Welcome to the party, marketing automation (or MAP)! You’ve officially joined the ranks of other technologies like CRM, ERP, CMS, and commerce as significant technology projects. What does this mean? It means you are no longer an inexpensive, departmental solution with minimal technology budget allocated to it. You are a multi-departmental solution requiring investment in people, dollars, process, training and oversight. As an enterprise technology, you have the power to enable whole companies to change the way they conduct business. Like Uncle Ben in Spider-Man said: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Part of the responsibility in successfully implementing a significant technology project is understanding the goals, objectives, skills, processes, and roadblocks to success. As marketers mature as technology consumers, they are becoming painfully aware of the most significant roadblock to being successful with marketing automation. More importantly, they are learning that this roadblock has absolutely nothing to do with the technology itself. The roadblock is, of course, content.
One of the core features marketers want to take advantage of in a MAP is nurture marketing programs. While they vary in features, structure, and design from vendor to vendor, at the end of the day, they all propose to deliver relevant content to prospective buyers over some extended period of time. Basically, nurture programs are the digital reincarnation of what your sales people did years ago; provide meaningful content to prospects throughout a buying cycle that educates them while influencing their decision in your favor.
Email blasting is decreasing in its effectiveness and popularity and many B2B marketers are trying to get to a place where intelligent, personalized, nurture-based email programs are the standard, not the exception. Unfortunately for many, the lack of compelling content is the major roadblock standing in the way. Technically, nurture programs are easy to develop. They are comprised of if/then logic that can branch respondents into different paths of communication based on a myriad of elements. Developing the content that is relevant, compelling, and appropriate is challenging for most.
Why is content such a roadblock to a successful MAP implementation? Firstly, content development is a unique and expensive skillset that most small to mid-sized companies do not have internally, at least, not in a dedicated position (hint hint). Secondly, there are rarely any specific content development projects active at most smaller companies. Content tends to bubble up as important when it is needed for a specific campaign. Otherwise, content is relegated to the “I’ll get to it later” pile on the marketer’s desk.
Marketers need a wake-up call. For all the wizardry that a well-deployed MAP can provide your team, it cannot write interesting content for you. A MAP without content strategy is like a sports car without gas in the tank. In fact, content development is becoming so important and needed that entire companies are evolving as outsourced content development firms for small and medium-sized businesses.
Short of hiring expensive firms and professional copywriters, there are some tips and tricks you can follow to help get started in content development.
- Client case studies are great stories and can provide much needed content for marketing programs. One easy tip for procuring case studies is to send a questionnaire to your client base and incent them to fill it out in exchange for some nominal spiff (gift card, product discount, etc.) Craft the questions in a way that tell the story of “before and after,” then use this as the baseline for your case study. Be sure to ask permission to publish the information collected!
- Sales libraries: If you are fortunate enough to have a sales library, you can scour this for legacy presentations, proposals, and brochures. These can be polished, updated, and rebranded to create a quick boost to your marketing content library.
- Blogs: Assuming you have a blog – and if you don’t, stop reading this and go start one – send out a list of topics to all employees and ask them to write 300 – 500 words on a topic of their choosing. Make it an internal contest such as the first one to submit and be published wins a dinner for two. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the wealth of good content and unique perspectives you’ll get.
At the end of the day, each company needs to develop a long-term content strategy. This requires a lot of sweat equity, but some of the tips above may get you started down the right path for little or no cost. Most importantly, get started on it now, not tomorrow or next quarter. Producing content can be fun and exciting if you make it so!
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