Writing is a bit like practice for me – I don’t like it, but I like having it written.
I feel the same about technology. I don’t like enterprise content tech, but I like having ‘tech’. (Is that a thing?)
I know a lot of content marketers feel the same way – about content writing and technology. The ambivalence that content marketers feel towards technology stems from the fact that many of us work with a technology stack that was not designed for the specific needs of content.
As I find myself (too often) telling my clients: “This marketing tool dog do this. But it’s not built to do this.”
Why martech is not the (only) answer
Technology to improve marketing and communications operations is not new. In the 1980s, database marketing systems helped store customer information and enabled pre-digital marketing efforts like mass mailings. I remember helping my mom figure out how to do a mail merge with Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect. (If you didn’t have to press Alt-F3 to “reveal the codes”, have you ever really written?)
It’s easy to forget that the explosion of marketing technology in the early 2000s was born out of a desire for automation. you go out. (There’s a reason for the Salesforce company name.)
The marketing technology stack has evolved from the growing complexity and importance of digital marketing and the evolving sophistication of the technology that enables it.
Salesforce automation, email marketing, analytics and digital content management have become the heart of the ill-defined martech stack – a set of software intended to make marketing operations and processes more scalable, efficient and measurable.
There are a myriad of category definitions that belong to the martech stack. Scott Brinker’s famous Martech 5000 chart documents more than 8,000 solutions in half a dozen categories.
The typical enterprise marketing stack may include technologies for:
- Marketing resource management
- content management
- email advertising
- marketing automation
- social media post
- customer relationship management
- internet audience analysis
But don’t tell me about the other 14 categories I missed. That’s the point. The marketing stack is a bit like digital marketing: ill-defined and anyone’s guess.
Why content needs its own stack
Content operations need a different technology now that content has become a separate function from sales automation and CRM (just like digital marketing).
Content strategy (when it exists) usually resides somewhere in the marketing and communications teams. But there are content professionals in many other areas of the business. Technical writers, content strategists, copywriters, media experts, and even sales people and other executives all have a role to play in content. (I often say it’s easier to count who isn’t creating content these days.)
This dispersion between functional groups creates tensions as content becomes a more strategic and complex function in the organization. Content professionals need to balance:
- Unique governance structures
- content creation
- content management
- The measure
Unfortunately, the tools at their disposal were chosen and implemented as part of a classic martech strategy. That’s not bad, in and of itself. But it’s designed to optimize marketing operations, not content operations.
Content technology is the athleisure garment of technology
So where are we?
Organizations must adapt traditional martech solutions to include technologies designed to optimize content operations.
Some of the unique attributes of the content technology stack may include tools designed to:
- Editorial content and workflow collaboration. A whole content process takes place before the production tools put it into its final form. Specialized technology exists to assist with ideation, collaboration, intake, scheduling, workflow, and actual content measurement creation process.
- Content and Asset Management Solutions. What is raw content and what is an asset? These questions have unique answers given the context of a company’s content strategy. But you need different technologies for each. And I don’t mean that you should embed content or assets into anything the company uses to run the company website. Gone are the days of thinking that one enterprise content management solution could (or should) rule them all. The technology needed to support AI-powered, personalized mini-content experiences differs from that required for static enterprise websites.
- Optimization of content operations. Content operations differ from marketing operations. The challenge of managing multiple resources, independent teams, managing media and content projects is different.
- Creation and application of guidelines and standards. Pervasive technology that integrates into all the different tools (CMS systems, Microsoft Word, Google Docs, etc.) can help content creators meet content and writing guidelines, standards, and manuals. There are technologies that can help content become more standardized by suggesting SEO changes, applying brand and editorial style guides, and more.
Developing, managing and optimizing an enterprise content operation is a pressing concern. And it’s not going away.
The convergence of content marketing, content strategy, and content operations reminds me of the recent growth of activewear in fashion. Both are now so widespread that they are no longer trends. It’s just the way people work (and dress).
As you evolve your content strategy, ask for the technologies that can make your work and processes much more comfortable.
Upgrading (to modify a phrase from Lululemon marketing) will allow you to move around with confidence and comfort.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute