Quality content and marketing automation go together like peanut butter and jelly, like bows and arrows, like gin and tonic, like — you get the idea. But in all seriousness, businesses producing content on their websites without marketing automation are, quite simply, leaving loads of value on the table in exchange for the work they’re already doing. And businesses with marketing automation that aren’t regularly producing web content will quickly see their marketing automation efforts grind to a halt, maybe even leading them to wonder if marketing automation has anything to offer. Both are needed (along with a CRM like Salesforce) in order to truly leverage your website and holistically generate new business opportunities online.
Hopefully this isn’t really news to many of you, especially not to our clients who are already following the Newfangled model and using content to fuel their marketing automation activities. What I want to talk about today is the role of content in that equation, as it specifically relates to marketing automation. In doing so, I want to focus on the content opportunities and requirements that go beyond the usual “3000-words-per-month” recommendations.
First, the Basics
We talk a lot about the importance of creating fresh written content for your website each month. Most of the time, that means we’re focusing on a handful of staple content platforms that are conducive to regular publishing, like blogs and newsletters (we typically define newsletters as long-form articles that are fully available to users in an indexable form on your site). That’s partly because these content types form the foundation of most agency content strategies — rightly so — and yet many agencies still struggle to regularly produce content for them. In addition, these content types are known entities (meaning that users understand them as conventions and know what to expect from them), and they offer a good many benefits. These include:
- Ongoing demonstration of current thinking, expertise, and proof of thought leadership
- An established space, context, and format for regular publication of new content
- Opportunities for user engagement in the form of content-driven calls to action, or CTAs (blog digest, newsletter signup)
- Ongoing reason to reach out to your list(s) in a structured way via email
Given these potential perks, and given the learning curve that goes along with actually mastering these content types, it makes sense that we’d focus on them as much as we do. But when you consider your content as it relates specifically to marketing automation, it quickly becomes clear that there’s a whole lot of opportunity beyond those basic content types.
Beyond Blogs and Newsletters
One downside of blogs and newsletters from a marketing automation perspective is that they typically offer just one opportunity for users to convert on a CTA (i.e. fill out a form) across multiple pieces of content. Once a user signs up to receive your blog digest or newsletter, that’s pretty much it as far as active user engagement. Assuming your website is equipped with smart CTAs and progressive profiling, this means that each content type offers just one opportunity to gather information from a particular user and move them through your set of progressive profile fields.
This is one reason we’re such fans of gated content like whitepapers and webinars, which offer a mandatory conversion point along with each piece of content you produce (because users must complete a form in order to access each individual whitepaper or webinar). These content types are worth putting behind a form because they offer more advanced or specialized information (in the case of whitepapers) or a live experience for which registration, if not outright payment, is expected (in the case of webinars). They’re great fodder for marketing automation because they provide multiple opportunities for engagement, which in turn allows you to better score and segment lists and identify your top prospects — all while gathering more information about who they are and what they’re interested in.
Whether or not you’re already producing whitepapers and webinars, there are lots of other, less commonly discussed opportunities for creative marketing that marries content and marketing automation. Here are a few other examples of beyond-the-basics campaigns you might want to consider. (Note that in each case, you’d be producing content that won’t exist on a standalone page in your site’s menu tree, but don’t forget that you’ll likely need to set up and produce content for landing pages.):
- Create a short e-book or research report on one or more topics that map to your area(s) of expertise and use marketing automation to promote that content on pages that relate topically. Put the e-book behind a download form with progressive profiling in place.
- Set up an automated email course on a specific topic and promote it on your site, along with a signup form. The course would consist of a series of emails, typically one per day, and would take users through a specific set of material in a progressive and easily digestible fashion. For this, you’ll need to create content for each email send that is part of the course and then load them up in an automated program in Act-On.
- Use lead scoring to create special email content that speaks to users based on where they fall in the sales cycle. For example, you could create a special informational email or downloadable asset that is automatically sent via email once a lead reaches a certain lead score and has demonstrated an interest in a specific service. This content should be crafted to speak directly to the needs of an individual who is further along in the sales cycle (an Evaluator or Buyer), with the goal of giving them a little extra nudge to engage with your team and start the sales process in earnest.
- Create a series of emails targeted to new customers that would start going out once they make a purchase. These emails would answer common questions and concerns and help new clients get the most out of your product or service. This content really wouldn’t be relevant on your website, but it would definitely be helpful for those who have recently made a purchase.