I was first exposed to marketing automation back in 2008, when my boss sent me a link to a video from National Instruments on the topic of marketing automation platforms (MAPs). I knew immediately that this was a must-have tool for me (a newly minted Marketing Director at the time) — and for the future growth of my company. I jumped through all the internal hoops, got all my approvals in line, and placed the order. (If you must know, I chose Eloqua, which was really the only enterprise player six years ago.)
On the day my new marketing tool arrived, there I sat with my brand new shiny administrative login and thought to myself, now what? I didn’t have a team; I didn’t have a plan, and I didn’t have a clue about what to do next. Being a former field salesman, I was used to operating in a reactive mode (no offense to my sales friends). Nevertheless, I had committed the company to paying something like $3000 per month and made some boastful predictions, so I knew I had to do something.
Today, with six years of MAP strategic and tactical experience, and a bit more wisdom, under my belt, I feel confident in recommending the following three ways to use marketing automation to enhance your content marketing strategy. But first, let me be clear: I’m not saying these are the only tactics or that you should forgo any other planning, strategizing, etc. I’m saying these three tactics will get you some quick returns and some quick success stories, which you can then leverage into a solid argument for increasing your content resources and continuing to develop your MAP. They will also help you build your business more rapidly than most other MAP tactics.
Tactic 1: Lead nurturing
Nurturing is a powerful marketing tactic. Without going into the best practices, rules, and regulations of creating content for nurturing purposes, the best thing you can do for yourself is to start by setting up a nurturing workflow. Just do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be vetted throughout the organization.
But whatever you do, do not set up a series of emails or other nurturing-focused content that pitches your products. Pitching products in a nurturing flow is a sure way to alienate your email subscribers. Instead, give your readers some information or education that helps them.
For example, the first nurturing program I set up was an eNewsletter subscription series, with the mission of helping the readers solve a problem that was common to most of the people in our target audience. We published content via email, ultimately producing one to two high quality newsletters each month. Nurturing your target audience members reminds them about what you can do for them, creates top-of-mind awareness, and helps establish credibility, so that when those prospects are ready to buy, they think of your offering and your brand. By the way, nurturing does not have to be only emails, it can include printed post cards, live phone calls, or even a text message mixed in with emails.
Tactic 2: Triggered emails
Triggered emails create about 100 percent higher open rates and click-through rates compared to all other emails. It’s a particularly effective tactic for leveraging content marketing messages that are both timely and highly relevant to your audience’s interests and inquiries.
Emails can be triggered by website activity, profile data (think birthday or expiration dates), event interactions, opportunity stage changes, and more. For example, when I was implementing my first MAP six years ago, I set up a triggered email based on the web activity of known contacts. When a visitor viewed three or more pages within a segment that I specified, it triggered my MAP to deliver an email that featured additional helpful content on that topic of interest. The results we saw supported the statistic above, with some click-through rates reaching as high as 30 percent.
If someone in your target audience is ready to buy or has a strong interest in your solution, they will likely vigorously peruse your website. Pick a few pages that demonstrate high interest in a certain subject, and set up a trigger around a specific type of visit. Remember, for demand generation or top-of-the-funnel impact, make sure you are providing content that is helpful or interesting to your audience — not something that only focuses on your company and its benefits.
Here’s an example: If you’re selling atomic clocks, you might configure your MPA to trigger an email when a visitor views three or more pages on your website about how an atomic clock works. That triggered email might include a white paper about the uncertainty measurement in atomic clocks. You could also automatically “enroll” the prospect into your nurturing program, so that they could receive additional information about atomic clocks. Most of the reputable MAPs offer this type of feature. (Side note: If you are investigating the purchase of a new MAP for your company, consider the ability to set up triggered emails as a ‘must have’ feature.)
Tactic 3: Custom landing pages
Custom landing pages are a powerful tactic that should be used for most of your content — though they are particularly essential for content used as part of your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. If you’re still sending pay-per-click (PPC) clickers to your home page or other general-use page on your website, you might as well take your PPC budget and throw it off the top of your building.
Custom landing pages convert — as long as they are designed well and are tied to compelling content. For example, in the company newsletters that I mentioned above, we included a short abstract description of educational content that we were offering, free of charge. When viewers clicked on the article hyperlink in our newsletter, they were taken to a landing page, where they would receive the asset (no registration required) along with an offer to make direct contact with our company or to learn more about the company in other ways. We required the newsletter click because it was a means to convert an unknown viewer into a known contact, while the options to connect and learn more were additional ways to drive the new contact deeper into our content — and, thus, deepen the engagement they had with our company. However, one thing I would caution against is making the landing page’s primary objective to be about getting them to the web page. If you’re doing a good job of creating top-of-mind awareness and credibility, it is likely that contacts will refer to one of your emails when they are ready to raise their hand and connect with the firm directly.
I know there are a lot of to-do items when you implement a MAP, and these three tactics are certainly not all you have to do to get your marketing automation program to pay off. But if you start by implementing these three tactics first, you’ll get some very strong results, which you can build on over time.
Learn which tactics your peers are turning to for more effective content marketing creation and delivery. Read our eBook, Building the Perfect Content Marketing Mix: Execution Tactics.