There is an ever growing amount of data and tools available to assist content marketers and publishers with their content efforts. There are platforms for creating content, collaborating and managing content, curating content, optimizing content for SEO, analyzing content performance to sharing and distributing content.

This guide Content Marketing Tools: The Ultimate List published by Curata in January is a great list though not the “full picture” of all the companies and technology available to marketers. And it’s already out of date given the fast pace of growth in this market.

Just to put it in perspective, Emarketer publishes an infographic every year called the “Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic” which they describe as a “large sample” not a comprehensive list. In August 2011 it had 100 companies listed, in September 2012 it had 350 companies, in January 2014 it had 950 companies!

I find it exciting and eye-opening. It’s not only hard to keep up with the latest and greatest platforms, it is really difficult to make out the differences between all that’s available. Here’s a link to the infographic and article by Scott Brinker which explains it Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2014).

Even Scott admits how challenging it was to take all the various companies and technologies put them in categories based on what they all do and provide. My favorite quote from the article underscores what we all are experiencing. ”…. the seismic shift of marketing away from advertising to experience-driven marketing. content marketing, social media marketing, interactive experiences, and the analytical capabilities to optimize those efforts with continuous experimentation are where the largest flood of innovation is occurring.” There are so many tools being created to serve the needs of the “agile” marketer and the shift to content marketing.

So where does that leave us? How do we decide what we need, where we need it and how we use it. It all comes down to first and foremost, a content marketing strategy. Yes, being ”agile” is good, though that is not the same thing as “ad hoc”. You need a plan and a strategy around your moving parts. There are lots of great articles and tools available to help you. A great place to start is the Content Marketing Institute. Here’s a link to get you started Developing a Strategy.

Once you have a strategy there are other important considerations. The questions to consider are: a) does it help you implement your strategy? b) what are the business benefits? c) is it easy to use? d) is it easy to implement? e) what business needs does it solve for? Ultimately you want to think about the cost (time and money)/benefit (increasing ROI and reducing manual effort) analysis. And do what an “agile” marketer does and test, test, test! Many if not all of these platforms provide you with the ability to try them out before you subscribe. What better way to know if it will work for you? I like to think of it as I do test driving a new car. I never every buy a car without driving it first, do you?

Though, the most important element to consider, no matter what platforms or tools you decide to use is having the data and insights to understand your audiences. For example, do you know what they want to read?, what information they want from you?, what is relevant to them?, where do they like to read it/find it and when? Once you have the data and insights that will help you better understand your audience(s) then you can create content that is a direct result of those insights.

To get the most from your content marketing efforts you want to insure your content is the right best content for your audience in the first place. No matter what automation, collaboration, curation, SEO, or amplification platform you decide to use, if you don’t really understand your audience how can you create content that is right for your audience? None of the exceptional tech platforms available will help you get the maximum ROI on your content marketing efforts without having great content (that is right for your audience) in the first place.