While at the heart of every good content marketing program there’s a solid strategy, that alone is rarely enough. To be successful, you also need to have the right processes in place. For example, content marketers often devise processes for deciding what types of content to create when and about which topics. They also have workflows for reviewing that content and ensuring that all of the right people approve it. And they have a variety of systems for delivering the content through their network of paid, owned, and earned distribution channels.

Yet for many of today’s content marketers, those processes tend to be primitive at best, and as a result can present a barrier to scaling operations. Just think of all of the editorial calendars you’ve ever seen that live in static, color-coded spreadsheets with little or no functionality. And then there are the editorial standards that are painstakingly spelled out in hard copy style guides that no one reads. Similarly, how many workflows have you seen document in Word or PowerPoint that get filed away and are quickly disregarded?

The fact is that the processes supporting many of today’s content marketing programs are often manual, ad hoc, and unsophisticated. Just consider how many companies use mass distribution tactics to deliver their content, as an example. Rather than tailoring their programs so that specific audiences only receive the specific messages and content that’s relevant to them, many companies still default to a one-size-fits-all approach that’s not terribly effective.

What all of this means is that today’s content marketing is often slow and inefficient. As a result, for those people charged with scaling content marketing programs, often the only solution is to add the brute force that hiring additional manpower can provide. While all of that may be enough to get by today, the successful content marketers of tomorrow are going to need to do better.

A more efficient future, and how to get ready for it

Going forward, content marketers will need to have the right tools to scale and automate their operations, so that they are able to work smarter and not just harder to get results. Specifically, they will need tools that help them:

  • Better understand who their target audience is and what they care about.
  • Discover what their audiences are talking about online so that they can insert themselves into those conversations with relevant content.
  • Automate content workflows and editorial calendaring to cut down considerably on the administrative time currently associated with these tasks.
  • Achieve greater alignment among silos so that content producers across companies work better together.
  • Identify relevant keywords and place them appropriately for search engines.
  • Optimize their language by embedding preferences for style, terminology, and tone of voice directly into the authoring tools that writers use.
  • Create distinct content experiences for different audiences, including how that content is delivered.
  • Obtain more precise insights into how content was consumed and which, if any, actions it resulted in.
  • Gain forward-looking insights with predictive analytics.

Many of the tools necessary to make these types of improvements already exist and will continue to become more sophisticated in the months and years ahead. Those that don’t will begin to appear in the marketplace in the near future.

If you’re still getting by with an old school approach to content marketing, but want to be prepared for what lies ahead, it may be time to:

  • Audit your existing content marketing processes so that you can identify where the weaknesses and bottlenecks are. Chances are that you’re not going to have an unlimited budget for new tools, so you’ll want to be very clear on where you see the most opportunity for improvements.
  • Examine the tools that are available to help and prioritize them based on the benefits that they offer. When doing so, there are a number of factors that you should take into consideration, including cost, functionality, and ease of integration with your current systems.

The difference between content marketing success and failure going forward will be determined in large part by how effective the systems and processes in place are that support your program. If yours is built on ad hoc solutions, outdated spreadsheets, or any other antiquated practices, you’re going to have a very difficult time staying competitive.