By Kelsey Raymond
Sixty-five percent of total ecommerce sessions were generated through search in 2019, and the global ecommerce market is projected to produce $4.89 trillion in retail sales this year. Among those search-generated ecommerce sessions, more than half have come from organic searches, according to Statista's figures. And these organic searches are driven by SEO-driven content marketing.
However, for that content marketing to be effective, marketers have to do more than just post on a company blog — they have to reach out to customers where they are and work to direct traffic back to their site. But with a seemingly endless supply of marketing tools out there, it can be difficult to figure out which are the best to use. Tool fatigue is real, and it can cause even the most experienced marketers to become overwhelmed.
As the CEO of a content marketing agency, I’ve seen firsthand how the right tools can take a marketing strategy to the next level. To help you avoid tool fatigue and give you a starting point as you decide which tools to use to strengthen your marketing efforts, I've outlined nine of the most important types of content marketing tools out there, along with some advice on how to make sure you select the right ones for you.
1. A content management system (CMS)
WordPress is perhaps the most well-known CMS, but many solutions allow you to manage online content and provide access to as many contributors as you need to create, edit and publish content. At my company, we use HubSpot’s CMS, as well as our own in-house software.
A good CMS will have a back-end editor that makes it possible to create content on the site without needing to be a coding expert. It should also offer SEO features, such as the ability to create clean URLs; offer URL redirects; and add page titles, meta descriptions and image alt text.
2. A customer relationship management system
Sixty-five percent of sales professionals use a CRM, according to LinkedIn. A CRM is used to manage a company's relationships and interactions with customers and prospects to improve those relationships and ultimately close more business. A number of companies offer CRMs, including Salesforce, HubSpot and Marketo.
Look for a solution that offers contact management to keep track of customers and prospects easily. It should also have lead tracking, which makes it possible to follow leads from engagement all the way to the point of sale.
Marketing automation is another area where a CRM can be a major help. According to a HubSpot survey, 61 percent of high-performing leaders use a CRM to automate parts of the sales process. Automation can free up sales and marketing to focus more on finding and securing new leads and less on administrative tasks.
3. An email marketing platform
Email continues to be a popular strategy for content marketing. In fact, HubSpot found that about 80 percent of marketers saw an increase in email engagement from 2019 to 2020. That's why an email marketing platform such as Mailchimp, HubSpot or Marketo is an indispensable tool.
A good email marketing platform will offer CRM integration that will allow you to manage customer and prospect information and track key metrics, such as click-through and open rates.
Mobile-friendliness is another important feature that can have a direct impact on the success of your email marketing campaigns. According to HubSpot, 46 percent of email opens come from mobile devices. This shows just how important it is for an email to look good and function well on mobile.
4. A marketing automation system
In a survey from MarketingProfs, 92 percent of marketing agencies reported investing more time, resources and budget into marketing automation integration. Automation software, such as the ones offered by Pardot and HubSpot, can automate several aspects of marketing, including social media, email and lead generation. Ideally, it should also be easy to use and integrate with your other tools.
Because getting a customized marketing automation system up and running can be challenging, make sure the solution you choose provides great customer support.
5. A marketing key performance indicator tracker
KPIs are the most important metrics that your marketing strategy is being measured against. Premade trackers are available, but you can also put together your own marketing KPI tracker spreadsheet template, which is what we chose to do.
Our template allows us to track important metrics that affect our marketing and sales teams and how they work together. Some of the metrics included are inbound and outbound monthly recurring revenue, contact form submissions, monthly sales calls and closed sales. A premade template such as this one will work for a wide spectrum of businesses. But if you have unique KPIs your company is measuring success against, creating your own template might be the best way to go.
6. Project management software
Project management software is used for project planning, scheduling and allocating resources. Asana, Monday and Trello are just a few of the options. These platforms allow teams to collaborate, share files, and manage the quality and budget of individual projects. You can also create your own project management software that works for your specific requirements, which is what we chose to do.
A good project management system will allow you to assign tasks to teammates and yourself so your team can keep track of what needs to be done and when. Make sure your project management software gives your team the ability to leave comments and notes associated with specific tasks that can be viewed by everyone. This makes it possible for everyone to be on the same page and ensure no aspect of a project gets missed or miscommunicated.
7. Design software
Design software such as Canva or the Adobe Creative Suite — both of which we use — is a key element of content marketing. With the right design tools, you can make sure your content doesn’t look like everyone else’s and captures your audience's attention.
Your software of choice should have the appropriate level of customization based on your team's needs and design experience. If your team is less experienced with design, you might need to choose a platform that offers templates and drag-and-drop functionality. On the other hand, if you want to create more customized designs with a team that has graphic design experience, it might make more sense for you to use platforms such as Adobe InDesign or Illustrator.
8. Analytics software
The majority of marketers report on how their campaigns directly influence revenue, according to HubSpot. To report properly, you need analytics software. This makes it possible for you to monitor the performance of your website and your marketing efforts. Plus, without analytics software, you won't have good data to input into that handy marketing KPI spreadsheet that was mentioned earlier.
Google Analytics is perhaps the most well-known tool, but plenty of others are available to choose from. Select a tool that has a user-friendly interface and integrates with your other content marketing tools.
9. A social media management platform
Semrush reports that 94 percent of marketers use social media to distribute content. With a number like that, it's safe for me to assume that you do, too. A social media management platform makes this distribution much easier, providing a more efficient way to create and schedule posts across a variety of social channels. HubSpot, Hootsuite and Buffer are a few of the more well-known tools, and they’ll all work to get the job done.
When deciding among tools, pick one that has a robust scheduling option. Scheduling allows your team to create social posts in batches and schedule them to go live at different times throughout the week. A good social media management platform will also allow you to review the performance of your social posts, including impressions and clicks.
You might have noticed that when listing the most important types of marketing tools, many of the same brands keep coming up again and again. That’s because many companies recognize the value of having one main platform that can fulfill a variety of marketing functions. This approach can lower costs and streamline the organization of your work. For example, we primarily use a combination of HubSpot products and our own proprietary software. However, every case is different, and a unified platform might not be the right fit for you.
When choosing your tools, look over your options carefully, and take into account your company’s unique needs, your team's specific dynamic, and your company's strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can assemble a suite of marketing tools that will help you achieve your goals and generate new business.