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Marketing automation and content marketing are kindred souls. Each cannot do well without the other.
When it comes to B2B marketing, content is still king. But as content marketers crank out white papers, contributed articles, infographics, webinar recordings, microsites, blog posts, case studies, e-books and videos, it begs the question: how do we get all this stuff into the hands of our target audiences?
In the modern era, there's a simple answer to that question: use your marketing automation system.
If you need help connecting your B2B content plan to your marketing automation system, odds are good that we can help, so we'd love to hear where you are now and where you'd like to go.
B2B content marketing plays an outsized role in developing relationships with prospects that ultimately convert to sales. Without content, there's no awareness, engagement or education. Without awareness, engagement and education, forget about getting a sale.
The art and science of getting your content in front of target audiences is non-trivial. Tried-and-true tactics like simple email marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) paid online advertising, data-driven PR, webinars and sponsored social posts are still effective.
But what marketing automation brings to the content marketing party is a laser-focused, highly-strategic mechanism for content distribution.
With the right marketing automation programs in place, you can deliver helpful, relevant and actionable content to your target audiences exactly when they want it. Most importantly, the system does the work for you, so there's no time-wasting on manual work that distracts you from other things that would add more value to your company.
As you build your marketing machine, an engine that cranks out new business and conquers top-of-mind business challenges, think of content as your fuel and the marketing automation system as your engine. When done right, content fed into the engine is automatically dispersed to the masses in the optimal way to get your target audiences to engage and act. The result is more activity, better activity and shorter selling cycles.
If you're a marketer who manages marketing automation for your company, you may be struggling with feeding your content marketing assets into your marketing automation system.
This often happens because the content marketing plans and the marketing automation plans are separate, not integrated. That used to work just fine, but these days, the fundamentals of B2B content marketing have changed
Surprisingly, many of the content marketing resources at our B2B clients are not familiar with how marketing automation systems work.
That's a problem. The content team's not understanding marketing automation is as big a problem as the content team not understanding your SEO strategy or your online paid strategy.
Account directors who lead our marketing automation consulting services engagements typically recommend a facilitated, half-day offsite with the following agenda:
Most of us are familiar with content audits. They are a somewhat tedious but amazingly useful exercise (we can do yours for you, by the way) where, in the simplest form of a content audit, you correlate all your existing content assets to each of your target audiences and look for gaps.
For example, a content audit might reveal that while your complex B2B tech sale needs buy-in from prospect organization CIOs, the number of content assets aimed at marketing to CIOs is zero. In that case, you'd learn from the content audit that you are missing some very important content marketing material.
A second level of sophistication in content audits is B2B Buyer Journey Content Asset Mapping. That's when you not only map content to audiences but you also map your content assets across all the stages of the buyer journey for each audience and look for content marketing gaps at every stage of the B2B buyer journey.
Taking your content audit to an even more advanced level gets you into the arena of Content Marketing Asset Automation Mapping. Very few companies are doing this, so kudos to you if you are.
This third level of sophistication in conducting a content audit involves listing out every content asset you own and mapping it out to all your marketing automation assets (e.g. drip campaigns, email newsletter editorial calendars, landing pages, etc.) and looking for gaps.
This Content Marketing Asset Automation Mapping analysis can also of course be bi-directional. In other words, another way to approach it is to first develop the ideal marketing automation strategy that defines what audiences you want to reach, the messages you want to get to them and the engagement actions you hope to induce within the marketplace. Then, look for gaps to see what content assets are missing.
Typically, the result of this audit work is a quick conclusion that you need to hire more content marketers or hire a great content marketing agency. But, more importantly, the exercise builds tight alignment between your content marketing strategy and your marketing automation plan.
If you're still reading (thanks!), you're no doubt convinced that the need for content marketing has never been greater.
As you map out a content marketing plan to support your marketing automation execution, here's a word to the wise: make sure you create both evergreen content and time-constrained content.
Evergreen content is content that converts that is timeless. For us, our guide on how to improve ROI on B2B content marketing is evergreen content. Our thought leadership piece on future trends in marketing technology would not be considered evergreen content: it's a year-specific study that will be pretty dated in a few years.
Our recommendation to our clients is to get your evergreen house in order before you start working on outside-of-the-box ideas for crazy-cool, creative campaigns. Evergreen content is more important because:
Marketers hate it when we tell them to focus on evergreen content first. It's not nearly as exciting as a big content campaign. But there's a time and a place for everything. We do plenty of big creative content campaigns for our clients, but for marketing automation purposes, our counsel is always to make sure the evergreen content core is strong.
What's your PR amplification strategy for a high-value PR placement in The Wall Street Journal?
Without blinking an eye, you should be able to list out the six things you'd do to promote that type of placement if you were to get one. (Please reach out if you don't yet know those six steps).
Many companies don't think of their PR placements as content marketing assets, but we view good PR placements as content marketing gold. They are credible, third-party sources talking nicely (one hopes) about your brand and your offerings. That content absolutely needs to be fed into the marketing automation system.
To be sure, the future of B2B content marketing is automated.
Your competitors could very well be far ahead of you with respect to connecting their content marketing programs to marketing automation. If you're starting to lose market share or lose big deals, they are probably several months ahead of you. To avoid getting left behind, you'll want to take on the integration of content and automation with a sense of urgency.
Your path to the future starts with choosing the right agency. When you are choosing a content marketing provider or working with a marketing automation consultant, make sure they get the connections between the two disciplines. It's our opinion that only an integrated marketing agency like ours will get it because the best way to learn this stuff is in the trenches. An agency that only focuses on one thing is not going to be able to get you the results you need in a marketing world that is (finally) recognizing that integrated marketing delivers 10X the results of old-school, multi-agency siloed marketing.
We're the integrated marketing agency you always hoped to stumble upon, staffed with experts in strategy, PR, demand gen and, now with a fast-growing team of experts in CRM and Marketo consulting, as well as specialists who know Pardot, Hubspot and other top-tier martech platforms. That mix of talents and our integrated approach is the "secret sauce" at Walker Sands.
Intrigued? Eager to get going? It starts with telling us what you want to accomplish and seeing if there's a fit.