Just how important is content marketing to your lead generation program? According to research from MarketingSherpa’s 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report, the creation and distribution of unique, engaging content is becoming increasingly critical to the success of any online outreach program. While traditional inbound marketing tactics like email marketing and social media remain at the top of the lead generation food chain, search engine optimized (SEO) content and generalized content marketing campaigns are now outperforming paid search marketing approaches.
This is all fine and dandy, until you realize just how much effort can be involved in delivering on a top-notch content plan. From blogs to white papers, case studies to infographics, keeping up with the tremendous demand for content can become an overwhelming challenge.
Fortunately, a wave of automation solutions has sprung up over the last few years to help you manage the arduous task of constant content creation. From Contently to Percolate, and even my own company, technological advances are enabling companies to scale and grow their content marketing outreach at unprecedented rates of speed.
But are the increased efforts required to manage this acceleration always worth the economies being produced? While marketing automation enables greater lead generation, stronger buyer engagement, and increased reach, it also creates a unique challenge: You now have to meet the increased demand for dynamic, targeted content to convert those leads into customers. So, when it comes to content marketing, will automation aficionados be forced to choose between efficiencies and targeted effectiveness, or can automation really help you achieve both?
Rationalizing your content marketing
Content evangelist Doug Kessler once said, “Traditional marketing talks at people. Content marketing talks with them.” Remember this when it comes to aligning your lead generation efforts with your resulting content creation needs. More content is not what your customers want. What they ultimately want is answers to their questions. As such, the best way to battle the lead generation beast is to rationalize the content creation efforts that make up your content plan.
To accomplish this rationalization, start by determining what content you should be creating for a given medium at a specific time, based on your relevant buyer personas and established messaging strategies. To help you find the answers, ask yourself this: What is the most efficient and effective path I want my buyer to take in order to progress through my sales funnel? Content created on this foundation will naturally drive better leads.
What to consider when crafting automated content
If you’re serious about automating some of your content marketing processes (and by all means, you should be — attempting to handle all of your content in-house and on your own is a surefire way to lose your marbles), maintaining a clear focus on these five key factors will help make your efforts more manageable:
1. Your personas: There’s no point in producing content unless you know the unique needs and interests of each audience you’re producing it for. Take some time to ensure that your personas accurately represent the customers you want to target, and then use them to inform your content marketing approach and priorities.
2. Your sales funnel: Low-quality content — which often stems from a cheap, high volume approach — may attract eyeballs, but it won’t necessarily be of much help if you want to convert those eyeballs to customers. Before you start pumping out automated content, create a clear map of the path you want customers to take as they move through your sales funnel, and then remember that you will need to create content to address every step they take along the way.
Also keep in mind that leads can be generated from any of the key conduits, and they don’t always follow the same linear path — i.e., from awareness to interest, to evaluation, to commitment, to purchase, and then to referral — so make sure your content plan takes all possible entry points and pathways into consideration.
3. Your priority goals and objectives: A lot of time, energy, and money gets wasted when you produce content that has no purpose. Before you publish another blog on your website or commission a photo series on catbeards, stop and take a closer look at your business objectives. Does the content you’re about to produce speak to your sales and marketing goals? Will the information in your content move leads closer to making a purchase? And most importantly, are you overstretching a particular topic at the expense of addressing other important issues? Make sure to balance your efforts across the full spectrum of your customers’ needs.
4. Your brand voice and tone: Lead generation content needs to achieve a challenging goal: clinching a sale without sounding salesy. The trick here is to be informative without resorting to a hard sell. Start with the basics of your topic, and work your way toward a more specific call-to-action. Communicate your business’ value in a voice that’s relatable and authentic, and by the time you get to the pitch, the conversation will already be flowing naturally.
5. Your key performance indicators (KPIs): Tracking and performance ratings are key in any content campaign, but they are particularly important when working with automation. How else will you know if the content you’re creating is speaking to your target audience?
Not sure what metrics to track? Jay Baer outlines a handful of top options here (note #3 is lead generation). Absolutely track all the leads that come in, but pay particular attention to the data you receive on the kinds of leads your content is attracting. If your automated content is attracting flies instead of bees, it’s time to sweeten the pot by reviewing your personas, revisiting your funnel, and tweaking your voice.
Content development and management is no simple task, but with the latest advances in automation and delivery, combined with strategic content planning, content marketers can increase their ability to engage leads without sacrificing the targeted, useful conversations their audiences are looking for.
For more tips on leveraging content automation tools and technologies, download Content Collaboration Tools: An Analysis of 13 Technology Solutions in a Disruptive Marketplace.
Cover image via Bigstock