The marketing industry is in the midst of an ongoing, long-term evolution. It began decades ago with the emergence of the Digital Revolution, and it hasn’t slowed down.
As people carry out their professional and personal lives across digital spaces and platforms, brands strive to establish a presence in those areas. The digital world changes rapidly, and trends and channels can become obsolete just as quickly as they emerge.
Brands need to keep up with the trends that matter to their audience while simultaneously keeping a pulse on the marketing activities that make a difference to their company’s business goals. A keen understanding of both is essential to marketing success in the digital age.
The content marketing industry is expected to grow 14.3% annually until 2026, according to a Research Dive report. Meanwhile, the content marketing software industry will grow 18.7% annually until 2028, according to Adroit Marketing Research’s predictions.
As content marketing becomes increasingly more important to brand success, marketers must ensure their initiatives are well organized, strategically planned and results oriented. That’s not such a simple task, though — which is why the content marketing software industry is in such a position for growth.
Among the many types of content marketing software options available, one category is emerging as the all-encompassing, holistic solution to many of the modern marketer’s biggest challenges: The Content Marketing Platform.
Here, we explain what a Content Marketing Platform is, how it helps marketing teams and how it differs from other types of content marketing software.
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What is a Content Marketing Platform?
A Content Marketing Platform (CMP) is a software solution designed to streamline workflows and simplify the role of the modern content marketer. It does so by centralizing all content marketing activities. This includes strategy and campaign planning, content creation, project management, asset approvals and collaboration, content scheduling, campaign tracking and, ultimately, results measurement.
Do All Marketers Need a Content Marketing Platform?
No, not all marketers need content marketing platforms. All the tasks that can be carried out using a CMP can also be done with the right collection of tools and processes.
That said, CMPs can be a huge benefit to today’s content marketers. Consumers have high expectations for digital content, and those expectations are only going up. Brands need to create more content, faster, and it needs to be the best.
CMPs are particularly helpful for companies working to scale their content production and digital marketing efforts, or those that have large, multi-disciplinary content programs that require input from many stakeholders.
A CMP centralizes all your content marketing efforts, enabling you to see at a glance the progress of all your current projects, the results of your ongoing or completed initiatives, the status of your vendor contracts, and much, much more.
What Challenges Does a Content Marketing Platform Solve?
Some of the biggest challenges that a good CMP solves are:
Few content marketing efforts are ever small. Smart content marketing strategies put lots of thought behind every decision, whether it’s as seemingly simple as a single Tweet or as complex as a massive research report.
A good CMP gives marketers a clear view into the progress of every content project, including the people who will work on it (and when) and its estimated completion date. This level of visibility keeps stakeholders accountable for their roles and makes it much easier to plan the launch of each campaign.
Campaign Planning and Scheduling
Planning campaign launches is a much more involved process than it may initially sound. A single content marketing campaign may require any number of assets and promotion channels, all with unique details and goals.
Content management capabilities keep every aspect of a campaign organized, from the initial planning phases to the launch and through to the post-launch analysis. Every asset created throughout the life of the campaign has a place in the CMP, making it simple to review information collected months ago or just yesterday.
Additionally, by giving marketers clear insight into the progress of asset production, planning out a content calendar becomes much easier and oftentimes more accurate, reducing the need to shuffle around content launches to accommodate unexpected changes to the timeline. Many CMPs have integrated content calendars, giving stakeholders a quick high-level view of the content initiatives of the month, quarter or year.
Internal Analytics Tracking
Among all the content planning, creation, scheduling and analyzing that goes into the content marketing process, it’s easy to lose sight of how efficient your system really is. Content marketing can quickly become an inefficient process if the project management role isn’t taken seriously. With so many contributors to every campaign, it’s important to understand where the hiccups in your process are holding you back.
Internal analytics tracking helps organizations find their inefficiencies. Documenting workflows, time to approval, rounds of revisions and other factors helps marketers identify which stages of production are the most difficult for them. With this insight, they can devise ways to improve their processes to make each content marketing initiative go more smoothly than the last.
Document Asset Management
It might sound like a no-brainer to say content marketing involves a lot of content. But beyond the assets you create for your target audience, this profession also involves even more documents than the ones your followers and customers will see.
Documents, results and ROI reports, brand guidelines, white paper outlines, editorial briefs, vendor contracts, analytics reports — and many more — are all types of assets that are created throughout the content marketing lifecycle, and it’s essential that all relevant stakeholders have easy access to these important documents.
CMPs offer that level of access, giving company executives an easy way to download or view the reports that matter most to them.
Results and Analysis
At the end of the day (or campaign), what really matters to your organization is whether your content strategy is driving positive results for the business. Content marketers need to prove the value of their work through data, especially (but not limited to) web traffic analysis and their relation to revenue.
