Content is the fuel that makes your marketing automation engine hum. But it doesn’t write itself. But with some creative block and tackling you need not worry about how to produce it all, says, Mitch Eisen, VP of Product Management, Higher Logic
We all know what we should be doing -- using original, eye-catching, gripping, relevant, engaging and thought-provoking content to populate our marketing automation platform, so all our fancy rules will deliver “the right content to the right person at the right time.” That way, we’ll be signing deals left and right. After all, it's “automated,” right?
Well, not so fast. marketing technology is good and getting better, but the content is the fuel that the marketing automation engine runs on, and therefore, it’s the one component that requires extra consideration. And yet, it’s often the piece that busy teams put off dealing with -- most likely because they realize that well-timed, appropriately targeted emails filled with bad content are worse than not sending anything at all. They also know that good content can’t be whipped up in short order. It can be time-consuming and takes a special skill. So how do you fulfill the content demands needed when you’re already short staffed and don’t have it in your marketing budget to hire a content team?
Don’t let that conundrum paralyze you. The content plan for a strong marketing automation machine does require careful consideration and a multi-pronged approach, but with a little creativity, you won’t need extra budget or staff. If you’re gearing up to implement or expand your marketing automation program, you can actually create all the content you need with resources that, surprise, have been right at your fingertips all along. It just takes the triple B approach -- Build, Borrow and Buy.
First, make sure you have a clear overview of your expected content needs so you can prioritize high-level content for high-value targets. If you haven’t already identified your high-level personas, do that first. Personalizing content for tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of targets is a fool’s errand. Determine how many other personas you will be targeting and how often they should receive content. Make sure you create a manageable schedule. Don’t overdo it. Once you have the targets and the cadence in place, you can start figuring out how to fill the pipeline with content.
Let’s start with the content that requires most of your attention -- the original content you need to build on your own. If you have available staff to write original content, they should prioritize these projects. This requires first outlining the content types and audiences, and the easiest way to define this category is by expertise level. Make sure your members or customers who already are very connected to your organization and want to hear from the experts get that content. The more connected they are, the more they already know about how you operate, so the expertise within your organization will be important to those members. This content is for sharing high-level information that helps people be better informed or be better at their jobs, or enables them to provide better content to people that they connect with. And it will be more meaningful to have that content delivered to them under staff names they recognize.
Borrow (and hopefully not beg...)
In addition to your expert staff members, you also have at your fingertips an online community full of members, partners, customers and other connected experts you can turn to for original content. And don’t fret about the ask -- this is easier than you think. People like to be recognized for their expertise. So asking partners to consider contributing content is often seen as a win-win. You get original content without producing it yourself, and they get complementary marketing for their personal and professional brand. So how do you decide who to target for these asks? This is where your online community comes in as a great resource. Online communities are natural generators of high-quality, evergreen and very appropriately targeted content. And while it might seem strange to mine your community for content that will go to your community, remember that the goal of this level of content is to attract members or customers that need to be re-engaged. Just remember, your community will create this content, but you curate what, how and when it’s used.
Buy (or Partner)
There’s a whole industry built around third-party content developers. This is the content you use to target broad swaths of people with content that’s germaine to your industry but not so specific that it requires deep expertise. Think of this as air-cover content that you use when you want to inform a lot of people about a news item, a legislative update or anything else that doesn’t require personalization. For instance, you might have used this recently to inform people about the upcoming changes required by GDPR. Or you might use it for a monthly newsletter to supplement staff content. For this you might consider partnering with like-minded, but not competitive companies or associations.
At each stage of this process, keep in mind that while it may sound like a lot of moving parts and planning on your part, you are producing and providing content that’s really interesting to each of the different groups to whom you are providing it. Don’t let the quantity or the planning take your eyes off this goal. You’re sharing critical information and it’s worth some planning to make sure people get to see it.