Building a Strong Foundation for Marketing Automation

Have you ever wondered why the Leaning Tower of Pisa leans? It’s because the builders didn’t lay a proper foundation, which was obvious shortly after they started building it. You’d think they’d have stopped and fixed it, but instead they spent the next 194 years building a tower that was clearly about to topple over.

Think about how stubborn you’d have to be to keep constructing a building that’s obviously falling over. But that’s just what many organizations are doing right now with their marketing automation program. Those marketers are trying to plug their old material into their new automation software, and are surprised that they’re not getting the results they want.

New technology requires new ways of doing things. The old style of marketing was to use one-shot “blasts” to generate leads, but modern buyers need time to get to know you and your brand before you can ask them for the sale. That means you can’t just automate the same old stuff. Instead, you need to take the time to lay a sturdy foundation and build from the ground up.

Building a Strong Foundation for Marketing Automation image 377px leaning tower of pisa  april 2012 Building a Strong Foundation for Marketing Automation

Obviously the foundation for marketing automation isn’t made of bricks and mortar, but it’s every bit as important. To excel at automation, you need a strong foundation made of a carefully thought-out strategy and fresh, targeted content. Done well, marketing automation can help you deepen your relationship with buyers and monitor them for signs they’re ready to buy.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the materials you need to build a strong marketing automation foundation.

Strategy

Marketing automation requires strategic, repeatable processes for nurturing leads. Before you even begin to think about content or audience, you need to have a plan.

To map everything out, you need three things. First, you need a solid understanding of the typical buyer’s journey for your product. Second, you need detailed personas for each type of buyer. And finally, you need to have a specific goal for each of your automated campaigns.

The ideal marketing automation campaign will feature multiple tracks that appeal to each type of buyer and each stage of the buying process. You’ll also need to make a lot of strategic decisions, such as what makes a lead sales-ready or how you will recycle leads that don’t move forward in your nurture track.

Once you’ve thought through these questions, create an outline or flow chart for each nurture track, including what calls to action you will include to encourage your leads to take the next step down the funnel.

Next, it’s time to start thinking about the content you need to plug into each step of your nurture tracks.

Content

Creating enough content is one of the biggest challenges the modern marketer faces. In fact, lack of content is the number one reason marketers give for being dissatisfied with their marketing automation program.

High quality content that resonates with your buyers is a must-have for effective lead nurturing. In order to persuade, you must first connect with your buyers. But how are you going to turn a vague plan of “creating more content” into an efficient assembly line for pumping out the volume of content necessary for an effective marketing automation strategy?

The single most important tool for content creation is a robust editorial calendar. With the right calendar, content marketers can create new content pieces, assign authors, outline workflow tasks, and schedule publish deadlines. By centralizing all aspects of your content marketing strategy in one place, everyone in your organization can keep track of what content is needed and where it is in production.

Since the role of the modern marketer is to educate and engage, your content should focus on your buyers’ needs and interests. You don’t want to blast them with messages about your product until you’ve built a relationship. Only after buyers have taken several steps along their journey (i.e. opened emails, followed calls to action, etc) should you begin slowly introducing them to content about your product and how it can solve their problems.

Your nurture content should also have a logical flow. You want it to feel like a conversation where you provide valuable information to your leads and they respond by following your calls to action. It’s a good idea to create all the content for a nurture track at the same time, so you can make sure it has a natural rhythm.

Only after you’ve got a brilliant strategy mapped out and have created top-rate content, are you ready to start using your marketing automation software. Without taking the time to build a solid foundation, the only thing you’re going to see from your marketing automation investment is a slow topple into the mud.

To dig deeper into how to excel at marketing automation, we got together with our friends at Marketo, to create a free guide,”Getting Successful with Marketing Automation: Beyond Technology.” In addition to fantastic tips on getting the most out of your marketing automation, the guide includes insights and advice from thought leader and marketing expert David Lewis, President & CEO of DemandGen.

Like with any new system, marketing automation requires a lot of up front work. But the reward is a steady stream of leads being drawn down the funnel towards the sale.

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