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A Tempting Selection of Content Marketing Tools: How to Pick the Right Ones

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As the practice of content marketing matures, so too do the tools that make us more efficient, help us scale faster, and enhance our ability to measure. Unfortunately, making sense of all the available options can make your head spin.

All those choices make me giddy—like my boys when they enter our favorite candy store in Madison, NH. As soon as the door opens, we're accosted with bright colors, glorious smells, and an overwhelming desire to try everything.

However, unlike eating too much candy, choosing the wrong content marketing tool can give you more than a stomachache. A bad choice can completely undermine your efforts to meet (or possibly exceed) your marketing goals.

So it's time to turn that tempting buffet of content marketing claims into a sampling we can digest.

Before we go any further, though, I want to emphasize that marketing automation systems are not content marketing systems.

Marketing automation is your primary tool for lead management and reporting, list segmentation, landing page development, and email distribution. However, most marketing automation systems do a bad job of managing the content creation process and measuring engagement with specific content assets.

Content marketing tools complement your marketing automation system; they augment it to address those gaps.

Seven Categories of Content Marketing Tools

Various types of solutions are designed to enhance content marketing efforts, from measuring results to improving content effectiveness.

1. Analytic Engines

Analytic engines are platforms for building predictive models and identifying trends. You don't execute campaigns within these tools, nor do you create content within them, but you do use them as a basis for measurement and refinement. They are powered by feeding a database with a rich repository of information. For best results, you need high volumes of data upon which you can conduct analysis.

Examples: GoodData, Idio, Kiss Metrics, Lattice Engines

Look at these if your content marketing efforts are mature and you require highly customized analysis based on your business model. To benefit, you should already have the content creation process mastered, you have lots of volume (think millions of touch points), and you have technical skills on staff. Though you don't need to be a data scientist to use these tools, you need to think like one to make the most of their power.

2. Content Optimization

Content optimization tools focus on a key component of the content creation process—writing—and cue authors to make improvements. Content optimizations can include everything from SEO best-practices to grammar advice and brand compliance.

Examples: Acrolinx, Moz, Optimizely, Scribe

Look at these if you find yourself adding keywords or updating branded terms in most articles submitted. Content optimization tools can help make you more efficient if you already have a structured editorial process and workflow but the quality of writing submitted lacks consistency.

3. Content Creation Services

These agencies provide a large network of writers that you can hire to ghost-write all kinds of content. Considering the volume of content they develop, content creation experts often provide content strategy services in addition to writing and design.

Examples: Skyword, WriterAccess

Look at these if your team has great ideas but simply no time to write. Content creation services can help you scale the volume of content being produced.

4. Content Curators

Curation platforms make the act of finding, organizing, and contextualizing content created by other brands or persons easy for marketers to integrate into their online channels.

Examples: Curata*, Newscred, Storify

Look at these not if original content creation is your blocking obstacle but if you are looking to increase the volume of assets you share in newsletters or on microsites where content curation might be a good fit for increasing visit duration. To make the most of curated content, be sure you already have a sizable audience and that the theme is broad enough to find lots of published materials from which to choose. Keep in mind that curated content is not likely to improve your SEO efforts significantly, since you're not the original source of it.

5. Project Management

Project management tools make organizing tasks their primary objective. Idea-sharing, editorial calendars, and tasks are managed within these tools. Though content creation and measurement are not part of these solutions, they are used by highly disparate teams to remain aligned around shared deliverables.

Examples: Basecamp, Central Desktop, Trello

Look at these if you've got a smallish team and you want to keep its members connected, and you already have other means for measuring the effectiveness of content assets. Project management tools are a good way to assign tasks and share updates. They are most effective for teams that regularly work on tasks together, but they can be difficult for the casual contributor to learn to use ad hoc.

6. Social Content Distribution

Social content distribution tools focus on the publication of content on a wide range of social channels. They coordinate across channels for integrated campaigns and allow for the tracking of keywords and social listening.

Examples: Hootsuite, SproutSocial, Sysomos

Look at these if you are a social media manager and content creation is not your primary objective. These tools are great for scheduling social posts as well as listening to what your community is saying about your brand and your competitors.

7. Content Marketing System/Platform

Content Marketing systems manage the full lifecycle—development, distribution, and measurement—of original content. These tools are fully integrated collaborative solutions for content analytics, building an editorial calendar, automating workflow, content optimization, and social content distribution.

Examples: Crescendo, Kapost, Oracle Marketing Cloud, Percolate. *Curata has recently launched a content marketing system and can be classified in both the content curation and the content marketing system categories.

Look at these if your team is reaching readership plateaus despite a steady cadence of blog posts and other content, if have a growing team you need to keep connected, and if you are spending a lot of time editing work submitted.

This class of tools is particularly helpful if you find yourself considering tools from more than one of the other categories, if you use a standard marketing automation or CRM tool, and if you don't have a data scientist wannabe on staff to reconcile various data sources.

The Right Tool for You?

