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Content: Fuel for the Marketing Automation Engine

by Sid Smith  |  
July 16, 2012

In this article, you'll learn...

  • The role content plays in marketing automation
  • How your content can be used to attract, capture, and nurture leads

Marketing automation is a beast. Rare is the marketing executive who can clearly articulate what marketing automation is or how it works. Executives will budget for the monthly software fee without understanding that the software is the easy part.

But without content—reports, webinars, and follow-up emails—that expensive marketing automation software will be a big flop. Content is the fuel that makes any marketing automation system run.

From Stranger to Customer: Your Content's Purpose

Like it or not, marketing and sales is a self-service operation today. Buyers get an estimated 80% of the information they need online, well before they speak with a salesperson.

That information is what we loosely call "content," and it's the foundation of content marketing.

For marketers, the real purpose of content is to convert a complete stranger into a customer. Thus, the content you create follows the basic sales cycle.

Your content moves with prospects through the sales cycle. As people consume a piece of content, you use marketing automation software to simulate a person-to-person sale. You'll gain prospects' trust, determine their specific needs or interests, feed them the information they need to make an intelligent decision, and hand them the ideal solution on a silver platter.

Matching Content to the Sales Cycle and Marketing Automation

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Sid Smith is lead copywriter and marketing automation specialist for Albertson Performance Group. Sid has written on topics ranging from flex circuits to motherhood, but gets a real kick out of putting together the puzzle pieces of complex marketing automation strategies. Reach him via

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  • by Rishi Mon Jul 16, 2012 via web

    Our lead generation mix includes white papers, webinars, and cheat sheets (see below).

    Your content should have two goals:
    1) Help people understand your business and its products.
    2) Create keywords that will be indexed by search engines for SEO

    See all our marketing cheat sheets including "Content Development for SEO" at

  • by Bill - Atlanta Mon Jul 16, 2012 via web

    Very good article. However, I differ with Sid on one point.

    He says: "Ideally, the system is tied to a customer relationship management (CRM) or sales force system, in which each lead is assigned to a salesperson or sales team. When a lead reaches a designated score, the salesperson will be alerted about the prospect's "sales readiness."

    That's one use, but not the only use. It depends completely on the price of the product or service being sold. High ticket items should be handled exactly as Sid describes.

    However, many consumer products and even some B2B products may have a lower price point and targeted for a direct sale, rather than via a sales force. In these cases the goal of the marketing automation program is to segment the prospects into appropriate groupings to receive an automated response/offer. That doesn't mean it's simply an "auto-responder," but a different use of scoring and segmentation that leads to a customized, automated response or offer.

    Sid thanks for the great article, just adding an additional element.

    Bill - Atlanta

  • by Sid Smith Mon Jul 16, 2012 via web

    @Bill - You're absolutely right. Thanks for the addition. I appreciate your distinction regarding autoresponders as well. Systems like AWeber are great for small businesses who can't afford or don't need the more complex segmentation and scoring capabilities included in more robust marketing automation systems.

  • by Jason Miller Mon Jul 16, 2012 via web

    Excellent post Sid. I think that it's important to mention the importance of visual content in the world of inbound and social for lead generation. In addition to video and slide presentations that you mention above, visual is becoming essential for early stage content and awareness. It's time for marketers to experiment and push the boundaries of their content to stand out from their competition.

    We just released a presentation on visual content marketing. I would love to hear your thoughts on visual for lead gen.

    Again, great article. I will be sure to give it a share.

    Jason Miller - Marketo

  • by Sid Smith Mon Jul 16, 2012 via web

    @Jason - Love your slideshare - excellent use of visual content. Yes, visual content has its place, especially in building awareness. However, those jumping on the infographic/visual bandwagon might heed the KISS principle. If a reader has to think about the visual for more than a few seconds, he'll give up and move on.

    Ideally, you'll have a mix of content types and you'll use marketing automation, along with website analytics to see what works best for your audience. Creative types might like a visual, while more linear thinkers might prefer text.

    The timing also matters. Those farther into the buying process might be more willing to watch a video than those in the early stages. Those in the earliest stages might like simple visuals because it provides a quick answer to a question they have, while those investigating solutions want the details provided by an article or report.

    Google recently did a split test on one of their landing pages. The control was a text-based page, and the test was a video. The text page pulled (about) 20% better. It just goes to show that you don't know what will work until you try it.

  • by Catherine Fri Jul 20, 2012 via web

    Marketing Automation engines are becoming more abundant and show no indication of slowing down. It’s important to know how to use these tools. They all seem like a good idea, but are only effective if users knows how to operate them effectively and know what to do to promote their company. It is difficult to utilize all the different aspects of marketing when campaigns, postcards, and emails are all spread out in multiple products and all have different costs. When discussing this with a colleague he brought up OfficeAutopilot. I figured I’d try it. I was extremely happy with my results [remainder deleted by MarketingProfs editor for being too promotional].

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