This is part four in our 4 part series by account director Brian Hansford that maps the stages of a successful marketing automation initiative. Part 1 details building a successful process. The second part presents the importance of people. Part three looked at marketing automation vendor selection criteria.  In this last installment, Brian covers content.

Content helps prospects find an organization, learn and engage. Content even helps customers and non-customers alike become advocates! With a marketing automation initiative, content drives engagement and conversions which ultimately accelerates revenue!

Content often presents the biggest challenge for organizations that pursue a marketing automation initiative. Unfortunately content is often treated like a ‘Marketing 1.0’ task that a solo marketing communications writer should produce. I adopted a saying a few years ago that is “content is the fuel that launches the marketing automation rocket.” Without content, a marketing automation initiative will simply sit in limbo on the launch pad.

A well run marketing organization must have an annual campaign strategy and calendar, regardless of whether or not a marketing automation system is employed. Without a strategy, lead flow will be inconsistent, the content requirements will be unknown, campaigns will falter and the investment in marketing automation will be wasted.

Consider the content required to run each stage of a campaign in the buying cycle. Additional content will be required to support nurturing campaigns that help prevent leakage in the marketing funnel. Depending on which industry in B2B marketing, there will be different individuals at a target company that will require content suited to their roles and influence. Develop the right content for the right audience to be delivered at the right time using a marketing automation platform.

Great content helps organizations build credibility, awareness, and sets the standard that competitors must react to in order to keep up. That’s a position of strength!

Here are five considerations for developing and implementing a successful content strategy to support a marketing automation initiative.

  1. Audience: Who are the influencers and decision makers that will consume the content? Do you also have to reach partners, media, and analysts?
  2. Content Types to Steps in a Buyer’s Journey:Map the stages buyers take from pre-funnel, top of funnel, mid-funnel, final decision and beyond as existing customers? The buyer and customer journey has requirements for each phase. Here are some ideas to consider for different types:
    • Educational Content: Information designed to help prospective customers better understand the segment and solution. Well-developed content that educates also establishes credibility. Industry reports, webinars, keynote event presentations, blogs, social media user groups, and white papers are excellent formats for educational content.
    • Awareness Content: As prospective customers become more educated on the segment and solutions they will evaluate how vendors address their needs. In addition to the formats used with educational content, customer evidence through case studies is fantastic in this area. Also, content that focuses on “how-to” or “best-practices” is a perfect fit in this area.
    • Affirmation Content: As leads are nurtured into opportunities for sales follow up, they need information that helps lead them to a confident purchase decision. This is the area where vendors can define the terms of an evaluation that competitors must follow. Develop an RFP model or template. Provide more case studies and best practices. ROI models are also valuable and help develop a business case. The goal here is to build confidence that YOU are the right one to work with.
    • Advocacy Content:The sale has been won but now is not the time for complacency. Develop the content and delivery channels that help your hard-earned customers squeeze every drop of value from your solution. The more value you provide with strong communications and content, the stronger the relationship and the less chance of a defection.
  3. Content Sources and Contributors: Don’t treat content development and curation as a task for a single marketing communications writer.  Compelling, educational, informative, and entertaining content can be provided by multiple sources inside and outside of an organization.  High value content can be developed for little or no cost!  Executives in the C-suite, VP’s and directors should all understand this by now and even provide content themselves.  Customers, industry experts, channel partners, analysts, and independent bloggers are also great sources of content!
  4. Nurture Campaign Requirements: Understand content requirements when building campaign strategies and themes.
  5. Frequency and Channels: Content delivery methods are incredibly varied and many can be managed with a marketing automation platform. Proper planning helps identify whether enough content, or too much is planned for an audience.

Don’t let a marketing automation falter because of a lack of a content development plan. Content helps drive revenue when delivered with marketing automation platforms. The better the plan and implementation, the greater the return on the investment!

How are you implementing a content strategy with your marketing automation initiative?