I saw a stat not long ago that said marketers spend 30% of their work week learning, implementing, or searching for new technology to make content creation and management easier and faster. I can’t find it now, so maybe I imagined it.
But even if that isn’t true, it feels true.
My experience with two content teams over the last month shows why this happens.
One team uses a sophisticated tech stack with a modern content management system, a digital asset management system, and even AI-driven writing assistants. The other relies on a patchwork of shared cloud storage, HTML snippets in Excel spreadsheets, and ancient collaboration systems.
The teams produce the same amount of content – they’re getting the job done. But neither team feels like the technology they have serves them well.
As a result, they’re both vulnerable to the dream of a tech solution.
Many content marketers envision how much better their work could be if only they had the right technology. They see themselves happily using tools that automate processes, create insightful dashboards, or magically deliver the right content to the right people, at the right time, on the right channels and devices.
They spend so much time thinking about how to get the shiniest new technology they forget to consider how to use technology to get the most from their work and their team.
The problem arises when people buy into the promises of new tech without first asking the most important questions: Do we need this? Why?
For example, I recently learned about a new technology that helps automate responses to data-access requests from consumers who think a brand isn’t using their personal data correctly. On its surface, the solution sounds neat.
But before buying tech like this, a smart marketing leader should ask: “Why is our strategy leading to so many disgruntled consumer requests? Is automated response tech the best choice to address their frustration?”
In other words, “Why do we need this technology?” The answer might (or might not) have anything to do with tech.
Cathy McKnight, who works with me at The Content Advisory, suggests a multistep process when selecting new technology. (Does it surprise you to learn that writing the request for proposal doesn’t happen until step seven?)
The first steps she suggests are essential, yet they’re rarely done. I’ll walk you through this critical part of her recommended process.
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Validate the need for technology
Validating your need for new technology seems like an obvious starting point, but it’s not.
Fear of missing out is strong, and it leads marketers to seek new tech because they’ve seen new tech. The tech they rely on today looks like a run-down neighborhood bar, while the latest tech solution looks like the hottest nightclub in town.
Don’t fall prey to FOMO. Before making any decisions, look at your current strategy, your plans, and your ability to get the job done today. Ask these questions first:
Do you have a technology problem?
Or is there another reason you’re not working in the best way?
One client I worked with considered a technology solution that would let them limit who could push the big red publish button. But they asked this question – and decided they didn’t need a tech solution. Instead, they started telling people who could (and couldn’t) push the big red publish button.
Can you solve the problem by adjusting the process?
This question reveals if you have process problems (or if you have any processes at all).
Let’s say you’re looking for ways to help a team member decide which website pages need updating more efficiently. First, ask how they do it today. If they look at a spreadsheet delivered to them through email, download all that information to their laptop, and prioritize the changes based on their experience, you don’t really have a process.
And that means technology shouldn’t be the first answer to that problem.
Could (or should) you update existing technology, or do you need new technology?
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen marketing teams replace their CMS because they conflate it with their website’s design. When marketing leadership wants to redesign the website, they use it as an opportunity to replace the poorly implemented CMS.
Shouldn’t you at least see if an upgrade or reimplementation would suffice?
Create the business requirements
If you answer these questions and land on “Yes, we need new technology,” you’re ready to list your business requirements.
I won’t cover that process in detail as it’s well known: Audit and interview stakeholder groups to uncover the requirements in each of the relevant processes.
Ask whether the existing processes are the best way. You may find changing a process to better match how technology providers handle that process is easier than forcing tech to accommodate a non-optimal process.
Identify your focal needs
This third step is possibly the most important part of assessing your new technology needs.
You might think you have needs that no other business does. (And you’re not alone – nearly every marketing team believes it’s a special rainbow-colored unicorn.)
Spoiler alert: 90 to 95% of your business requirements are common. And this is a good thing.
Still, you likely will have a few processes unique to your business. And they may be too important to lose in a new technology implementation. These are your focal needs – the requirements that differentiate the technologies under consideration.
Tech solutions may (or may not) be the answer to your problems
It’s easy to be blinded by shiny new technologies and approaches. But remember this: Your content technology stack won’t differentiate your strategy or content. It may make things easier – or it may make things more difficult.
But focusing squarely on your strategy and related needs always works as a nice pair of shades – you’ll see past the glitter and eventually find the gold.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute