The Role of Content in Marketing Automation


The Role of Content in Marketing Automation

By Special Guest
Jeff Dworkin, Principal Consultant, Ghostpoint
  |  March 31, 2016

In my last article, I added my definition and explanation of marketing automation to the plethora of those already out there in the world. I also pointed out that marketing automation has become the latest buzzword within the marketing space. But content marketing was the buzzword du jour that just preceded it.

The content in content marketing is only part of what I am writing about in this article. My definition of content marketing material is all the stuff that comes before the product marketing material. It is the stuff that helps prospects define their problem, understand the potential solutions to their problem, establishes your company as experts in this problem space, and demonstrates that you are worthy of consideration as the solution to their problem. It is all about them and their problems; it is not about your company or product specifics.

There is a second kind of content that is also used for marketing automation. That is product marketing content. Product marketing content (as the name states) is all about your products and services. It is exactly the kind of stuff that you need to provide if your prospects already understand their own problem and that you use to offer a potential solution to that problem. It is the stuff that you need to provide to convince them that you have the best solution to their problem. It is feature lists, technical specifications, success stories, warranties, and business process documents that your sales team can use to close the deal. This type of content is all about your products and your company.

Getting prospects segmented by product, solution, or area of interest, and then creating engagement with nurture/drip campaigns is at the heart of a successful MAP implementation. Nurture/drip campaigns can deliver messages by whatever means the prospect wants to receive them: email, video, phone, SMS, etc. But the goal is to get those messages in front of the prospect and then measure their level of engagement. You want them to ultimately request a contact from sales, or determine, by their level of engagement, that it would be prudent to have a salesperson contact them directly.

If a marketing automation platform is the engine that drives visitors to prospects and onto marketing qualified leads, then content is the fuel for that engine. That content can be broken down into a number of categories.

Content That Gets their Attention

The first thing you need to do is get their attention. Short-form content is designed for those prospects that are very early in their buying journey. Think of short-form content as an easy to consume breadcrumb that is designed to lead them to more relevant and detailed content.

Often times, a piece of short-form content is a summary of a more detailed piece of content that is designed for a prospect later in the buying journey. A blog post that is a summary of an available white paper can be a good piece of short-form content.

You can break down longer pieces of content into smaller chunks. If no one is reading your 12-page whitepaper, maybe it is better to release it as four three-page articles.

Content that is targeted at getting attention should be key word heavy. This is the kind of content that you want people to find when they are making initial queries about their pain points, potential solutions, or about your specific product.

Short-form content can be delivered in a variety of formats: short videos, articles, infographics, curated lists, quizzes and widgets, limited-scope whitepapers, and archived webinars.

Content That Converts

Short-form content is meant to get their attention. You want to lead visitors to more specific and targeted content that is so valuable to them that they are willing to trade their contact details to get that information. This is called converting.

Prior to this point, prospects may have been anonymous website visitors or browse-bys at a trade show. Based on the piece of content on which prospects converted, you should now have a good idea about their specific pain points. They are placed on a segmented list and an outbound nurture campaign should then take them from this point of conversion to full engagement.

Content That Engages

The next step in the buyer’s journey is to get that prospect to engage with more of your website or content. That means looking for more information on your company, your products, or your solutions. The goal here is to build trust with prospects, show that your company is a leader in this field, and that you are educating them about possible solutions for their problem or concern.

You want to convince prospects that your company understands their pain points, problems, and concerns. You want to show them that other companies that have their problem are your customers and that you have a solution for them. This kind of content is called long-form content. It is targeted to viewers who are deeper into the buyer’s journey. It is also content that they may want to share with others who have input into the purchase decision. You are helping them build expertise in the subject by sharing your expertise with them.

This kind of content is much more detailed and much more specific. Long-form content can be presented in many formats: solutions papers, ebooks and guides, newsletters, interactive video, feature guides, demo videos, testimonials, analyst reports, calculators, and tools.

Content That Closes

As prospects engage with your content, they should now be reaching the decision stage of their journies. The task at hand is to convince them that your solution is the best solution to their problems.

There should be pieces of content that the prospect can request or download that can predict that they are nearing a decision. The marketing team and the sales team need to work closely together as the prospect reaches this stage of the journey. Based on your company’s specific policy, this is where a prospect becomes a marketing qualified lead and is passed over to sales.

Another indicator of an eminent decision may be the number of times they keep returning to the same webpage or when they linger on a particular page or two within your website.

Whether you generate content internally, purchase content, or have it custom generated by a third party, content on its own is just a tactical element. Getting views, likes, and shares may be an important metric to marketers, but in the end, these are not the metrics that really matter. Once content is used as fuel for a MAP implementation, measuring engagement, and using that information to drive visitors to prospects, prospects to marketing qualified leads, and then on to sales and into paying customers, you show the true ROI of your marketing efforts.

Jeff Dworkin is principal consultant of Ghostpoint (

Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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