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    Companies both large and small have implemented marketing automation software to varying degrees of success, but a big reason these efforts frequently fail is a lack of content strategy surrounding the marketing team’s automation efforts.

    You can automate the sending of emails or the segmenting of an audience, but you can’t automate good ideas that stem from foundational research.

    First, to ensure we’re speaking the same language, a couple of definitions:

    • Content strategy is the determination of the form, function and topic of content that helps an organization achieve its goals.
    • Marketing automation is the automatic segmenting and personalized nurturing of an audience to turn an anonymous person into a known lead, into a customer, and into an advocate.

    Where does content strategy come into play when you’re thinking about marketing automation? A good place to start with every digital marketing effort is two basic questions.

     

    What do we have?

    Take an inventory of everything you’re doing and everything you’ve got. Sure you have website content (blogs, case studies, descriptions of your products and services), but you must also consider sales collateral, use cases, testimonials, social media, and more. This is where a content strategist can perform a content audit to identify gaps, evaluate where content could be leveraged for other purposes, and where it falls within the personalized lead nurturing process.

    Who is this for?

    Persona and audience archetype research can help you segment your marketing efforts more effectively. At Gravitate, we rely on our content strategists to take stock of everything there is to know about an audience via demographic, psychographic, and user behavior research.

    When it comes time to map your content to the nurturing process, all this knowledge of audience archetypes and content will be invaluable to building your marketing automation nurture streams.

    If you’re just getting started in marketing automation, a good read and reality check on lead nurturing comes from Doug Kessler, who says the following about B2B nurturing:

    The vast majority of people who stumble into contact with you will never buy from you no matter what you do. Even the ones who become known to you – who have jumped the Snake River Canyon that is any web form – will never, ever, ever buy from you.

    For a B2B company, lead nurturing is really just reminding and waiting: reminding people you exist and waiting for the time they have the budget or the urgent need for the service you provide. In between now and then, however, you can educate, entertain, and represent your brand in the most positive light possible.

    Think of your content like a Netflix series. Season 1 may be three episodes, á la BBC’s Sherlock Holmes: three emails aimed at putting your best foot forward and at being as useful as possible to your leads so that, one day, in the near or distant future, they’ll add you to their shortlist when it’s time to buy or take an action that results in you advancing them down the sales funnel.

    A content strategist who specializes in the ideation of compelling content for specific audiences should be in the room of every brainstorm for your next series of lead nurture campaigns.

    In the same way Netflix recommends a similar series if you like Sherlock Holmes, marketing automation software can trigger the delivery of similar content if a lead clicks on an email or consumes a piece of specific content. You will gain more from your content if it’s delivered to your audience at the right time, and marketing automation tools can provide you the data you need to determine the right time.

    If you’re a content strategist or a content creator, knowing how marketing automation works will make you better at your job. And if you’re a marketer, you need the guidance of a content and audience expert to make the best decisions about reaching your audience. That’s why every marketing automation effort should involve content strategists from day one.