There’s a big secret about content marketing tools: most of them don’t matter.
Most of us have known someone—a friend, a coworker, a classmate—that’s all about the gear.
One of my coworkers at my first job was particularly guilty of this.
He’d develop a fast interest in a new hobby, and one of his very first steps, before taking lessons, talking to others or even dabbling too much in the basics, was to load up on gear.
The nicest road bike (with a professional cycling suit to match)? Check.
A high-end photography setup? Check.
A tennis racket made for professionals? Check.
And if you know someone like this, you know how the story usually ends: he’d spend some time with his new hobby, playing with his new toys, and soon enough when things got difficult, he’d quit.
Interestingly enough, I see similar scenarios in content marketing.
People want to get good at content marketing, and they think that the best tools will get them there; that spending money on the fanciest lead capture tools and email marketing software will make you successful.
It’s how we end up with headlines like this one:
There’s a big secret about tools in content marketing that the people who make those tools don’t want you to know about.
It’s this: until you’re an expert, the tools you use simply don’t matter that much.
Tools Don’t Make the Difference
Tools are not the difference between struggling content marketers and successful ones.
It’s like thinking that the major difference between Lebron and a struggling rookie is the shoes they’re wearing. Often, that’s about the only thing they have in common, and Lebron would still handily win a one-on-one game wearing hiking boots.
I get a lot of questions about the tools we use for content marketing from people who are starting out.
In today’s post, I’m going to address the question, but first I’m going to reframe it, because the tools we use—after three years of doing this day in and day out—aren’t going to be useful to someone looking to get their blog off the ground.
The truth is, there are only five tools you need to set yourself up for success in content marketing. Everything else is a “nice to have.”
I put this list together so that you can sign up for these tools, stop thinking about them, and get to work on what’s truly important.
Things That Are More Important to Content Marketing Success Than Tools
- Deep, deep customer development. Spend many, many hours talking to as many customers as possible, learning about their pains, challenges and goals, and think about how you could use your content to help them accomplish those goals.
- Publishing valuable, interesting and useful content as soon as you possibly can.
- Work as hard to promote your content as you do to produce it. Influencer outreach is the reason that our startup journey blog has been as successful as it has been. Especially early on, our outreach campaign gave the blog the boost it needed to build a baseline of traffic that has been steadily growing ever since.
With that said, these are the only five tools you need to build the foundation of a successful content marketing system.
The Only 5 Content Marketing Tools You Need to Get Started
1) A tool to organize your workflow
You’ll need a place to track topic ideas and the various moving pieces of your writing, publishing and outreach efforts.
We use Trello for this. Their basic version is free, and still very powerful.
I’ve seen dozens of systems—using things like Basecamp, Google Calendar and others—that work. The key is picking one and sticking to it religiously. No system works well if everyone involved isn’t 100% on board.
Here’s a deeper look at how we use Trello to organize our blog post ideas.
2) A tool to write, edit and collaborate on your content
This one is obvious: where will you write?
We love Google Docs for this. It makes it easy to draft, track edits, and collaborate in real-time.
When I write a post, others can review and suggest edits (and vice versa), and it just keeps things simple for us.
Plus, it’s free.
3) A tool to publish your posts
We don’t use a content management system here at Groove. Our posts are each coded individually.
But even if you switch to a process like ours later on, I still recommend you start with a CMS like WordPress. It’ll cut down on the resources you’ll need to get each post out the door, and give you more time to focus on everything else.
And, like the tools above, WordPress’ most basic version is free.
4) A tool to capture email addresses
You do content marketing for a reason: to grow your business. And the best way to leverage your content traffic into real business growth is to first turn your visitors into email subscribers.
We do this with email capture forms in a number of different places, like this one:
For email capture, I recommend SumoMe. SumoMe has a free plan, and has everything that you need to collect email addresses in a number of different ways (scroll-up boxes, welcome pages, in-line forms, and more), right out of the box.
In fact, we’re switching all of our email capture forms to SumoMe in the coming weeks.
5) A tool to build a relationship with your email subscribers
There’s no shortage of email marketing tools out there.
It’s easy to use, and reasonably priced, starting at only $9 per month. For a free option to start with (free for up to 2,000 subscribers), check out MailChimp.
How to Apply This to Your Business
The above is all you need to get started. Truly.
Forget the “50 best content marketing tools” lists, as they’re nothing but distractions.
If you want to reap all of the benefits of content marketing and build a successful content machine from the ground up, then the tools don’t matter very much… yet.
Sure you can add in more advanced tools later, when those marginal increases add real value to your results.
But for now, you need a foundation. So grab the basics, put together your strategy, and get to work.
I’m rooting for you.