CMPs that integrate data analysis give marketers the biggest advantage. Depending on the platform, these reports may include information from web analytics tools, keyword and position tracking tools, digital ad platforms, marketing automation platforms designed for email and social media, and more.
By offering feasible solutions to these content marketing challenges, a CMP makes it easy for companies to devise effective content marketing strategies that provide long-term results.
What is a Content Marketing Strategy?
A content marketing strategy defines the types of content you’ll create, the purpose of each type, the promotion and distribution of your collateral and the goals you hope to achieve through each campaign. It should evolve over time according to the changes within your own organization, your industry and the preferences of your target audience.
If your content marketing program is still in its infancy, or “kind of came together organically over time,” it’s likely that your content strategy feels disjointed. Taking the reins of your content marketing process now — whatever stage it’s in — will help you plan strategically for the future.
Here are some helpful articles that discuss building a content marketing strategy from the ground-up:
What Are the Best Ways to Do Content Marketing?
Every organization will approach content production and planning differently, even if they’re in the same industry or cater to generally the same audience persona. You know your brand is unique; that means your content marketing strategy must be, too.
Nevertheless, there are some core activities of the process that every company investing in content marketing should conduct:
Target Audience Identification
Your target audience is the group of people who will be most interested in your content. They might be the people who will eventually spend money with your company, or they might help convince someone else to do so. Either way, these are the people you’re making content for. It’s essential that you know useful information about them, such as how they find your website, how they like to research purchase decisions and which social media platforms are their favorites.
Creating an audience persona is complicated business, but having at least one can help keep your content relevant. You can learn all about target audience identification in this video course:
The right words are the crux of content development. Your audience uses certain words to describe the problems that you can solve, and they may have a unique vocabulary for the types of products or services that you offer. Those words may be completely different than you’d imagine.
Keyword research helps you identify the terms people use when searching for the types of solutions you offer. It also helps you identify which of those keywords and phrases have the most potential to drive results for your business.
Here’s a very thorough guide to doing keyword research the right way:
Keep An Updated Blog
In this day and age, every business can and should have a blog on their website. You don’t need to publish a new blog post every single day or write ultra-long, in-depth articles every time, but you should have a blog.
Your blog is a great place to store important information like company updates and articles describing your solutions. But it’s also an excellent way to generate organic traffic to your website, show your target audience that you understand their concerns and interests alike, demonstrate your thought leadership and build backlinks (which in turn improve the strength of your website from an SEO perspective).
Launching a business blog is a big project. Here’s some guidance to get you started:
Once people are aware of your brand and begin to view you as a trusted authority or personality in your industry, you’ll want to keep in touch with the people who engage with your content the most. Email marketing can be incredibly lucrative because it allows you to create extremely personalized content for your audience to enjoy.
Starting a newsletter is probably the easiest and best way to launch your email automation program. Here are all the steps you need to get started:
Web Analytics Reporting
Your website is the home base for so many of your content marketing initiatives. As a result, the key to understanding which campaigns are working, which are working best, and which aren’t working at all is to understand web analytics.
By reviewing details like how many people visit your website, which pages they visit, how they arrive on your website, how many pages they explore and more, you can draw conclusions about how people engage with your website, if they’re finding what they need, and more.
Be patient as you explore and get to know your web analytics tool. If you’re like most marketers, you’ll turn to Google Analytics to get a lot of this information.
Here is some advice on finding certain information within the platform:
What is Content Marketing Software?
Content marketing software is any software solution that marketers use to manage their content initiatives. There are numerous categories of content marketing software, including but not limited to content marketing platforms.
In addition to CMPs, which have wide-ranging capabilities and functions related to many aspects of marketing programs, content marketing software may focus on specific areas of marketing, such as brand awareness or lead generation, or specific types of asset creation, like video, social media or visual content.
