Marketing automation and content marketing: 5 steps to success
These five steps help take the mystery out of one of digital marketing’s most profitable pairings – content marketing and automation.
No matter your business size and what your content strategy is, at some point most businesses struggle with scaling up the amount of content they produce.
Creating well-written, SEO optimised content that resonates well with your audience can be time-consuming (and oftentimes quite costly), and if you’ve been doing content for a while, you’ll know thatit’s not enough to simply “get something out”
Whether you’re spending a few hundred dollars creating a series of blogs or investing money into producing videos and webinars – if the goal is lead generation – you should also be thinking about how your content go further.
In order to multiply the reach of your content and make each dollar count, you’ll need to make each piece of content work harder for you. Here’s how marketing automation and great content go hand to help you maximise ROI.
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- If the aim of your content strategy is to generate more leads and facilitate their journey down the sales funnel, then marketing automation provides the technology you need to get the job done.
- Your ability to create effective content relies on many of the insights you can draw from your marketing automation platform.
- Marketing automation can help you to identify prospects’ pain points to develop and prioritise targeted nurture streams, tailor content to speak specifically to shifting prospect expectations at different stages of the sales funnel, and measure the performance of your content assets to keep your content strategy evolving with your customers.
- Marketing automation is the backbone to content marketing ROI, they go hand in hand so focus your efforts on both, not just on getting content published.
Step 1: Gather information about your prospects’ pain points
Always remember that you’re first and foremost in the problem solving business. That is, when you clearly demonstrate how your product or service will directly solve a problem for your prospect, you’ll convert at a rate of knots.
However, before you can create content that proudly delivers solutions, you must first understand the pain points that drive your prospects’ buying behaviour.
Your marketing automation platform will reveal how your target audiences are interacting with your current content through a range of metrics. You can then track this data to identify the content topics and types that resonate with your audience.
Tracking the performance of your ‘how-to’ blog posts, for example, will reveal the common problems that are dominating your prospects’ search terms, and where your product or service may be able to provide the solution.
Step 2: Aligning marketing automation with your key buyer personas
Different prospects have different goals and pain points. That’s why it’s important to align your marketing automation activities according to your buyer personas.
Buyer personas are a way of distilling your knowledge of your customer base into imaginary ‘model’ customers – people who, all other things being equal, have a higher than average likelihood of purchasing your product or service. Personalising your content through buyer research will not only address your customers’ most common pain points, but also align your product or service as the solution.
Lead nurturing is an important part of the marketing automation process. It helps move leads through the sales funnel by supporting them with the right content at each stage of the customer journey. Remember, it’s near impossible for your sales team to follow up every single prospect in your database.
This is where marketing automation – working hand in hand with content – keeps your prospect warm, builds credibility and trust with your brand, and flags highly engaged prospects that sales can follow up with. Marketing automation/content should always run in parallel with sales efforts. It doesn’t replace sales efforts.
Creating dedicated nurture streams – or categories – that each address a specific prospect frustration will help you organise your content and ensure the right messaging is reaching the right person at the right time.
Each nurture stream should contain a series of content assets that speak to a clearly defined prospect frustration. They can also be prioritised in your content marketing plan to focus on the most common customer pain points identified in your buyer persona research.
It’s also important to have a mix of content that engages customers at the top, middle and bottom stages of the funnel, so that you’re nurturing leads at every stage of buyer readiness. These can be communicated through the appropriate calls-to-action (CTA) in each piece of content you produce.
Given that you’re going to receive content marketing leads at different stages of the funnel, your sales teams should also tailor their response to these leads with a personalised approach.
Step 3: Understand Content Mapping
Prospects have different expectations depending on where they are in the sales funnel, and your content strategy must reflect this. This is known as content mapping.
Top of the funnel content: Often referred to as awareness or engagement content, this refers to content that speaks to prospects who are new to your brand. So, this person will respond best to content that builds on their perception of your product or service, and how it will potentially solve their problems.
Middle of the funnel content: As prospects move towards the middle of the sales funnel, he or she will likely enter a more investigative mindset. This stage is often known as the consideration stage – where prospects are likely to be researching your competitors and evaluating which brand eventually gets their business. It calls for more information-heavy content, like case studies that emphasise your unique selling points.
Bottle of the funnel content: Finally, as prospects move towards to the bottom of the sales funnel, they’ll expect content that adds value to their purchase. This can include how-to guides, strategic offers and helpdesk articles that help them get the most out of your product or service and deliver on your promise to solve their problem.
Step 4: Set up lead scoring on lead tracking platforms
So you’ve identified your prospects’ pain points, prioritised their frustrations into nurture streams, and matched your content marketing plan to different stages in the sales funnel.
Most marketing automation platforms feature lead tracking functionality that should be used to inform and evolve your content strategy. Lead tracking will reveal a wealth of data about how your prospects are interacting with your content – from when they open an email and where they click on your website to how long they spend reading blog content.
In order to ensure that your sales team focuses their efforts on the ones that are most sales-ready, you should also implement a lead scoring system. Lead scoring is a methodology that scores leads based on the interest they show in your business, and reveals how sales-ready a lead actually is.
For example, if a person visits your website, it could be measured as one point. If that visitor visits a page with case studies, it could add another five points, and if he or she clicks on a CTA button, it adds another few points. Totalled, this visitor’s behaviour patterns arrives at a score which quantifies how ready he or she is to be contacted by a member of your sales team.
If you’re just getting started with lead scoring, note that you don’t have to implement rules for every single behaviour on your website. They key is to start simple and modify as you gain insights into how your customers interact with your content.
Step 5: Refine your content strategy hand in hand with marketing automation
Your content strategy should never be set in stone. As your customers’ expectations change over time, you enter new markets, or launch product or service offerings to new demographic segments, your content must evolve to cater for shifting customer demands.
Because good content marketing focuses on building relationships with customers, its true ROI can often be difficult to quantify. Marketing automation however, offers insight into how your content is performing and lets you see exactly what leads and sales are being generated from it.
You can also use marketing automation to test your content and make tweaks to see if things like a different layout works better or if the information in an article is providing the desired results. Your sales teams also benefit from access to the data that marketing automation provides. The data captured on your marketing automation platform can help them see a customer’s online journey and understand what they are looking for before contacting them.
Remember that it’s not just about site visits and click volume. Rather, measure every aspect of how your content is performing – from the publication days and times that best reach your target audience, to which types of content foster the most social media engagement.
Content marketing, supported by marketing automation should be a vital part of your lead generation strategy. Get it right and you’ll deliver better qualified leads to your sales team, help move prospects down the sales funnel and convert more prospects into long-term customers.
Here are the key points to remember:
- Identify your prospects’ pain points and prioritise their frustrations into nurture streams to ensure the right content is reaching the right person at the right time.
- Tailor your content to address prospects’ changing expectations throughout different stages of the sales funnel.
- Integrate your content with marketing automation software and lead tracking platforms to measure results and evolve your content strategy.’