Get strategic with the right content marketing tools

We marketers all have our toolkits — the things we turn to daily to do our job.

Often, the tools are literal: Platforms that help us create and communicate, apps that keep us organized or analytics programs that track performance so we can glean insights.

But just as a hammer is only a stick and some metal without a carpenter to use it, a marketer’s toolbox can just be expensive, complicated software without a strategic brain to apply it.

Nail, meet hammer: Identify your content marketing challenges

Sometimes when we talk to clients, there’s a desire to leap to the tool right away. We get it. There’s a nail sticking out of the floor that stubs your toe every time you walk by. It hurts. This nail is a problem, so get a hammer to fix it.

But going for the easy fix often means missing the underlying situation that caused the problem in the first place. Is the nail popping out because the floorboard is loose? Is the floorboard loose because the floor is uneven? Is the floor uneven because the foundation is faulty?

Pick a problem that marketing is supposed to solve first: Poor engagement, low awareness or falling conversion rates. So often we’re eager to jump to a content or communications platform to solve it and there are times when urgency can seem to override everything else.

But now is the perfect time to be strategic. Look at your toolkit and figure out how to be meaningful to customers and best achieve your goals.

Take a fresh look at your content marketing toolkit

The best tools for content marketing are the resources that enrich and deepen a marketer’s skills and expertise. They’re the tools that make you better at your job. And they happen to match up really well against the qualities of a good content marketer.

No. 1: A good content marketer understands and applies current content marketing best practices, while also keeping a pulse on how those practices are evolving.

Resources for your toolkit: Follow industry geniuses in content marketing and strategy. Check out the weekly e-newsletter from Content Marketing Institute featuring insights from guru Robert Rose or visit the Two Rivers Marketing blog. Also, read the latest from MarketingProfs, AdAge, Campaign, NewsCred and HubSpot.

No. 2: A good content marketer understands the client’s ecosystem — industry sector, economic pressures, opportunities and challenges — as well as the environment/context and current events where their content will live.

Resources for your toolkit

Turn to the smart people examining the future of business and our world: The thought leaders posting regular case studies, research and business intelligence, including: Two Rivers Marketing, McKinsey, Forrester, eMarketer, Salesforce, Fortune, Fast Company, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review, to name a few.

No. 3: A good content marketer understands the client’s audiences and knows what’s most relevant to them.

Resources for your toolkit: Along with the thought leaders noted, check out the organizations conducting regular demographic research across a wide range of the population, such as Pew Research Center and Gallup.

No. 4: A good content marketer studies the client’s competition, as well as its “sister brands.” Understanding competitors is critical to carving out differentiators. Staying connected to cohort brands gives you a fuller picture of your audience.

Resources for your toolkit: Track the competition. Subscribe to their newsletters, read their blogs, follow their social feeds and watch their videos. You can use Rival IQ for tracking social feeds, Moz for tracking SEO, and SEMrush and Kantar for tracking paid media spend and creative.

No. 5: A good content marketer needs a creative well to draw from. Marketing is a weird balance of art and science, of big ideas and tactics. A good content marketer is insightful, analytical and creative. That combination requires consuming a hefty dose of inspiration on a regular basis (as well as space and breathing room to let it percolate).

Resources for your toolkit: The content marketing experts listed in No. 1 post regular case studies and inspiring examples. Two other resources worth checking out are CMO from Adobe and Great Big Story, which is exactly what it sounds like. But, really, No. 5 is about tapping into anything that inspires you.

Your turn

These are some great resources to hone your skills and keep the toolkit stocked and ready — but consider this list just the beginning.

What tools and resources are essential to your content marketing work? Where do you go for inspiration and insights? Take some time to think about it and good luck getting started.