Customers have gone digital. They’re checking emails on their smartphone, reading articles on tablets, and researching products on their laptops. To succeed, businesses are creating and distributing content in hopes of attracting and retaining customers – a strategy known as content marketing.
But, content marketing is hard work. It takes time to create articles for a blog, research data for an infographic, or shoot a video, and once you’ve done all of this, you don’t want to manually push each piece of content out to your audience. That’s where marketing automation comes into play.
Think of marketing automation like the cruise control feature in your car. You still have to stay alert and steer the car, but you don’t have to press the pedal all the time. Automation is similar. You still have to create campaigns, but you can automate some of the features to make your workload easier, more efficient, and, more profitable.
Research shows companies using marketing automation receive 53% higher conversion rates and increase their revenue by 3%, compared to companies that don’t use it, according to a report from Aberdeen Group.
Here are five specific ways that businesses can utilize marketing automation in their content strategy:
1. Alert subscribers to new content
When you talk about content marketing, the first thing that likely springs to mind is a blog.
Forty-five percent of businesses say their blog is the most important piece of their content marketing strategy. Why is it so important? A blog gives businesses a way to educate and engage customers without being pushy. Research shows 70-80% of customers ignore ads, and instead seek out organic content, like blog posts.
A company that sells digital cameras, for instance, can create content that educates consumers about the different kinds of cameras on the market, discuss various features, highlight cool images shot with a specific camera, and provide photography tips to buyers.
This kind of content is valued by customers, and helps a business build long-term relationships rather than capitalize on one-time sales.
Of course, creating this kind of content takes time, so you want to make sure that it gets in front of your customers. To make sure your blogging efforts don’t go unnoticed, set up an automated email to alert subscribers to new content.
Subscribers receive a pre-made email with a link to the new post immediately after you publish content. It’s a great way to drive traffic to your blog.
At Campaign Monitor we send out automated emails to those subscribed to our blog each time a new post is published. Sending our content via email is an important way to gain upfront traction before the post ranks in organic. We also send out newsletters twice a month to highlight relevant content to our subscribers–this could be any product updates, campaigns, news stories or timely posts that are meant to help our audience become better marketers. Email is one of our most successful tactics to get our content in front of a relevant audience.
2. Gate content to gather strong leads
You can also tie automation to gated content. What’s gated content? It’s content that subscribers have to “open a gate” to access. In most cases, the gate is a simple form that asks a person for basic information like an email address. Once the form is filled out, the content can be downloaded.
The content isn’t run-of-the-mill articles or infographics; it’s usually in-depth guides that are directed at a specific segment. For instance, a DIY graphics company might create a guide that offers advanced graphic design tips as a way to promote a premium package of design elements.
Where does automation come in? You can automate an email drip campaign. A drip campaign automatically sends emails to subscribers based on triggers.
For instance, the first email goes out when someone signs up to get the guide. The next email in the series is only sent to subscribers that didn’t open or click the first email. That’s the trigger. That group receives an email that reminds them to check out the must-read resource.
You can use automation to send emails based on how a subscriber responds to your email.
Campaign Monitor publishes various types of gated content. An example of a recently gated piece of content is our Nine Best Practices to Supercharge your Retail Campaign. Once a user has downloaded the guide, we collect their information and send them a customized nurture stream that takes them through other content tailored to retailers. Sending them more relevant content after they download, keeps them engaged and shows them that we are an authoritative figure in retail email marketing.
3. Make your website more relevant to individual customers
Marketing automation software can help you create a more personalized website experience for your customers.
For instance, let’s say a customer, Debbie, visits your site and browses through the winter boots that you have on sale. The next time she visits, the software will recognize that it’s her and dynamically change the content that’s on your site to fit her needs. She might see images of recently marked down shoes, or a call to action that leads her to an article about winter clothing trends.
Websites using personalized experiences see a 19% increase in sales, according to research from Monetate.
4. Use automation to nurture leads through the buying cycle
Marketing automation can provide better insight into your customer base. The statistics that you receive from it go beyond basic demographic information, which means you’ll learn more about your customers.
Eighty-six percent of marketers say the biggest benefit of automation is improved lead management and nurturing, according to research reported on eMarketer.
With better metrics, you can do more than segment your contact list into subgroups, you can microsegment your list. In other words, your segments are more defined and targeted.
With this kind of information, you can not only learn more about your customers but about where they are in your sales funnel. Now you can create blog posts, videos, and infographics that are specific to these groups to convert them into paying customers.
At Campaign Monitor, after someone signs up we call that nurture stream, the Buyer’s Journey. We have tailored content that goes out based on the actions a person has or hasn’t taken in the app. Depending on what steps he or she has taken, we will send content that encourages them to take the next step. For instance, if someone has created a draft email, but not uploaded any contacts to send it to, we will send them an email that walks them through how to easily upload their contacts. The purpose of each email is to take the lead one step further down the buying cycle.
Here is an example from our buyer’s journey. This email, as mentioned above, goes out to all of our heart of marketing contacts who have not uploaded a list into our software. We want to show them how easy it is to upload their contacts into Campaign Monitor. Once they complete this action, we will then send them the next follow-up urging them to actually send their campaign if they don’t do so within a certain timeframe.
5. Get people to sign up for your email list
Of course, content marketing needs an audience. You want a strong list of contacts that you can reach out to, so make sure that your business has several ways for potential customers to sign up for your list. Fortunately, automation makes this process easy.
Using specific sign up tools, the contacts that you collect will flow right into your email marketing account. You don’t have to deal with spreadsheets or batch uploading. A customer signs up, and his or her name and email address goes on a “new subscriber” list in your email account.
How does it happen? You can use a variety of sign up tools that are integrated with your email service provider to make it work. Here are a few ideas:
- Create a website sign up form
WordPress has a great tool that creates sign up forms for your website. Here’s an example of a form that pops up on a website and collects a visitor’s name and email address:
- Put a subscribe button on your homepage
Want something a little more subtle on your website than a pop-up? Try a subscribe button. This small button, created using the Subbscribe app, can sit anywhere on your website. A small form comes up only if the button is clicked.
In today’s digital world, businesses have to diversify their marketing efforts. Consumers expect companies to be digitally savvy, and offer content on a variety of platforms. Marketing automation can help businesses achieve that goal by making the distribution process easier.
Here’s a recap of the 5 ways you can use marketing automation as part of your overall content distribution strategy.
- Alert customers and prospects to new content
- Gate content to gather strong leads to reach out to at a later time with more content
- Use personalized content to give your website visitors a unique experience
- Use content in automation to nurture your leads through the buying cycle
- Grow your email list through subscriber forms so you have more people to distribute your content to