April 16, 2015

How To Use Marketing Automation To Improve Content

Written by

This is a guest post from Scott Solomon, the Content Marketing Manager for eZ Systems, a global provider of open source CMS software. He has extensive experience covering topics related to content strategy and management, mobile technology, and other topics related to marketing technology.

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If content is king, then marketing automation is the king’s army. The reach of marketing automation and the effectiveness of relevant content are a powerful team.

Just how important is content when it comes to marketing automation?

As a content writer, I’m biased. But the fact is, content is essential to marketing automation.

Without it, marketing automation wouldn’t exist. The recent rise in content marketing is helping fuel marketing automation’s drastic upward trend. And as marketing automation continues to gain popularity, the value placed on quality content has only increased.

The relationship has a natural synergy.

So how do you get the most out of your content and capitalize on that synergy?

It starts with quality content

Make no mistake – creating great content won’t suddenly turn your organization into a marketing automation superstar. Marketing automation is confusing and it’s difficult to get right. You won’t master it right away.

According to a Gleanster study, out of 20,000 companies using marketing automation, 79 percent of the top-performing companies have been using it for more than two years. What does this tell us? That marketing automation takes resources, experimentation, and patience.

That’s why companies are pouring money into the practice. According to Salesforce.com’s, “State of Marketing Automation in 2015,” 63 percent of companies will substantially increase their marketing automation budget in 2015. The same study shows that 62 percent of companies will also increase their content marketing budget.

The relationship between content and marketing automation is clear, and CMOs are beginning to understand what type of content is required to be successful.

Understand your audience

So how do you create quality content?

The first step is understanding your target audience.

Are they developers? Marketing managers? Deal hunters? A customer that goes to a pizza joint expects a slice of pizza, not thai food. The same can be said about your email subscribers. They signed up to receive something very specific.

Your job is to give your subscribers what they want.

People want content that pertains to them. Your content can be the best it’s ever been and beautifully written, but if it’s going to the wrong people, it won’t make a difference.

Because of marketing automation, you no longer need to throw something against a wall and hope it sticks. Marketing automation enables you to remove the guesswork.

Finding a balance

In a world where the average human has an attention span of only a few seconds, it’s important that your emails strike a cord. According to a TechnologyAdvice study, 48 percent of email subscribers said they wished email content was more informative. Nearly 45 percent of respondents from the same study wanted businesses to email them less frequently. Whether it’s news, deals, videos or educational blog posts, customers will give you their attention when they find content valuable.

The problem is it takes time and resources to create remarkable content, and even more time to make sure it goes to the right people. So how come some succeed at marketing automation, while others fail?

Marketing automation has to have some semblance of balance. If you’re sending too little content your subscribers will grow bored and turn elsewhere for information. Too much and they’ll be quick to hit the unsubscribe button, or even flag your email as spam.

The challenge is there’s no way to find a balance without experimenting. Analytics can provide you with a foundation for your experimentation. With analytics you can find out what type of content your readers enjoy before you send it out through marketing automation. For example, your subscribers may prefer to receive deals and discounts the majority of the time and only informative content on occasion, or vice versa.

A/B testing can take your experimentation a step further, though it is most insightful with a big audience. Statistics such as bounce rate, unsubscribe, and open rate can all vary widely based on things like subject title and the content within the email.

So don’t be afraid to experiment until you find a balance that works for your audience.

Content and your marketing automation strategy

When developing your content strategy, you should have marketing automation in mind. Marketing automation has created a whole new world for writers.

Writers wrote content for a broad audience. Today, writers have the ability to differentiate their content based on the audience that will be targeted through marketing automation.

Segmentation, or the ability to divide your subscribers into different segments, lends content writers the unique ability to reach a specific audience. This is a major opportunity for content marketers and gives them the ability to write more relevant articles.

For example, newsletters with the same layout can be created with entirely different content based on the audience it’s intended to reach. Partners will get content written for them, while current customers and prospective buyers will get content focused on their interests. Global companies can reach French, German, American and other international audiences exclusively and each with specific content in the right language or location.

Obviously, the more complex your marketing automation strategy becomes, the more content you will need. As always though, poor content will do more harm than good, so quality before quantity is always a good motto.

Understanding the user journey

Every organization has some type of user journey. For example, a SaaS provider’s users will travel on a journey that looks something like this: Discover > Try > Buy > Renewing Soon.

Keep in mind that your organization’s user journey may look entirely different. For example, the New York Ballet’s user journey is paced by the ballet calendar, not through demos and downloads.

With marketing automation, you can reach users at specific points during their journey. Again, this is a huge opportunity for content marketers. Scoring systems can be established based on where your users are in your funnel. Content can be written exclusively for subscribers with a high likelihood of purchasing, or for those that are good candidates for an upsell.

For instance, emails containing carefully created content can be sent to those in the discovery phase. These prospects can be nurtured all the way through the buying process with tailored content. Nurturing truly displays the power of marketing automation and content together.

Marketing automation can be incredibly powerful when combined with great content. So take the time to develop content and marketing automation strategies that are intertwined and which leverage each other’s strengths in order to get the most out of your subscriber list.

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