For most organisations, a content marketing strategy looks something like this: using what little first-party data’s available, you create three or four customer personas (or segments) that broadly describe the needs and motivations of each customer group. You create an editorial calendar with these personas in mind, planning what you’ll periodically publish over the next three, six, or twelve months. You select two or three channels to promote your content, checking in daily to optimise your campaigns. Every month or three you pull together data from various sources to review and adjust your strategy.
This is largely how content marketing has been done for the past decade or so, with minor changes over that period to accommodate new digital channels and improvements in marketing technology. While it can be effective, this approach has a few pertinent limitations:
- It’s labour intensive,with significant manual effort required to publish content, post to your channels, and optimise campaigns.
- Because of this manual effort, you can only target a limited number of segments, with multiple, disparate audiences with very diverse behaviours and motivations aggregated into three or four monolithic groups.
- It’s difficult to centralise insights and review the cross-channel performance of your content strategy.
- It’s difficult to react quickly to opportunities, leading to inefficient spend on underperforming channels and campaigns.
How marketing automation can enhance your content strategy
Marketing automation platforms such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud have unlocked significant opportunities for brands with a forward-looking approach to technology. As these tools have scaled, they’ve become cheaper and easier to use, and it’s well within the capabilities of small to medium businesses to leverage much of the functionality previously monopolised by enterprise-level organisations. With these tools available, brands can be far more ambitious in how they’re designing their content strategies and personalising their content.
Here are a few of the ways marketing automation tools are unlocking the potential of brands’ content strategies:
Marketing automation is making it more manageable to target a larger set of smaller, more clearly defined customer segments. Automated delivery and campaign optimisation allows you to respond to user behaviour by delivering the right content at the right time without extensive, round-the-clock monitoring of campaign performance. These tools also allow you to build segments using a more comprehensive suite of first- and third-party data, further enhancing the quality of targeting and level of personalisation possible.
Faster content delivery
As well as automated content delivery, the template tools available in platforms such as Marketing Cloud eliminate manual design work and allow you to automatically generate emails and direct mailers.
Advances in analytics platforms are making it easier to create comprehensive reporting dashboards that aggregate data from various sources – your social media accounts, your website, your emails, your above the line ad channels. Tracking pixels and analytics tools are making it easier to identify individual users across multiple channels. This data allows you to implement multi-touch attribution to create a more complete picture of which channels are contributing to conversions, i.e., where your spend is most efficient. Having this data readily available allows you to respond faster to opportunities either by adjusting your overarching strategy or using the data to automatically optimise your paid activity.
Ultimately, marketing automation is about doing more in less time by eliminating manual processes wherever they can be automated. This allows you to deliver more ambitious content marketing programs – increasing the number of channels in your marketing mix, targeting audiences at a more granular level, testing more content formats, running more experiments, and taking more risks. Technology remains (for some marketers) an afterthought, or even an impediment to the creative process of connecting with potential customers. In reality, it enables more creative, innovative, and unique marketing programs.