Best Content Marketing Tools
A content marketing tool can be any program, software, platform — or even a document or spreadsheet — that helps marketers carry out their content marketing processes. The best content marketing tool for your organization depends on what you need accomplished; there are many types of tools available that benefit marketers. Here are the most common types of content marketing tools, and a few quality options within each category:
Social Media Management Tools
Social media management tools give marketers the ability to schedule posts, manage multiple channels from one platform and review engagement metrics across all your social media accounts from one location. Brands interested in influencer marketing need to establish a strong presence on social media, and should take advantage of tools that assist in outreach. Some of the most popular include:
There are tons of blogging tools out there. Some help writers come up with content ideas, some help with improving the quality of their writing, some help them publish content directly on their website and others help with search engine optimization. Here are some popular blogging tools:
Content Calendar Tools
A fairly self-explanatory category, content calendars help marketers visualize their content cadence over time. This is important for spacing out your great content for the best impact and for planning complementary content campaigns. Some of the best content calendar tools include:
Video Creation Tools
Video is a powerful content type that will almost certainly benefit your brand. The trouble is video marketing generally has a high barrier to entry (video production is expensive) and the results can take time to fully realize. Having easy-to-use video creation tools is a good way to get your feet wet. Here are a few entry-level video creation tools:
Infographic Creation Tools
Infographics are a visual content medium that deliver a lot of information in a very short period of time. The best part: People love them. The downside: Graphic design isn’t easy. Luckily for teams lacking a graphic designer, there are plenty of tools you can use to create stunning infographics. Here are a few:
Website Analysis Tools
Since so many of your content marketing initiatives will inevitably strive to drive traffic to your website, the ability to measure site traffic and user patterns is essential to being able to identify successful initiatives and campaigns that didn’t work as planned. Some of the best web analysis tools to use include:
Keyword Planning Tools
Every SEO initiative must begin with keyword research. Keyword planning tools keep your research organized. These tools allow you to parse data for batches of keywords so that you can quickly evaluate the strength and relevance of each term. Depending on the tool, they can also give you insight into how well your keyword-targeted content is performing. Some of our favorite keyword planning tools include:
Email Automation Tools
Most companies need to send out email of some kind to their audience and/or customers, whether it’s simple plain-text order confirmation emails, complicated lead nurture campaigns or something else entirely. The best email marketing automation platforms offer functionality for segmenting lists, creating formatted email templates that can be reused, scheduling out bulk email sends, A/B testing email content and analyzing the results of your email campaigns. A few popular email automation tools include:
Lead Generation Tools
Generating qualified leads is basically the whole point of inbound marketing. Successful content marketing initiatives convince potential customers to reach out to you, rather than your brand approaching them with a sales pitch. Lead generation tools help marketers capture contact information, organize leads, plan touch points and track engagement. Some popular options include:
Brand Awareness Tools
Brand awareness tools help marketers understand how widely their brand is known and talked about. This category of marketing tools is widely varied, as there are numerous ways to learn about your brand’s perception and reach, including audience surveys, social listening, and web or social media analytics. Some excellent tools to help marketers understand brand awareness include:
How Much Does Content Marketing Software Cost?
Of the 37 content marketing software options listed above, the prices range from free to $15,000 per month. Many of these options also offer custom pricing options.
Content marketing software costs can range from outright free to tens of thousands of dollars because this category encompasses a great many types of solutions, and within those, numerous options.
The right software combination for your content production depends on the size of your business, your marketing goals, the activities you intend to carry out and more. Very robust products — typically designed for enterprise businesses — will cost more, while tools designed for personal use or small businesses are more likely to be low cost or even free of charge.
Some content marketing tools charge by the seat; the more users you have, the more you’ll pay per month. Additionally, a few of the more coveted features, like adding branding elements such as logos and choosing exact colors, are reserved for paid versions.
Are There Good, Free Content Marketing Tools?
Yes! There are plenty of ways to create content marketing assets at no cost to you or your organization. Some of the best free content marketing tools:
- Hemingway Editor.
Keep in mind that these companies typically save the best features for their paid versions (disregarding Hemingway Editor, which is just plain old free).
Free versions of email automation software cap the number of contacts you can store, for example. Free keyword research tools offer a set number of searches you can perform each month. And free graphics and video creation tools limit the colors, fonts and graphics you can include in your final product.
The paid versions of these tools is where brands see the most features and options for branding and customization. Trying out the free version is a good way to introduce yourself or your company to a new tool. However, most businesses eventually find that free content marketing tools need to be supplemented with other resources.
What is the Best Content Marketing Platform?
The best content marketing platform for your organization depends on your specific needs and goals. To choose the right platform for your content operation, consider the features you’ll need. Some of the most common include:
- Workflow automation.
- Content calendar.
- Content delivery.
- Content publishing or scheduling.
- Messaging capabilities.
- Reporting and analytics.
- Resource and/or vendor management.
Luckily, there are numerous options that offer these features, and more. Here are 5 of the best CMPs available in 2023:
1. Brafton Content Marketing Platform
The Brafton Content Marketing Platform was created in-house by the content marketing agency of the same name, and launched in 2023.
Brafton began as a news marketing agency in 2008. Between then and now, their product and service offerings have expanded to provide comprehensive content marketing campaign strategy, creation, implementation and performance measurement. By working with thousands of clients on countless content marketing campaigns, Brafton encountered every obstacle that derails modern content marketers.
Brafton developed this software in-house to address their own challenges. Over the past few years, the company has perfected it and is now bringing it to the global content marketing community at large. It’s the first content marketing platform built for content marketers by content marketers.
