-out of a new CMP will cost you time and money. CMPs can be quite expensive and range in price from $8,000 to more than $100,000 per year. Only you can determine what your business can afford, but if you don't produce that much content rather choose something less expensive that will be good value for your money. Your CMP should not be a financial drain on your business.
It will also take time to train your marketing team to use the system effectively, which might influence productivity for a while. This is something you should consider when deciding which CMP to choose as you might want to opt for something a bit less complicated to learn.
As for the pros, a CMP will undoubtedly increase your productivity as it will allow you to be more organized in all three stages of the marketing funnel. You'll be able to track your content production and distribution and will have access to detailed analytics to inform your strategy and business plan.
Which features are the most important?
A good CMP will add value throughout all stages of the content marketing process. This means there should be some level of support from strategy through to analytics. But which features are most important to you will be determined by your business strategy. Here is a list of important features to consider when considering a CMP.
Editorial Calendar: A good editorial calendar allows you to keep track of important dates and manage your time. This makes it easy to spot business opportunities and helps you plan in advance for important events, holidays or marketing campaigns. For instance, if you own a bookstore, knowing that National Book Lovers Day falls on August 9 will give you plenty of time from the beginning of the year to prepare any special campaigns, promotions or marketing content. Be sure to understand how you want to sort and distribute content through your editorial calendar before you pick a CMP that can do this.
PRO TIP: Choose a CMP that integrates well with your social media content calendar.
Connect to Content Creators: This feature allows you to shop and hire reputable content creators directly from your CMP. An example of a CMP that does this well is ClearVoice, which does everything a regular CMP does, but is also a freelance marketplace where you can get the best freelance writers and editors suited to your needs. It allows you to search for journalists, influencers and bloggers within a certain budget and lets you request pitch ideas for articles, as well as see pitches for articles from freelancers.
Internal Communication: This feature allows teams to communicate and collaborate on content. A CMP that's particularly good at this is Kapost, which not only lets you manage your editorial processes from beginning to end, but gives you the ability to create and update workflows easily and let team members give each other feedback directly in the tool during all creation stages. With Kapost you can brainstorm content ideas, onboard and organize writers, run the content production process and calendar, distribute content, promote it, and measure the results.
Lead generation by tracking content: This feature is standard for most CMPs. Tracking leads generated by your content is integral to the success and development of most marketing strategies.
Distribution: Distribution capabilities vary across CMPs. Some CMPs allow you to distribute your social media platforms, your blog, website, email, ads and more, while others do not. For example, Ceros allows you to incorporate any content you've created into a website or blog as standalone web pages or embedded assets. It also lets you publish and distribute your content on Facebook and other landing pages. Published content can also be edited or updated easily. With the URL and embed code, Ceros lets you change an already published item and republish it.
Real time analytics: Real time results and insights from your campaigns give you an edge by allowing you to see immediately what works and what doesn't and responding accordingly. ScribbleLive is a one such a CMP. Its all-in-one SaaS system combines predictive analytics with content planning, creation and distribution technologies to deliver optimized business results.
Asset library management: CMP houses content assets for you in one place. It helps if this is done in a cloud, so that it doesn't take up massive amounts of space on servers that you need to maintain and update.
Content templates: Customizable templates helps streamline creation for content team. You will soon figure out which templates are best suited to what you need and customize them accordingly. But a template to start with makes life much, much easier.
Do the research
After you've determined which features you will need in a CMP you can start researching your options. You know best what your business needs are so answer those questions first for yourself. Will your team actually use the CMP? Will you be able to train your team and how long will it take? Can you afford the time and money it will cost? Are there ways to make it more cost efficient, like using the CMP in more than one department? And will the software scale with your company?
Think through all of these questions and anticipate where you might run into issues with your new system. If you can't tick all the boxes, it's not worth spending the money.
Do some digging online. Check out the vendor's website. There are usually tons of information there, and although not objective, it's a good place to start. Also look for testimonials and case studies on the product websites. If you know exactly what you are looking for, contact their sales team to hear if they can assist.
The next logical thing is to look for reviews of the product online. There are many sites that review this type of software, such as TechRadar and Capterra and people are usually brutally honest about products' flaws.
If you've done all of this and you're still not satisfied, speak to someone who already uses the CMP you have in mind for more detailed information about what works and what doesn't. The fact is, as with most products, you will only truly know all its kinks once you start using it. The next best thing is to speak to someone who has been doing just that.
Test with a demo
Once you've sifted through all the options, choose your preferred CMPs and ask the sales team for a demo. This is your chance to really test if a CMP will work for you so be thorough and ask questions, including: Does the CMP include training/onboarding? Will there be tech support after onboarding? Does the package they offer have a limit on the content/leads/customers/etc. you can get before having to pay more? What is the procedure for updating? Does the platform integrate with other software you might already be using? If you know you won’t always have online access, also remember to ask whether the system allows offline access.
Make a list of all the things you want to discuss before going into the demo so that you don't forget anything.
Choose a CMP and go all in
After you've done your due diligence it's probably a good idea to set down key goals and performance indicators for what you want the software to achieve. This will be a big help when the time comes to renew your subscription and you need to establish whether it has been successful in helping you achieve your marketing goals.
By now you'll have realised that a lot of research goes into picking the right content marketing platform. While it may seem daunting, doing the work will pay off in the long term when you start to see results from the use of your CMP. But first you need to have a clear understanding of what a CMP is, how it will improve your marketing efforts and ultimately, the bottom line. One of the most important things a good CMP will offer is detailed analytics that measure exactly how your content is performing.