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Content Tech Overload? 3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy


“Ever want to throw your computer across the room?”

When Cathy McKnight asks hundreds of tech-savvy marketers this question at the Intelligent Content Conference, many heads nod. And there’s a good reason.

“We’re expected to be content superstars,” Cathy explains. “We’re caught between automation and the human touch. How do we use AI? Where do we draw the line in automation? How do we keep our hands in the mix and not let technology take us over?”

As a one-time SAP coder who co-founded and now helps lead the enterprise consulting practice Digital Clarity Group, Cathy understands the content-technology overload marketers face. She knows large organizations’ content-tech stacks have many parts: marketing automation, analytics, content management systems, digital asset management, and so on.

And yet many organizations often lack a clear strategy for building those stacks. “A good strategy helps you get more use out of your technology and helps the tech last longer,” she says. “You don’t want to replace technology when you don’t need to.”

A good strategy helps you get more use of your technology & helps the tech last longer. @CathyMcKnight Share on X

Yet, when she asks the ICC audience, “How many of you have a martech-stack strategy that talks about integration and team and training?” only one hand raises.

Would you have raised your hand? If your hand is still at your side (or even if it isn’t), stop asking for or accepting new content tools or technology until you answer these questions, derived from Cathy’s ICC talk, Content Tech Overload: Four Pillars and Five Tenets of a Successful Content Technology Strategy.

1. Do I understand what’s available in the content part of our martech stack?

You may have seen this image, which shows the ever-growing landscape of marketing technology.


Image source

Here’s a close-up of the 2017 Martech 5000 chart, which shows over 5,000 logos grouped into categories. Cathy highlights in orange all the categories that affect content professionals – nearly the whole chart.


“You may look at those 5,000 logos (3,500 of which are unique) and say, ‘I work with content. Most of that doesn’t apply to me.’ You might think that only the section labeled Content & Experience Management applies to us,” Cathy says. “In fact, most of these areas do apply to us as people responsible for content that delivers the experiences that our customers and our contacts want to have.”

Even marketers who “never want to get any closer to a piece of technology than the keyboard in front of them to enter content” need to understand which pieces of technology affect the content. If you don’t understand how content experiences are getting delivered to customers, you can’t make strategic decisions.

You probably have much more technology in your organization that impacts content than you’re aware of. Most importantly, Cathy says, “Find out which parts of the content stack your company most relies on and take care of those pieces.”

TIP: Form partnerships with other teams

Reaching across department lines and working regularly with people on other teams that relate to content technology can help make sure you’re getting the most value from existing and new technology investments.

Cathy says, “Get on a first-name basis with people on your IT team. Set up a time – maybe every other week or every month – to talk about things that are coming up, things you’re thinking about, things you wish you could do with your technology.”

Marketers, get on a first-name basis with people on your IT team, says @CathyMcKnight. Share on X

2. Does the team have the skills to use the tools?

To make your content sing, Cathy says, you may not need new or top-of-the-line technology. You need top-of-the-line teams, including marketing, editorial, IT, and maybe business intelligence, administrative, and others. Those teams need the skills to use, support, and integrate your content technologies with other parts of the business.

“Skills aren’t just about learning the user interface. They’re not just about understanding how to send a campaign or how to post a blog post. They’re also about understanding how the content works within the technologies: where it’s transferred, where it sits,” Cathy says.

Some team members, for example, may need training to gather and use data to make their lives as content providers easier and to enable your content to reach more prospective customers.

The point is, companies can’t just drop technology in people’s laps. Though that happens all the time, Cathy says. Somebody buys a tool, points everyone to an hour-long training video, and says, “Now go! Make a return on that investment! We just spent a half-million dollars on this technology; make it work!”

TIP: Audit team skills

Do a skill-set audit to find out what people know how to do and their comfort level in using each technology. What training is missing? What would they like to learn to do?

“You may discover that someone in an analytics role or other technical role is super creative and would like to help generate some of the social content,” Cathy says.

In addition to helping with planning for tools and technology, a skill-set audit provides a strategic benefit when it’s time to hire someone. “Wouldn’t it be great to understand the gaps on your team so that you could bring in people who can fill those gaps?” Cathy says.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: New Tech Friends on the Marketing Block

3. What’s our content-tech strategy?

“Oooh, we want that. We need that!” New technology – whether it’s right for you or not – can be tantalizing. Vendors may want you to believe that without some shiny new thing you will fail.

But is that shiny new thing for you? Without a road map, it’s hard to say. To take stock and create a strategic road map, Cathy suggests asking these questions:

  • If we bought that functionality or tool, could we adopt it?
  • Are we in a position to use it the way it’s intended?
  • Do we have the processes?
  • Do we have the skill sets?
  • What are our capabilities?
  • What direction are we heading in?
  • Is now the right time to acquire it?
  • Can our technology already do those things?
  • Will it help us meet our corporate goals?

After you answer these questions and others like them, plot a technology road map. Maybe you’ll map your way to buying a shiny object or maybe you won’t. You may find you can achieve what you want to achieve by adopting new features, functions, and innovations within your existing stack.

Plot a content-tech road map to be strategic about your tech use and purchases, says @CathyMcKnight. Share on X

TIP: Make friends with content technology

To create the most useful road map, get over your fears or insecurity around technology. “Be the one who can go to your IT department and say, ‘I heard that our CMS in the next release is going to have x functionality. I think we could use that. Are we in a position to adopt that?’” Cathy advises.

When you can envision the impact the content technology will have on the company and how it will help the organization succeed, you’ll have what you need to get buy-in from senior leadership

Take control of content-tech decisions

Frazzled. Frustrated. Confused. Those are the words Cathy uses to describe today’s marketer in relationship to technology. Tools hamper us even as they enable us.

Stepping back and thinking strategically about all those tools can make all the difference.

Cathy offers some ways to do just that:

  • Get to know the parts of your martech stack that relate to content.
  • Audit your teams’ skills – and address the gaps.
  • Form partnerships with other teams.
  • Help create a content-tech road map.
  • Measure before you act (and think before you measure).

As you do these things, you’ll be well on your way to developing a content-technology strategy that could inform your company’s technology purchases for years to come.

Here’s an excerpt from Cathy’s talk: 

Create your road map and then learn about the shiny new objects (and a lot more about content marketing) at Content Marketing World Sept. 4-7 in Cleveland, Ohio. Register today using code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute