“Men have become the tools of their tools.” – Henry David Thoreau
For many of us, we’re living proof of Thoreau’s statement, as we sleep with our phones next to our pillows or forget how we made coffee before K-cups. (Was there coffee before K-cups?) And if you’re a teenager, forget it, you’re too far gone – the next generation has become tools of their tools to the point of no return.
While we’re living our lives increasingly on our technology’s terms, it shouldn’t be that way for your organization’s marketing content. But that’s exactly what happens if you invest in content marketing software before you have a clear, documented content strategy in place. When you put tech before strategy, you’re setting yourself up to make your content the tool of your tool.
Sometimes, we hear marketers say: “If I invest in this content marketing software, all the disjointed pieces of our content program will fall into place, right?” Wrong. It can be easy to be dazzled by the many content marketing software options out there – and there are some truly effective ones that we’ve seen in practice – but your content strategy must come first. That’s what will help all your pieces to fall into place.
If you go ahead and buy that content marketing software without a clear, purposeful and documented content strategy in place, you’ll very likely end up with a behemoth of a job to configure and customize your new system in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of way with lots of holes and question marks. This makes it take longer for your investment to prove its worth. This makes it harder for you to get your content participants to buy in and get excited about your new platform. This makes it harder for you to win those coveted budget dollars you want for next year.
And guess what? Your boss isn’t into that. Your CFO isn’t into that. Your audiences won’t be into it either because your content won’t be any better than it was yesterday. It just cost you more to make.
So, what’s a marketer to do? Look, it can be hard to put a pause on a content creation effort that’s already got its own gravitational pull, and it can be easy to want to believe that technology is the answer to growing content program efficiency and increasing content quality. But smart marketers take a beat, and put strategy before software.
As a result of running a content strategy exercise, you should arrive at a clear mission statement to guide your organization’s use of content. And as part of your strategy exercise, you may find that content marketing software is something you need, and that that there’s a specific solution provider that’s right for you. Or, you may find that you need to go back to the drawing board on your internal content workflow and approval processes. Or, you may find that you need to invest in getting to know your audiences better to create content that resonates. Or, you may find that you need to restructure your team to get the right skills into the mix. Or, you may find something else entirely.
That’s the beauty of putting content strategy first – it shows you your gaps and needs, which should inform how you invest in and utilize resources and tools.
Bottom line: Instead of building your content program and assets to fit into a content marketing software platform, develop a sound content strategy first, then select the right technology to support your program. Don’t let your content become the tool of your tool. Your stakeholders and audiences will thank you.