Though more than 90% of B2B marketers now use content marketing in some way, many still struggle to do it productively. As reported here previously, just over a third of marketers “say their organizations are ‘very committed’ to content marketing,” and only about half rate their content marketing efforts as even “moderately successful” (much less highly successful).
Like singing, downhill skiing, playing chess, or a thousand other activities, content marketing isn’t difficult to do; it’s just challenging to do well.
As with most complex tasks, using a structured process can really help. The website visibility and engagement model for marketing technology (martech) provides a comprehensive framework. But here’s a greatly simplified version of the process:
The expanding universe of marketing technology tools can help with each stage of the process. Here are three different types of tools that can help in the content strategy and planning stage.
Content Ideation Tools
While it’s true a circle has no beginning point, a wheel does have to start turning somewhere, and ideation is where content marketing gets rolling. It begins of course with developing a content marketing strategy, using a model like the reporter’s questions or the ACKTT framework.
From that point, content ideation tools can help you discover, hone, and collaborate on specific topic ideas for blog posts, infographics, ebooks, video, and other content formats. Some of the key tasks content ideation tools can help accomplish include:
- Explore conversations: Tools like Google+ Communities and Quora help you understand the specific types of questions people are asking and discussing across topic areas.
- Track topics: See what people are reading, and writing about, in different subject areas using a tool like Popurls, which captures headlines from top online news sites. Or use TrendSpottr to identify emerging trends, viral content, and key influencers.
- Collaborate on ideas: Once you nailed down some ideas, it’s time to organize them and work with your team. Tools like XMind and SimpleMind enable you to visually map and connect ideas and concepts. Then use Evernote or Wunderlist to organize those ideas, collaborate with your co-workers or outside resources, and kick off content projects.
- Craft headlines: When your ideas are finally turned into content, use a tool like Portent’s Content Idea Generator or the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator to help craft a compelling headline.
Content Planning and Research Tools
With specific topic ideas in place and your team organized, it’s time to turn to content planning and research tools to lay the groundwork for producing content. Helpful content planning tools include Bubbl.us for group brainstorming; CoSchedule for creating an online editorial calendar; and Trello for team content project management.
Content research tools help you collect facts, statistics, supporting ideas, and quotes to include in your content. Proper research can not only help support your positions, but also help to shape and refine your messages. Among the best content research tools are Snopes.com for fact-checking, Wolfram|Alpha for calculations, and HARO for primary research, as well as a number of tools from Google:
Content Curation Tools
While the majority of your content marketing efforts will be focused on planning, developing, publishing, and measuring the results from your own original content—it’s not only about you. There are other insightful, fascinating voices in your industry as well, and to truly serve as a resource for your industry audience, part of your effort should be spent on finding and sharing the best of that content.
Curating the most interesting content in your industry also supports your research work and helps you build relationships with industry influencers. Curation tools fall into several types, including:
- Content discovery: Tools like Curata, ContentGems, and Quuu help you find and filter popular content, by content or topic, from thousands of online sources.
- Special purpose: Use Listly for creating group-curated lists of almost anything, Instant RSS Search to find RSS feeds on any specified topic, and of course Pinterest for saving, sharing, and finding topic-specific images (careful with copyright,though).
- Personal curation: Save articles, videos, blog posts, and other types of web content for later reading, reference, or sharing, using tools like Pocket, Instapaper, or Flipboard.
- Professional curation: Take curation to a professional level with tools like CurationSoft and Pressly, which enable you to collaborate with your team on content discovery and sharing, and add your own commentary to shared content.
These tools help you brainstorm, plan, collaborate on, and research ideas and topics to support your content marketing strategy. With this groundwork in place, the next step is to begin developing content, in a variety of formats, to maximize visibility and meet the different content consumption preferences and needs of your target audience.
This is the second post in the Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing Tools series.
#2: Three Types of Tools to Use for Content Strategy and Planning