First, it’s growing in scale. As quality content proves to be one of the most effective assets in modern marketing, organizations are developing a near limitless appetite for producing it. As brands truly become publishers, the size of content marketing teams and the volume of work for which they’re responsible are expanding rapidly.
Second, it’s becoming much more sophisticated. Nurturing programs use marketing automation and website personalization technologies to algorithmically target and sequence content — and the configuration of those software applications becomes a part of the storytelling arc. At the same time, content is becoming more interactive. It’s going beyond passively consumed articles and videos into app-like experiences that respond to user behaviours and input.
Third, it’s facing ever-greater competition. As more and more companies engage in content marketing, the noise in search and social channels continues to grow. It is a cacophony, and rising above it — to make your content stand out from the crowd — requires greater cleverness and creativity. It’s not about who’s the loudest, but who’s the smartest.
A common thread that spans these challenges: technology. Managing a large content marketing team at scale, implementing more sophisticated content-driven experiences, and inventing novel ways to break through the noise are all aspects of content marketing that can be aided by technology.
So does this mean that every content marketer needs to become a technologist, too?
The marketing technologist
Last year, Joe Pulizzi wrote an article, 12 Essential Roles to the Future of Content Marketing. These roles included chief content officer, managing editor, director of audience, and influencer relations. He also included a role that was very different than the others: chief technologist.
You might think that sounds like one too many chefs in the kitchen. But as Joe said, “Don’t think of [these] as new job titles, per se, but rather as the core competencies that need to be accounted for across the enterprise.”
The chief technologist role is an example of a new kind of hybrid professional known as a marketing technologist. Marketing technologists can be either tech-savvy marketers or marketing-savvy IT people. They can be either self-taught power users and hackers or formally trained computer scientists and IT managers. But they share an intuitive appreciation for how software works and are passionate about applying that knowledge in the service of brilliant marketing and remarkable customer experiences.
Marketing technologists are adept at configuring and operating the many different varieties of software that are entwined in marketing today. They often serve as the bridge between non-technical marketers — who need to harness these software-driven capabilities in their work — and the providers of that software: software vendors, digital agencies and IT departments.
Of course, not every marketer needs to become a marketing technologist. But having one on your team dramatically improves the leverage that the rest of the marketing department is able to achieve with technology.
This is increasingly true for content marketing.
Back-office to front-office
How exactly can marketing technologists affect content marketing outcomes?
First, as marketing departments turn into full-blown publishing units, they require new processes and systems to scale efficiently. A marketing technologist can help configure and operate basic publishing infrastructure, such as WordPress or other content management systems, digital asset management, project management and workflow tools, and more specialized content marketing management software such as Curata, Kapost, NewsCred, and Skyword.
Second, marketing technologists can help with orchestrating the delivery and tracking of content marketing programs through marketing automation platforms and more personalized customer experience management website platforms.
They can make sure that tracking codes are properly in place for all of the different channels through which content is being promoted. They can configure A/B testing and optimization services. They can set up and adjust analytics software, pull raw data into a spreadsheet for lightweight data-science analysis, and run ad-hoc queries on customer databases. They can debug technical issues such as duplicate CRM records and email deliverability.
In many ways, marketing technologists manage the plumbing through which the water of content marketing flows. And while the content itself ultimately gets top billing in winning customers — as it should — you don’t want the plumbing to get backed up.
But increasingly, the marketing technologist role is working with software for more than just smooth back-office marketing operations. A new generation of content is now emerging that does more than present content for visitors to passively read or watch. Content can now be delivered in interactive formats, such as with Ceros and Uberflip. It can be integrated into marketing apps that engage visitors with choices in a wizard-like fashion, evaluators, quizzes, calculators, and more.
Creating these interactive content assets — experiential content — often requires new kinds of software to be added to marketing’s growing technology stack. To tap the full potential of these platforms, it often helps to have a basic understanding of computer programming to be able to easily assemble the rules and logic by which you want your content-driven marketing app to behave.
Developing such experiential content is ideal work for marketing technologists. And in partnership with other marketers who are developing the content within these new app-like experiences, they can forge the kinds of creative campaigns that break through the competitive noise.