If you plan to acquire new technology to support your content strategy, don’t look at the eye-popping Marketing Technology Landscape Super Graphic from Chief Martec.
The most recent version (from 2020) details 8,000 products categorized into advertising and promotion, content and experience, social and relationships, commerce and sales, data, and management.
Whether you viewed this intimidating graphic or chose to skip it, here’s the takeaway: You have a lot of options. How do you choose the technology that’s right for your needs?
We asked the experts presenting at ContentTECH Summit in March for their best advice. They came up with insights into the tech selection process – and pointed out ways to tackle the hurdles you’ll face in successfully integrating new tech into your content and brand operations.
Take tech for a test drive and visit other drivers
When possible, take the technology for a test drive and speak to people who are actually using the product in their companies. Seeing what the technology looks like in everyday usage is vital. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other marketers in groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Reddit: The community is here to support each other. – Zontee Hou, director of strategy, Convince & ConvertTest drive any #Content tech and talk to people who use it now through LinkedIn, Facebook, or Reddit groups. The community is here to support you, @ZonteeHou via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Ask fellow employees
Talk to everyone and anyone, inside and outside of your organization. You may find other content teams in your organization need similar technology. Or they may have already explored the technology you’re considering buying and can save you time or frustration. Find out if there’s an opportunity to sync up with other teams to reduce costs, redundancies, and situations where content can’t connect across silos. – Gavin Austin, principal tech writer, SalesforceTalk to coworkers in other groups about #Content technology. They might have explored the options you're considering or need something similar, says @GavinAustinSays via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Begin with a workshop and a technology audit
Start with what you want the new technology to do for your content strategy. Identify those needs in a cross-functional workshop. Invite representatives from around the organization. Map what “good” looks like and what is needed to automate and personalize those content experiences at scale.
Before you buy anything, audit your existing tech stack to see if it can fill some of the gaps. If not, create a scorecard with the top 10 benefits you expect and rate your vendors against them. Read reviews, draw up a short list of solutions, meet vendors, run through demos, and speak to existing users of the technology if you can.
It may sound like a long process, but no one wants to re-platform after a tech investment does not deliver on its promise. And finally, make sure you have a robust technology onboarding plan for your team and map your processes and ways of working. – Karen Hesse, founder and CEO, 256Start your #Content technology search with a workshop to define your needs and an audit of your existing tech stack, says @256media via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Secure blessing from usersGet buy-in for #Content tech from the people who will use it, says @jeffrey_coyle via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Look into the future
Ask, “How will I use this technology to future-proof my content for at least the next 10 years?” As cool as new technology can be, it is only half the equation. Future-proofed content is componentized and written in a way that it can stand alone no matter the context.
New technology can help you with the componentization, but the writing? That’s still on you. Alongside your new technology, what new processes will ensure your writing team creates accurate and engaging content even if it were to appear on a platform that no one has envisioned yet?”– Josh Anderson, associate information architect, Precision Content Authoring SolutionsThink about how to use #Content technology to future-proof your content. But also consider how to create content for platforms that don't exist yet, says #JoshAnderson via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Take control and ask ‘what if?’
The conventional wisdom says that technology should support your goals. Implementation of new technology is not an IT project. It’s your project, and it must be driven by your needs. You must have a clear understanding of where you are going and why. Based on your vision, you can compile use cases and write scenarios that will be the foundation of your requirements for the technology. That’s true, and it works in many cases.
However, new technologies are emerging. They can offer you fundamentally new opportunities that you haven’t had until now and maybe haven’t ever thought about. These opportunities were not part of your vision and goals. In this case, technology may inspire some new ideas and a new vision of your goals. For example, what if pharma companies could use technology to tailor information in drug leaflets to a patient’s profile – age, personal medical conditions, chronic diseases, etc.? How would that change the way these companies create and deliver content? How would that change the way patients engage with the content? – Alex Masycheff, CEO, IntuillionA #Content tech search can inspire new ideas and goals, says @DITAToo1 via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Think fresh, not refresh
Don’t select new technology using old methods. Apply “design thinking” to create an agile, empirical selection process, as I explained in detail in the book The Right Way to Select Technology. – Jarrod Gingras, managing director and analyst, Real Story GroupDon't select new #Content technology using old methods. Use design thinking for an agile, empirical selection process, says @jarrodgingras via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Invest in people and process before tech
Tech should always be the last thing you invest in. Using the triangle of people, process, and tech, I believe that is the order. Great people are the core to getting things done. Then those people need process, so we’re not taking on non-scalable ideas. Once we’ve proven success, tech allows that true scale to happen. – Randy Frisch, president and co-founder, UberflipInvest in #Content tech last – after people and processes, says @randyfrisch via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Go beyond the demo
My best advice for any content marketing team is don’t believe the demo. Make the provider set it up as a real account using your data, content, use cases, etc. Then, you can really see if the product will perform as you expect. Every time that I’ve failed to do this, the software purchased has failed to deliver on the promise. – Tom Martin, president, Converse DigitalDon't believe the #content tech demo – make vendors set up a real account using your real data, says @TomMartin via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Know what you need it to do
Ask what problem it solves. Not if the tech is shinny or flashy, but what specific problems will this purchase solve? – Rob Walch, vice president of Libsyn enterprise and platform partnerships, LibsynAsk what specific problems will this tech purchase solve, advises @podcast411 via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Match to your business goals
Consider your business goals and what you want your content to do for the business, now and in the future. Look for technology that supports those goals. Let your business needs and content strategy guide your selection and use of technology. Also, think about where you can adopt new ways of working. Too many teams end up customizing the new technology to match current processes rather than modernizing how they work. – Regina Lynn Preciado, senior content strategist, Content RulesLook for technology that supports your business goals now and in the future, says @contentrulesinc via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Streamline across organization
Make sure it talks to your other systems. The tech stack will only get more confusing and burdensome when systems become redundant and disconnected. – Ali Orlando Wert, director, marketing strategy, SmartBug MediaIf you are planning to acquire new technology to support your #ContentStrategy, make sure it talks to your other systems, says @aliorlandowert via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Answer these questions first
Triple check if you really need the new tech. All new tech asks for transition and change: Are you up for it? Is it worth it? Can the same be achieved with a different approach? – Tim Hanse, principal consultant, CrossphaseTriple check to see if you really need the new tech, says #TimHanse via @CMIContent. #ContentTECH Click To Tweet
Don’t forget the big picture
Selecting the right technology is only a part of the challenge in a successful strategy that combines content and tech. Make plans to tackle the bigger picture, too.
The tools themselves won’t unify content creation across various outputs or content teams, says Salesforce’s Gavin Austin. That unity only comes when you provide resources, examples, or justifications to help everyone learn and understand the strategy.
As Regina Lynn Preciado of Content Rules says: “Organizations try to do too much at once and end up giving up – they lack a phased plan. People don’t all understand and commit to the vision (if there is a vision), so the efforts become scattered.”
Of course, tech won’t be helpful if it extracts trustworthy data about your customers’ behaviors, says 256’s Karen Hesse. You also need a written content strategy that details where your customers’ needs intersect with your company’s expertise. Only then can “martech innovations can really help to personalize and scale the customer content experience,” Karen says.
Before you start
Combining content and tech to execute your strategy won’t happen in one week, month, or quarter.
The overarching lesson in selecting the right technology for your content strategy is this: It’s OK to feel overwhelmed. Just take a breath (or two) and get started.
Create a step-by-step plan – with the helpful advice from these experts – to make it more manageable and more likely to be successful.
What tech investments are you considering this year? How are you approaching the search? Let us know in the comments.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute