Buyer s Guide: Evaluating Content Marketing Solutions

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Executive Summary

Across industries, companies are looking for smarter ways to attract and engage customers in both traditional and digital channels. Now more than ever, connecting with prospects and nurturing customer relationships depends on delivering the right content at the right time. In North America, 91 percent of B2B marketers are using content marketing and employ an average of 12 tactics to produce and share their content.1 If you are like them, you’re probably wondering if you have the right processes

and tools for success.

Many companies find content marketing to be challenging in this environment. They have ad-hoc processes and systems with limited capabilities that don’t work together. This results in wasted time and outcomes that fall far short of expectations. Realizing that they can’t be successful without outside help, many are turning to agencies or technology providers who can create a more holistic, efficient and effective process. If you are in a similar situation, you can use this Buyer’s Guide to identify the capabilities that will strengthen your content marketing function.

Specifically, this guide provides an easy way for you to assess your solution

requirements and options through a series of questions that cover important issues in the following areas:

Content Marketing Essentials

Vendor Profile

Content Lifecycle Considerations

Pricing

You’ll also find a section on Readiness Planning that highlights the actions you can take to pinpoint and collect supporting information to help expedite the approval process, as well as a convenient solution comparison checklist to document your findings.

1 B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America, Content Marketing

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Content Marketing Essentials

Organizations are placing a greater emphasis on content marketing as they seek to reach key influencers across the buyer’s journey. Your provider will need to support these engagement patterns and manage the complexity of multiple touchpoints with multiple audiences through multiple channels.

At a minimum, you should ask:

• Can the solution be integrated with related business systems in a way that minimizes IT involvement?

• Does the solution support migration of data from specified systems being replaced by this solution with minimal IT effort?

• Does the solution make it significantly easier to manage content marketing processes such as review, approval, and publication, while also optimizing effectiveness overall?

• Can the solution be rolled out in a customized way based on prioritized requirements?

• Does the solution have the scalability to support growing content marketing requirements?

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Vendor Profile

You’ll also want to be sure that the vendor offers the right combination of expertise and commitment to content marketing:

• Does the vendor have a stable and proven history of providing effective content marketing solutions?

• Does the vendor have extensive experience in content marketing?

– How much of the vendor’s business is focused on content marketing and how many customers does the vendor help in this area?

– How many employees are proficient in content marketing subjects?

– What is the vendor’s level of experience across industries and within business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets?

• Does the vendor have a defined solution roadmap and an ongoing commitment to enhancing its content marketing solutions?

• Has the vendor achieved industry recognition for its content marketing solution?

• Is the vendor an active participant in the content marketing community?

• What is the vendor’s approach to support?

– How quickly can the vendor resolve support issues?

– In what locations/geographies are the vendor’s support teams situated?

– Does the vendor have partner relationships that provide added value?

• Does the vendor have best-practice knowledge of how to deploy and use a content marketing solution?

– Can the vendor provide guidance on content strategy?

– Does your vendor have insight into what techniques have been most effective in specific industries?

– Does the vendor understand how to address any unique integration requirements with related business systems?

• Does the vendor have any necessary government or industry certifications (e.g., approved GSA provider)?

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Content Lifecycle Considerations

The most successful content marketers centrally manage the entire content lifecycle and evolve their activities based on return on investment (ROI). In order to achieve a similar level of success, you need to orchestrate a broad set of activities that involve many people and systems. Ask your vendor to describe the areas where they can help across every stage of the lifecycle.

Stage 1:

How does the vendor support various planning functions?

Key capabilities include:

• Allowing centralized, comprehensive scheduling of all messaging—from drafts to approvals.

• Supporting content development goals along the customer engagement cycle, with trigger questions to help align content with each step.

• Enabling flexible viewing of upcoming content by day, week, month, or year.

• Improving targeting by linking content themes to audience personas.

• Tying content produced throughout the organization to marketing events and initiatives.

• Promoting faster development of useful content through tools that support brainstorming and repurposing of published content identified as high value.

Stage 2:

Can the vendor help with content production?

Key capabilities include:

• Encouraging authorship with easy-to-use tools, including a WYSIWYG editor and title wizard.

• Simplifying content production workflows and preventing bottlenecks with automated notifications and alerts.

• Scoring content based on keywords and providing best-practice recommendations to optimize it.

• Facilitating content curation to enable easy repurposing of and linkage to related content.

• Building references and testimonials by providing customers with an easy way to document and share their experiences.

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Stage 3:

How can the vendor help with content publishing?

Key capabilities include:

• Providing a self-contained publishing platform and also integrating it with marketing automation systems as desired.

• Improving the SEO of corporate websites or blogs and leveraging intuitive keyword functionality when producing associated content.

• Offering dynamic calls to action that can be changed and simultaneously applied to all related pieces of content in support of campaign requirements.

• Supplying professional templates that can incorporate company branding.

Stage 4:

Can the vendor help with promotional efforts in a timely and

effective manner?

Key capabilities include:

• Filtering marketing content by a number of parameters, such as author and category, to identify all past promotions related to each content item.

• Publishing content to multiple platforms, such as a corporate website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube, in a single step.

• Rapidly creating newsletters, campaign emails, and landing pages through mechanisms that enable users to quickly gather, modify, and repurpose published and topically related content.

Stage 5:

Can the vendor help with gauging effectiveness of all activities?

Key capabilities include:

• Populating a single dashboard that shows all contributors and published content.

• Drilling down into the results of promotions and campaigns and employing multiple metrics to analyze effectiveness.

• Measuring author performance to identify key contributors and related best practices.

