It is abundantly clear that successful content marketing requires a content marketing plan. But what tools can you use to keep you on track? Happily, there are many options — and many are worthwhile.
“Most of the third-party solutions do a good job,” admitted Josh Sturgeon, founder of Ripenn. Ripenn is an “editorial calendar, collaborative editor and brainstorming tool” that was launched in August.
“Home grown solutions — especially for high volume operations — with an Excel spreadsheet that has 16 different versions … I don’t know how people survive.”
Sturgeon said his product was born out of a frustration with “enterprise solutions that are massively expensive and don’t adapt well at the agency level.” While he was willing to tip his cap to the competition, Sturgeon observed too many content marketers remain reliant on outmoded systems.
“Home-grown solutions — especially for high volume operations — with an Excel spreadsheet that has 16 different versions … I don’t know how people survive,” he said. “Same thing with Microsoft and track changes, it’s literally a red sea of markups. That’s a major pain point that slows down the process.”
Despite the reliance on clunkier solutions, Sturgeon said marketers are aware their current approaches may be lacking.
“People are feeling the pain point of trying to manage spreadsheets. The prevailing wisdom is to use an editorial calendar, so that’s an accepted fact. But as people increase volume and teams and work with multiple clients and strategies, they’re realizing: ‘We need something native to this task and not just a hack.'”
In addition to realizing that they need more robust planning solutions, Sturgeon says planning tools can help content marketers solve two fairly big problems.
“Marketers are often on an island. Companies have all sorts of stakeholders with great insights for content marketing,” he noted. “Sales overcomes objections on a daily basis, customer service teams work with clients on a daily basis, but none of them have an active way to participate in content marketing strategy.”
A good planning solution allows for collaboration in such a way that companies can include those diverse opinions and perspectives and ensure a more well-rounded and thoughtful approach to content marketing.
“When someone in sales thinks of a good thing to blog about, you have immediately access to that idea. Right now, marketers are not looping in enough people,” he said.
Another missed opportunity — and one we’ve covered previously — is how many marketers fail to recycle their old content.
“There is a lack of attention given to how you can get more mileage out of content: repurpose it as a video or whitepaper or infographic,” Sturgeon said. “People are looking forward too much and not looking back to leverage the power of what’s already worked well.”
And how can planning tools help address that issue?
“One of the ways is having a record of where ideas came from,” he said. “A lot of people are writing ideas down on an iPhone note or a napkin, they have no real record of where it came and how it morphed. Being able to keep track is critical, you can find reference links that helped in the first pace, the different assets you compiled.”
Sturgeon said the competitors he admires most are Divvy HQ and Marketing AI. “Divvy does a great job with managing workflow, teams with a lot of contributors can manage that experience well. Marketing AI is similar in that respect,” he said.
Ultimately, the solution for you depends on a variety of factors including budget, team size, needs, comfort with the relevant approaches and (of course) your business goals.
Below is a list of solutions we’ve seen cited the most frequently in our research. Places like the Content Marketing Institute also offer free templates that can be adapted to your needs. In addition, there’s a great blog post by Crazy Egg that lists 14 free options for content strategy calendars and a Pinterest board with links to many, many more ideas.
Let us know in the comments if we missed one of your favorite options.