The phrase “content is king” applies to a wide variety of media platforms, but it is especially fitting when it comes to crafting a demand generation strategy. In the Lessons From The Trenches Survey, recently conducted by DemandGen Report, early adopters of marketing automation cited better content as a top priority they would change if they were to lead a rollout at another organization. Specifically, 78% said they would “prepare the organization by building proper processes and content offers to feed the automation system.”
Industry experts point out that new adopters of marketing automation often overlook the need for and the importance content will play in the success of their campaigns. “Most companies think tactics first when it comes to content,” says Joe Pulizzi, founder and chief content officer of content matching service Junta42 and co-author of the highly-praised book Get Content Get Customers, “take a step back and figure out strategically how content marketing fits into your entire marketing plan, and the objectives you want to deliver on...then you can think about your lead generation tactics.”
While considerations such as integration with CRM systems and campaign reporting are important to the long-term success of marketing automation implementations, leading industry consultants who help guide new rollouts say there are now stressing content as top consideration. “A content strategy is the first thing we put together for clients as we are preparing to roll out marketing automation - mapping offers to buying stage and processes,” says Cari Baldwin, a Senior Partner with Left brain Marketing, “One of the key values of marketing automation/lead nurturing is the ability to establish one to one dialog with prospects. Content is paramount.”
One of the important nuances that Baldwin and other insiders point to is that content needs to tailored different phases of lead progression. “Nurture content is different than demand gen content – it’s doesn’t talk about ‘shiny new objects.’” says Baldwin. “It should deliver valuable content to the reader, based on their profile and behavior. It should be clear, concise and in bite size pieces.”
Junta 42’s Pulizzi adds that different content offers are performing better for demand generation than lead nurturing programs. “It all depends on the objectives and the customer you are trying to reach. For lead nurturing, educational e-newsletters are still critical, as well as blogs and consistent article-based content. For late-stage, webinars continue to be popular, as well as big content plays like eBooks,” he says.
Beyond the traditional offers, Pulizzi says data-driven marketing plays such as Hubspot’s websitegrader.com are the “best type of content, bar none,” noting that the tool has generated over 1 million URLs in just a few years. “Creating a tool that truly helps your customers is the best way to go.”
Ardath Albee, a leading B2B Marketing Strategist and author of the Marketing Interactions blog, reminds marketers that content aimed at prospects needs to be treated differently than the messaging sent to existing customers. “Your potential customers need that educational content. They need to know that your company possesses the expertise to contribute way more to their project outcomes than if they decided to buy from the guy down the street. Prospects need help building a business case. That type of stuff is old news for your customers.”
Ultimately, Pulizzi says the most important aspect of building a content strategy is being credible with relevant offers. “First, understand the intersection between your expertise and your customers' pain points. That's your secret sauce,” he says. “Second, take the sales hat off. So many marketers have to get their sales material in all their content. Positioning your company as a publisher, providing relevant and consistent content to customers, means you sell without selling. You are positioning yourself as a trusted expert. To do that, you have to tell the story, not spin.”