Evolving and rapidly expanding, the content marketing landscape has provided an arsenal of tools for marketers to create, curate, promote and analyze content. A rejection of traditional broadcast techniques; content marketing has become a mainstay in the marketing ecosystem. It is demand driven and highly focused on serving consumers with the content they want. The Content Marketing Stack is our contribution to the ongoing mapping of this increasingly vast landscape. The goal was to create an elevated and organized vision of what’s out there and what tools marketers can be leveraging to help their businesses. With so many platforms, so much learning, and a constant flux of needs and capabilities, it is indeed an exciting time.
What’s In The Stack?
In a recent report, Altimeter put forth the idea of the Content Stack Hierarchy,largely to describe the growing trend towards convergence and consolidation within the content marketing landscape. Like ad stacks, a content stack organizes available content tools across a hierarchy of user needs. Moving up through the stack, the complexity and reach of tools increases, and the levels of needs builds upon the levels before it. While we focused less on convergence, and adapted our own use case categories, we did recognize the convergence and cross application of many tools. This is most apparent in the growth of “end-to-end” content tools such as Adobe and Salesforce. Other tools just don’t fit into one category and aren’t limited to a single use. Many tools interconnect and many marketers may simultaneously access tools from different rungs of the stack. Likewise, needs change with each unique situation, the workflow, who the user is, and what the intended outcome is. Our stack aims to help content marketers locate their needs within the landscape and identify what tools are available to satisfy their needs and capabilities.
Compiling the List of Lists
Several successful efforts have recently mapped and inventoried the content marketing landscape. Altimeter started with an analysis of the software landscape, followed by Jeremiah Owyang’s index, and KISSMetrics, Curata, LUMA Partners, and Everything PR, to highlight a few. Each with its unique focus, structure and approach. A common theme from all seems to admit that any such list barely scratches the surface. Our objective was to consolidate a definitive list of tools and present a comprehensive selection of solutions that marketers would use in their daily content marketing efforts. And some would say that we’ve barely scratched the surface. Certainly this is a list that will continue to evolve. We will be following up to present the list in full, complete with links, for readers to explore on their own.
Who Is the B2B Content Marketer?
The criterion for compiling our list was to select tools that are of use and used by marketers approaching the content marketing landscape. By way of persona, we focused on the mid-level marketers who are driving the content efforts of their small to mid-sized organizations. They have a decent budget, but perhaps not a lot of money, and definitely not up to enterprise speed. These marketers have some great tech and social know-how, but they’re not specialists in analytics or optimization. And they might very well be the only person on their team. When building our stack, we kept in mind the needs and abilities of this marketer. The stack provides a great framework to categorize these content needs and use cases. We did this across eight levels: Create and Produce; Distribute and Share; Intelligence and Analytics; Promote and Amplify; Discover and Curate; Identify and Target; Optimize and Enrich; and Manage and Collaborate. Borrowing from Jeremiah Owyang, the content marketing tools that we considered in our stack help “marketers perform as digital publishers”. We brought into the mix tools that span the entire range of content marketing activities—from content production right through to planning and management. And as Owyang notes, software or tools are not solutions on their own. Effective content marketing solutions demand good strategy, set goals and internal organizational commitment.
Analysis and Presentation
After compiling and organizing a list of some 203 software and service options, we needed a bit of analysis to best present and add value for the reader. Mapping the collection of tools across a scatterplot helped to locate each tool within its use case category, and provide comparison by indicating a basic price point and level of technical complexity. Researching each tool, we went through and assigned a unique value to represent both its entry-level price and technical ability.
With our marketing persona in mind, the first step was to indicate a price point and communicate how accessible (or not) each of these tools might be. Pricing schemes vary, but the most common form that emerged is the monthly paid service. Some of the single license products, per-project products, or PPC tools, challenged this approach. For each, we applied the lowest common denominator that would get a marketer on board. If it was a single per-project payment, we considered what the minimum cost might be. For single licenses we aimed to break down across 12 months, and 24 months as necessary, to arrive a reasonable monthly sum. Many PPC products recommended a minimum daily spend, which we applied across the period of 30 days. Notably, many platforms offer free or freemium options. With professional marketers in mind, we looked at the very basic entry point for business users and considered the first available pricing point—one step up from free. The bottom of each quadrant represents products that are free or close to $0. The top portion of the y-axis represents tools that range from $300 each month to $1000 and beyond. And sitting in middle on the y-axis are price points of around $75.
From left to right across the x-axis, we then worked to assign a value for each tool that represented its usability or technical complexity. This is much more subjective than cold hard pricing numbers and there may be room for discussion. When approaching each tool we asked: How easy would it be for our average marketing professional, with general tech knowledge, to open this product out of the box and start implementing it into their workflow? Again, this is someone who has above average tech know-how, but might be working on his or her own, and is not a specialist in any of these areas. At the left of the x-axis we assigned a zero value to tools already in common use, or that could be picked up and utilized without support. On the far right, are the tools that lean towards enterprise complexity or reach; tools that might require teams and specialized knowledge to implement.
The immediate takeaway from stacking all this data together is that there are lots of highly technical and expensive tools out there. This is perhaps good indication of how ubiquitous content marketing has become, its presence in the overall marketing environment, and the value that many businesses are placing on their content. What also gets revealed here is that there is a true diversity within the content marketing tool landscape. For budgets and needs of all shapes and capacities, there are many options. If you’re budget is nil, and your technical experience is minimal, there are highly effective and impactful tools out there for you. We will be following up with a supplementary post listing in detail, and with links, each of the tools presented in The Content Marketing Stack 2015.