The No-Bullshit Guide to Evaluating Content Marketing Platforms

With a few years in sales at DivvyHQ under my belt, it doesn’t take much to spot an informed, organized buyer from the impulse buyer who is in the middle of a content shit show, and hasn’t spent time thinking about what they really need. Truth be told, I much prefer the former, despite the fact that the informed buyer will probably scrutinize me and our content marketing platform much more thoroughly.

But why do I prefer the harder sale? The answer is simple.

If they put that much time and effort into researching and finding the right solution, they will likely put the same or more effort into making sure their chosen solution is a success. As you may know, I’m a big fan of that.

So without mincing any more words, here are 8 tips and considerations that I wish every content marketing platform buyer would think about before engaging with me.

1. Create a Problems List, Not a Feature Wish List

When evaluating software tools, it’s really easy to start immediately comparing features. But let me save you some time right now by saying this: apples-to-apples comparisons don’t exist for content marketing platforms. Each solution has a specific focus, unique functional offerings and a unique user experience. A feature checklist, although useful, will not paint an accurate picture of a platform’s value or its likelihood of actually being adopted by your team.

Instead, create a “problems list” that verbalizes the major pain points for which you are trying to solve. Each platform may have a different way of solving that pain, and the only way you’ll see it is by discussing your list with each vendor, and letting them demonstrate the solution. If you can easily see how the features and experience would solve each problem, then move to the next step in your evaluation.

2. Limit the Number of Tools You Evaluate

It’s not uncommon to hear that a prospect has just signed up for 8 content marketing platforms in the last 4 hours. I’m not even kidding. How can you expect to properly evaluate 8 platforms in 4 weeks, let alone 4 hours? Will you even remember which one is which? Sure, you might have found 8 platforms that look like they might fit the bill, but you’ll quickly get overwhelmed and suffer from paralysis by analysis.

My advice: Pick a max of 2-3 platforms whose websites/content/videos speak directly to the major problems on your list. Engage with their sales/demo process and focus your Q & A on the top 2-3 items on your problems list. If one or more of these platforms aren’t hitting the mark, then you can quickly move on and expand your shortlist.

3. Be Prepared for Your Trial Period(s)

I hear this all the time… “I started our 14-day trial, but then I realized I should get some of my team on board…and we thought we should have a meeting to talk about the platform…and then something came up….and now we’re ready, but our trial has expired.”

Before starting a trial, be prepared and think about which key stakeholders should be included in your “trial team” and get them together to craft a plan. Review the problems list with them so they have the proper context and expectations. If possible, pick some REAL content projects that you could manage in the platform from start to finish. Ask the trial team to record any likes or dislikes with the platform’s functionality and user experience. Focus on one trial at a time, then gather as a group, compare notes and determine which content marketing platforms delivers the most value.

4. Be a Straight Shooter

Tire kickers are common with content marketing platforms

I’ve been in sales a long time, and at times people can be hesitant to share information with us early on when they’re just kicking the tires. I get it. Just know that we can move the conversation along much faster and be more helpful if you just tell me, honestly, two things:

  • Where you are in your evaluation process – Are you just kicking tires to see what it’s all about? That’s perfectly fine! Are you really feeling the pain and want a solution yesterday? That’s great!
  • Which other tools you’re evaluating – I’m going be a straight shooter, too. We know what our competitors offer and I’m going to tell you when another platform would actually serve your needs better than Divvy.

By expressing this up front, I can better deliver the information that would be most helpful for your current stage. You will get exactly what you ask for. If you don’t get what you ask for, this could be a great way to shuffle the cards and weed out some content marketing platforms who aren’t listening to you!

5. Be Open & Ready for Change

Change management is one of the biggest challenges in adopting new software. In the content marketing context, most companies are coming from a chaotic environment of spreadsheets, emails, meetings and stress. Something has to change or else your team will continue to be stuck in an inefficient and frustrating rut for who knows how long.

Be open to seeing the possibilities of how content marketing platforms facilitate a different way of working and free yourself from the shackles of spreadsheets. Getting comfortable with these changes can take time and that’s ok! For some, the change is so necessary, it’s like a duck to water from day one. Every team is different!

6. All Aboard!

Talk with each vendor about their onboarding process and services. Yes, there may be an additional cost for this service, but onboarding is an absolutely critical piece of the content marketing platform implementation process. Not completing a proper onboarding process with your team is setting yourself up for low adoption. Over time, the chaotic world you were trying to get out of leaks back in. And like the drip of a leaky pipe, you are once again flooded with inefficiency because you were just trying to avoid the extra onboarding fee.

7. Test Their Support Responsiveness (Very Important!)

With any software product, there will be bumps in the road and you will find yourself in need of some roadside assistance. Perhaps you run into a bug or your use cases have changed and you need to talk through a new situation. THIS IS COMMON with content marketing platforms! The last thing that you want to learn is that you’ve just invested time, money and effort into a new platform, only to find that the vendor’s support stinks.

During your trial, even if you just have a minor question, engage with the vendor’s support channels. Check out their knowledgebase and evaluate its quality. Submit a support ticket and note their responsiveness. Shoot them a note on social and see how long it takes for them to engage. Don’t underestimate the importance of support as part of your evaluation and overall success with a new platform.

8. Think Annually or Longer

Not only does an annual or multi-year contract immediately secure the best possible up-front cost, it gives all parties the time needed to properly mold a content marketing platform to the needs, organization and workflows of your team. By making a year commitment, you’re telling your team (and the software vendor) that you’re serious about adopting this platform and solving your biggest content marketing challenges.