Before we created our custom content marketing software, ICo Core, Influence & Co. struggled with the inconsistencies and challenges facing any company trying to create content and distribute it at scale.
If you haven’t outsourced your content marketing to an external partner, you’re probably (unfortunately) familiar with what I’m talking about.
Without the right technology, we didn’t really have an option for centralized communication or record management for our clients, let alone our internal efforts. It’s easy for updates to go missing and deadlines to fly by when they’re buried in the email inboxes of busy executives and thought leaders.
We also struggled with transparency: Without a custom solution, it was nearly impossible for clients to see the status of their projects or log in to their own accounts to see how their content was progressing. Traditional processes and development often left clients out and lacked accountability.
And the hardest part of all? Analyzing results. Without access to the software our clients used (if any) to manage the content we produced together, fully understanding their performance was difficult. Add to that the fact that there wasn’t a software solution that analyzed the performance of guest-contributed content, which is our bread and butter at Influence & Co., and the only solution left was for us to create our own technology.
Tackling Tech Issues
Our team wanted to create something that would enhance our clients’ experience with us. We officially rolled out ICo Core right around the time we shook up our internal structure by eliminating traditional departments and creating client service and editorial teams called pods instead, providing clients with their very own content marketing team.
From its inception, ICo Core was designed to complement our unique process for content creation and distribution and to empower our newly formed pods to deliver the very best customer experience.
While the software also makes our team more efficient, its true benefit is that each and every one of our clients has access to this software that’s custom-built for their content needs — in addition to the dedicated pod that helps each client do content marketing right.
(In fact, after working with ICo Core, our client Lemonlight was inspired to create its own project management software for its video production services.)
Crafting a Custom Solution
As Influence & Co. continued to grow — as a team, in our capabilities, and in the number of clients we had — we couldn’t simply ignore the challenges we faced or continue relying on a solution that had worked for us in an earlier stage of our evolution.
The high-quality content we craft at Influence & Co. — and that ICo Core facilitates — is the product of four stages of development. We begin with ideation, which includes our content strategists developing a plan of action for each article and its publication. From there, we move into our time-tested knowledge extraction process that allows us to draw high-level insights from our clients before putting the pieces together in the content creation phase and publishing in the final stage of content distribution.
Without a communicative, coordinated tech platform to streamline our editorial workflow, our pods would not be able to work efficiently to deliver our clients the most value.
Components of ICo Core
When we were building ICo Core, we started at the very beginning of our content creation phases and developed components unique to each stage. To see how it works, it’s helpful to view those components both from a big-picture strategy perspective and from the viewpoint of individual projects.
At the strategy level, ICo Core includes:
- A customizable editorial calendar, which communicates the cadence of deliverables and helps clients and pods stay on top of deadlines and expectations.
- Individual knowledge banks in which thought leaders’ insights are stored and managed to fuel future content projects in a searchable database.
- An easy-to-use dashboard, where every content project for a given client is displayed while communicating what stage of production it’s in.
From there, our clients and their dedicated pods can focus on the actual content products using features in the individual content opportunities, like:
- The content creator, which is the text editing tool where the content itself comes to life. It includes the title, thought leader, company name, type of content, and production stage of the piece itself that visually represents the content’s progress toward completion.
- The content strategy and summary sidebar, which can be found on the left of the screen and provides a summary of the opportunity. This feature is unique to our internal team and allows pods to easily access a recap of the article; thought leader and brand guidelines on tone, voice, and target keywords; and any notes regarding the publication’s guidelines during content creation to ensure we produce the highest-quality content for clients.
- The to-do list and activity feed sidebar, which work together to help our pods and clients manage deadlines, files, and updates for each opportunity. Events can be scheduled and tasks can be assigned to team members, freelance writers and designers, and clients using the to-do list feature. The activity feed compiles every note written about the content in question and allows users to write notes of their own, letting them tag other users to communicate directly and track revisions. These features make it easy for clients and pods to collaborate and track content progress while preserving timelines and deliverables.
Once content is published and distributed, ICo Core even offers built-in analytics features that showcase ROI, help our clients understand their content’s performance, and give our teams a chance to learn what’s working and what’s not. Plus, our public profiles feature gives clients the ability to quickly and easily access (and show off) all their published content in one place.
ICo Core was created because we wanted to enhance our clients’ experience with us. As our tech foundation, it allows our team members and clients to collaborate, communicate, and visualize each piece of content’s progress. By developing a custom content creation platform, we have been able to spend more time on what we do best: creating high-quality, well-developed content that helps our clients achieve their goals.