With the Brafton Platform, marketers are able to plan, produce and measure their content marketing in just one place. The Platform features:
Digital asset management: Every single document and asset has a place in the Brafton Platform, from creative briefs and brand guidelines to blog post outlines and design briefs to completed assets like white papers and videos. Nothing is ever lost, and it’s all only a couple clicks away.
Content calendar management: An automatically populated content calendar gives you a quick view into the status of your projects. Color-coded tiles show you which stage of production they’re in so you can plan appropriately.
Content production planning: Intuitive workflows let you assign projects to relevant stakeholders without worrying about missing an important step. Every stage of production is accounted for, and all project stakeholders can see when it’ll be their turn to contribute. Customize these workflows for your unique process, and set clear project timelines to keep everyone on the same page.
Resource tracking: Keep track of what you’ve already produced and what’s on deck, right from the dashboard. Staying on top of resource spend helps you stay on top of your most important partnerships and contracts.
Campaign measurement: The Brafton Platform brings relevant data from industry leading tools like Google Analytics and Semrush so you can see exactly how well your campaigns are performing, directly from the same platform you used to plan, create and launch them.
Backed by Brafton’s own experience and built professionally in-house, it’s the best equipped platform on the market to address the actual pain points content marketers face.
Percolate, acquired by Seismic Software in 2019, is an enterprise-level CMP that’s particularly well suited for social media management and content distribution.
Marketers who have used Percolate applaud its workflow building and management capabilities, which help save time and simplify tasks, as well as its social media and content scheduling functionalities.
Reviewers also note that it’s hard to track items down in the app, such as specific assets and analytics reports. Additionally, some reported that integration limitations and lacking social listening abilities made it difficult to fully optimize their social media campaigns through the platform.
3. Welcome (NewsCred)
Welcome is the name of the CMP and the brand that developed it, formerly known as NewsCred. NewsCred began as a content marketing business, though the content business side of NewsCred was sold to Industry Dive in 2020, while Welcome continued to focus exclusively on its software products.
Welcome’s strengths include its content collaboration abilities as well as its distribution functionality. Users report that it’s an intuitive platform to learn, and offers helpful features, especially for blog publishing.
However, the blog formatting features have a lot of room for improvement, according to users who report having to know and understand HTML in order to structure their blog posts in any sort of custom manner. Additionally, the workflow can be slightly rigid with limited customizations for the way processes should flow within your organization.
Kapost, purchased by Upland Software in 2019, is another enterprise-level CMP that offers functionalities related to content publishing, distribution and analytics.
Marketers using Kapost report positive experiences with their audience targeting capabilities, shared content calendar and easy-to-follow workflows. Content distribution is also one of Kapost’s strengths, as it can easily be integrated with a host of other content marketing software solutions like Hootsuite, Outbrain and Pardot.
However, users have also pointed out time zone differences make it difficult to stay in communication with team members across regions, whereas similar platforms adjust times and dates as necessary to ensure everyone views accurate information. Additionally, some users reported issues when working with large amounts of customer data, noting that this platform is a better option for smaller organizations.
Contently actually calls itself a content creation software, but it offers the types of features you’d expect from any other enterprise-level CMP, including project management, content curation and distribution as well as content performance analytics.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the Contently platform is that it’s also a freelance platform, meaning brands can seek out content creators to work with for specific projects. This detail makes it useful for marketers who don’t have the team required to build out the many content assets they need for their campaigns. Similar to Brafton, this means users of the platform can have direct access to content marketing professionals in a variety of disciplines. However, their freelance status means that it’s up to the marketer to determine the right content creator or team for their operation.
Users report that the workflow customization features of the platform are helpful in structuring projects that suit their unique organization. The platform also helps with audience targeting, which in turn can help increase content performance. An analytics dashboard is another feature that users find convenient.
One drawback users report is that, though the analytics dashboard is easy enough to view, its actual functionality is less robust than many of the alternatives they can use, leading some to lean on work-arounds or other tools entirely to access the data they’re seeking. Additionally, while the platform allows for collaboration on documents, it doesn’t offer features like tracked changes to help make communicating between parties simpler.
Honorable Mention CMPs for 2023
This, of course, isn’t a complete list of CMPs on the market today — they’re just 5 of the most popular and comprehensive. Other top CMP options include:
Content marketing is a complex operation. Right now, the industry is adapting to the growing need for software and tools to help marketers stay organized. Every piece of content and every campaign requires tons of preparation to get it off the ground, from ideation to creation to distribution to analysis.
The right CMP gets everyone on the same page — and the same platform — to help content programs run smoothly. Meanwhile, the right content marketing software stack helps marketing teams create the assets they need, and analyze the most important key performance indicators generated by those campaigns.
Finding the right collection of content marketing tools isn’t easy. There are myriad options out there, all with varying levels of capabilities and comprehensiveness. If you want to talk about the options you have for carrying out your content marketing operation, let us know; we’re always happy to help.