Which of these tools and approaches you use depends on your primary objectives, your target audience, and the size and complexity of your marketing team.

You may choose to use multiple tools from the various categories. However, if you find yourself looking at multiple tools, I'd strongly encourage you to check out the class of content marketing platforms that have brought together the key disciplines required to execute a scalable content strategy.

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Samantha Stone is the founder of the Marketing Advisory Network. She has launched go-to-market initiatives and lead marketing strategies for award-winning, high-growth technology companies, including Netezza, SAP, Ascential Software, and Powersoft. She blogs at Unleash Possible.

Twitter: @SamanthaStone

LinkedIn: Samantha Stone

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  • by Tod Cordill Mon Oct 5, 2015 via web

    Great list Samantha, thanks for sharing.

    Although you mentioned it in #7, I'd add marketing automation as #8. It can work great for delivering releveant content at just the right time.

  • by Tod Cordill Mon Oct 5, 2015 via web

    Whoops - I missed your initial comment about Marketing Automation systems as I dove straight to item #1. I agree with your comment that marketing automation systems are not specifically content marketing systems, but I do think they can be a useful part of the tool kit. I feel the content they deliver, and the analytics from them, should be integrated into the rest of the content marketing strategy.

  • by Steve Peck Mon Oct 5, 2015 via web

    Appreciate you publishing this post Samantha. Rarely do you see experts break down the "Content Marketing" category to this level.

    This categorization is something I struggle with for my own company ( and would love your feedback on how we'd fall into the categories you've outlined (if at all).

    Docalytics offers two main value props:

    1) We allow content marketers the ability to bring PDF content online in order to measure reader engagement with a brands eBooks, Guides, Reports and other downloadable content offers. Here is a link to an example of the type of content engagement benchmarks we've been able to capture across our customer base:

    2) We give content/demand gen marketers more flexibility in how they gate their downloadable resources, by allowing 'in-content' lead gen forms that can be placed anywhere within the resource and sync with a companies marketing automation platform. The idea here is that by driving readers straight into the content, you have a chance to 'hook' them before requesting information, which historically has improved overall conversion against the standard gated landing page as illustrated in this case study:

    So, while we ceratainly "complement your marketing automation system" by "measuring engagement with specific content assets" while improving lead gen from those assets, we don't quite fit into the "Content Optimization" category as you've defined it (or do we?)

    Anyways, would really value your expert opinion on the topic as it is something I've been struggling with and don't necessarily have the voice to simply create a new category ; )

    Thanks - Steve Peck

  • by Samantha Stone Tue Oct 6, 2015 via web

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. While there are components of marketing automation tools that certainly help too often organizations try to do manipulate marketing automation beyond it's capabilities and fail to seek assistance with other types of technologies. I expect over time for the lines to blur as both technologies continue to evolve. In the interim, most marketers will benefit from combining both marketing automation and content marketing systems to drive maximum productivity and effectiveness.

  • by Samantha Stone Tue Oct 6, 2015 via web

    Thank you for sharing information about your offering. On the surface it sounds like you provide a valuable publishing agent but I'd have to learn a little more before categorizing the technology. If you're up for giving me a demo I'd be happy to review further. Best way to coordinate is via email

  • by Bhumika Fri Oct 9, 2015 via web

    Thanks for sharing all these tools with us. I am surely going to try some of it. But, we already use google analytics to measure the traffic on our website(which is free).
    For our project management requirements, we use proofhub. It is the best project management tool, we've ever worked on. It has so many awesome features to analyze the project status which are helping us in delivering the projects on time.
    And, Hootsuite is the best option for sharing content on social media sites.

  • by Samantha Stone Fri Oct 9, 2015 via web

    Thank you for sharing the tools that you are currently using. It sounds like you have many important items covered. I'd encourage you to explore capabilities to facilitate measurement of engagement within non-web pages and associate content consumption with lead and closed business conversion.You may also want to consider optimization technologies.

    Best of luck.

  • by 40deuce Thu Oct 15, 2015 via web

    Thanks so much for giving Sysomos a shout out in here Samantha! We really appreciate the love.
    I'd also like to point out that not our primary purpose, a lot of folks (myself included) are using Sysomos for content curation. The ability to monitor for terms beyond your brand name, like industry terms that are important to your company, help you to find a lot of great content that you can then share with your audience. Just thought I'd throw that out there =)

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  • by Samantha Stone Thu Oct 15, 2015 via web

    Thanks for sharing your comment. I love how creative people use technology for all kinds of purposes it was intended. Hope to meet you at Marketing Profs if you will be attending.

  • by Brent Swanson Mon Nov 2, 2015 via web

    Thanks for the excellent post, Samantha!

    I'd like to offer a tour of our content marketing platform, BrandpointHUB ( We built it because there aren't any competitively priced end-to-end content planning, creation, management, and publishing products on the market today. We're pretty proud of it and would love to be included in a future updated list of content marketing tools.

    - Brent Swanson, Product Manager of BrandpointHUB

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