In the modern content marketing age, leveraging a diverse set of tools is par for a successful marketing course. Tools help unlock insight. Tools help capture attention and reach. Tools help drive efficiency. Tools help you measure, analyze, and optimize for better success.
The simple truth is: Every content marketer needs a robust toolkit that’s tailored to their unique business and marketing needs—but that toolkit doesn’t begin or end with your martech stack. Uh-oh-oh.
There’s no denying the importance that marketing technology plays in today’s ever-changing and sometimes tumultuous digital landscape. But your toolbox needs more than software. It also needs more tangible, real-life tools to help you uncover the context and insights that can help you be more effective (and help you use martech tools more effectively).
From my perspective there are three key, non-tech tools that should be content marketing toolbox staples. And with the help of a few fantastic insights and tidbits of wisdom from marketing industry leaders, I dive into them below.
The “Real-Life” Staples to Gain First-Hand Insight, Inspiration, & Amplification
#1 – Your in-house team members from across departments.
For eons it seems, sales and marketing team alignment has been a top struggle yet a key best practice for gaining marketing (and business) traction. Today, that still holds true—but now it’s increasingly crucial for marketers to widen their collaboration scope to include other key departments.
Why? Creating an incredible customer experience is the new challenge and opportunity for marketers. In addition, better alignment across major business functions ensures your efforts are truly contributing to the growth of the company—whether that be sales, talent retention and recruiting, product development, or customer service.
“Marketers need to work collaboratively across the various areas of marketing as well as partnering with other parts if their company such as sales,” Justin Levy, public speaker and the new Director of Paid Social Media Operations at ServiceNow, told us not long ago. “Marketers need to be integrated and focused, working off of the same strategy instead of working in silos on their own projects.”
Beyond creating synergy, your internal team members are insight tools. Sales and customer service reps are talking with customers every day. Your product development team is creating products or services that aim to alleviate customer and prospect pain points and solve problems. Your human resources department is actively recruiting and looking for ways to engage current employees.
Your organization’s employees are insight engines who can help you craft more helpful, interesting, and inspiring content—and they’re also engagement and amplification powerhouses, ripe for a little employee advocacy and/or thought leadership.
“Leveling up content marketing means going beyond creating consistent customer-focused content. It means engaging your internal experts to share their expertise,” Michael Brenner, Founder of Marketing Insider Group, shared earlier this year. “And it means activating the entire organization to share your passions, your stories, and your expertise.”
Think of your collaboration with other key departments like the bond a hammer and nails share. Without one another, the work doesn’t get done.
#2 – Your “captive” audience.
Customers. Prospects. Social followers. Newsletter or blog subscribers. You have a “captive” audience that has sent signals that they’re interested in what you provide and what you have to say. But when’s the last time you leveraged your known audience to gather intel or simply connect at any stage of your content marketing process?
“If you haven’t spoken to anyone in your audience in the last month directly—about their work and their lives, not about your company or products—then you aren’t ready to plan anything,” Jay Acunzo, Founder of Unthinkable Media, said in relation to content strategy and planning.
He goes on: “It’s so breathtakingly simple: If you have a 40-hour per week job, then take literally .2% of your month (20 minutes) and have an informal conversation with a customer or prospect. You will be shocked at how much easier content marketing gets.”
Not only can you leverage your audience as a tool to make content marketing “easier,” but you can also create content that is more impactful and targeted.
“When it comes to content creation, far too often content is created in a meeting room with a bunch of marketers without any thought for the day-to-day reality of the person consuming it. BIG mistake,” Dave Charest, now the Director of Content Marketing for Endurance International Group, says. “Level up your approach by creating content in partnership with members of your target audience.”
Think of audience insights as your Swiss Army knife. They’re a trusty tool that can lend insight and tactical help in nearly any marketing situation.
#3 – Your team of external partners.
Your internal marketing team as well as your key contacts across departments are flush with insight and expertise. But there are undoubtedly gaps that need to be filled—resource gaps, budget gaps, and knowledge gaps.
This means that in order to get the kind of marketing traction you need and want, you need to build out your team—with people who serve specific purposes. After all, a tool by definition is a device that is used to carry out a particular function.
Hilarious and seasoned marketer, Tim Washer, PowerPoint Comedian/Emcee at Ridiculous Media, suggests thinking outside the box when it comes to building out your team.
“Build a virtual team. Recruit talented freelance writers and videographers, including college students, to help contribute engaging content production,” he says.
Whether you’re looking for execution help or need a larger force to handle strategy, creation, and optimization, an agency partner can be an incredible tool in your toolbox. (Not that we’re biased or anything.)
“One of the primary responsibilities of any marketing agency is to lighten your workload and alleviate some of the stress that comes with it—and do it in a way that helps drive results,” Alexis Hall, TopRank Marketing’s Vice President of Client Accounts, shares. “From conversion rate optimization (CRO) to reducing cost-per-lead on PPC campaigns to expanding your search footprint, a full-service digital marketing agency can have its subject matter experts dig into the data and make actionable recommendations for optimizing your content or strengthening your tactical mix.”
One of the primary responsibilities of any #marketingagency is to lighten your workload and alleviate some of the stress that comes with it—and do it in a way that helps drive results. – @Alexis5484 Click To Tweet
Think of your external partners like duct tape. They can be molded and implemented for a variety of different functions to help you achieve your ultimate goal.
Bolster Your Content Marketing Toolbox with Real-Life Tools
Your martech stack is just one piece of the content marketing toolbox pie. You also need to look internally to leverage the real-life tools that are right in front of you and ripe with opportunity.
Start by looking inside your organization to identify opportunities to collaborate and gain alignment with internal stakeholders and partners. In addition, commit to connecting with your captive audience on a regular basis to gain insight. And finally, add to your tool stack with external partners to fill gaps and add third-party insight and expertise.
Oh. And fear not. We’ll cover some martech tools you should consider for your content marketing toolbox next time.
What does the future of content marketing look like? Get the scoop on the latest content marketing trends that you need to pay attention to in the new year.