• Identifying high-value content by topics and targeted personas.

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Pricing

When you consider bringing any new technology on board, you need to provide an accurate assessment of the proposed investment. This includes uncovering any hidden costs, such as those for add-on functionality.

The following questions will help you get a complete understanding of the cost of content marketing solution options:

• Is the solution free from an excessive initial capital outlay?

• Is the licensing fee structure flexible, easily enabling more users and authors to contribute content without per-seat user restrictions?

• Are all the capabilities you need included in the base product?

• Does the solution enable you to expand your content marketing environment (e.g., to more sites) without incurring additional charges?

• Does the solution pricing include support charges?

Readiness Planning

You’ve evaluated your content marketing options and identified the solution that best meets your needs. Now, you need to gain management buy-in and approval, so you can move forward with the purchase.

You’ll navigate this process more successfully if you’re prepared with the information that helps you sell the value of the proposed solution. This includes compiling details around and developing a clear understanding of the following:

• The buying process

– The business groups within your organization that are involved in making purchases

– Your organization’s specific approval process for purchases

– Budget allocation and availability

• Current solution environment

– All current solution(s) being used to support content marketing

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• ROI of proposed solution

This is based on calculating the time you currently spend handling content development- and IT-related tasks versus what is possible with the proposed solution. Your vendor can usually assist you in assessing such activities as:

– Time spent planning

– Time spent developing content

– Time spent following up on approvals

– Time spent publishing content to multiple channels

– Time spent analyzing and reporting on results

– Time spent managing and maintaining supporting systems

• Impact of a holistic content marketing system

– Easier development of a cohesive, comprehensive content strategy

– Better collaboration and coordination through a single, comprehensive view of content plans and priorities

– A centralized repository or hub for access to all in-process and published content

– Improved management and oversight of all content marketing-related processes

• Supporting materials

– Available white papers and case studies that demonstrate value

• Business case and key decision makers

– Expected benefits mapped to metrics and goals

– Customer references

– Implementation process

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Does the solution readily integrate with related business systems and minimize IT involvement?

Does the solution support the migration of data from specified systems being replaced by this purchase with minimal IT effort? Does the solution make it significantly easier to manage content marketing processes such as review, approval, and publication, while also optimizing effectiveness overall?

Can the solution be rolled out in a customized way based on prioritized requirements?

Does the solution have the scalability to support growing content marketing requirements?

Does the vendor have a stable and proven history of providing effective content marketing solutions?

Does the vendor have extensive experience in content marketing?

• How much of vendor’s business is focused on content marketing and how many customers does the vendor help in this area?

• How many employees are proficient in content marketing subjects?

• What is the vendor’s level of experience across industries and within business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets? Does the vendor have a defined solution roadmap and an ongoing commitment to enhancing its content marketing solutions? Has the vendor achieved industry recognition for its content marketing solution?

Is the vendor an active participant in the content marketing community? What is the vendor’s approach to support?

• Does the vendor work quickly to resolve support issues?

• Does the vendor provide support coverage across a wide range of locations / geographies?

• Does the vendor have partner relationships that provide added value?

• Is the vendor willing to continue working with you over time?

Content Marketing Essentials

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Does the vendor have best-practice knowledge of how to deploy and use a content marketing solution for optimum results?

• Can the vendor provide guidance on content strategy?

• Does the vendor have insight into what techniques have been most effective in specific industries?

• Does the vendor understand how to address the unique integration requirements of related business systems?

Does the vendor have any necessary government or industry certifications (e.g., approved GSA provider)?

Allow centralized, comprehensive scheduling of all messaging from drafts to approvals

Support content development goals along the customer engagement cycle, with trigger questions to help align content with each step Enable flexible viewing of upcoming content by day, week, month, or year

Improve targeting by linking content themes to audience personas Tie content produced throughout the organization to marketing events and initiatives

Promote faster development of useful content through tools that support brainstorming and repurposing of published content identified as high value

Encourage authorship with easy-to-use tools, including a WYSIWYG editor and title wizard

Simplify content production workflows and prevent bottlenecks with automated notifications and alerts

Score content based on keywords and provide best-practice recommendations to optimize it

Facilitate content curation to enable easy repurposing of and linkage to related content

Build references and testimonials by giving customers an easy way to document and share their experiences

Content Lifecycle Considerations

Stage 1: Planning

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Provide a self-contained publishing platform, but integrate with popular content management systems as desired

Improve the SEO of corporate websites or blogs, leveraging intuitive keyword functionality when producing associated content Offer dynamic calls to action that can be changed and

simultaneously applied to all related pieces of content in support of campaign requirements

Supply professional templates that can incorporate company branding

Publish content to multiple digital platforms, such as a corporate website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube, in a single step

Filter marketing content by a number of parameters, such as author and category, to identify all past promotions related to each content item Rapidly create newsletters and campaign emails through

mechanisms that enable users to quickly gather, modify, and repurpose published and topically related content

Access a single dashboard to view all contributors and published content Drill down into the results of promotions and campaigns, employing multiple metrics to analyze effectiveness

Measure author performance to identify key contributors and related best practices

Identify high-value content by topics and targeted personas Produce full-scale reports in industry-accepted formats

Is the solution free from an excessive initial capital outlay?

Is the licensing fee structure flexible, easily enabling more users and authors to contribute content without per-seat user restrictions? Are all the capabilities you need included in the base product? Does the solution enable you to expand your content marketing environment (e.g., to more sites) without incurring additional charges? Does the solution pricing include support charges?

Pricing

Stage 4: Promotion

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