If you’re using a marketing automation service like Marketo, Hubspot or Eloqua. your marketing is fully automated, efficient, guided and targeted. And it brings interested audiences to your site ready to convert, so you can just sit back and let your marketing automation software do your work for you and build your business. Right?

Not even close.

Marketo found that an estimated 91 percent of marketers believe that marketing automation is “very important,” and according to ClickZ.com, 59 percent of Fortune 500 companies are using it, but many struggle with doing so effectively. There are countless strategies for using tools like Marketo and HubSpot, but the most important marketing automation tip we can give you is to fuel your efforts with robust content. If you don’t have a comprehensive, consistent content strategy, your marketing automation is essentially worthless. When your marketing automation tool is your trusted vehicle, your content is the gasoline. Without content, your marketing efforts aren’t going to get you very far.

59% of marketers using automation struggle with doing so efficiently. – ClickZ.com

About 85 percent of B2B marketers report that they aren’t getting the most out of their marketing automation, as reported in a study from SiriusDecisions. A well-planned, high-quality content campaign might just be what this group is missing in their marketing automation strategies.

Before you turn the key

Sharing one great piece of content a month really won’t do anything for you. You can write the best eBook on the internet, but if it goes unread and undelivered, it’s just a puddle of high-octane gasoline. Similarly, 100 blogs a month, written by an amateur, might also get you barely any results. Content marketing and marketing automation are only truly effective when they work together.

Publishing content consistently allows for a wide sample size of topics, audiences and delivery methods. The more regularly you are able to publish your content, the better informed you will be so you can accurately interpret the results from your Marketo and Hubspot campaigns.

Quality content comes from thorough research, precision, professionalism and insight, and puts your content marketing strategy in a whole other league. The better you plan, write, design and execute, the more highly your work is regarded by search engines and readers. This mean it has a greater chance of staying visible and effective in the barrage of other brands’ content – from spam, robots and ads to high quality eBooks, videos and articles.

1. Laying the groundwork to attract wide audiences

Content alerts people to you and your brand. Even if they’ve heard of you, it is your blog, videos, graphics, news or even press releases that can be first step in bringing them to your website.

Content for this top-of-funnel, visitor-to-prospect stage should be educational, digestible and friendly. If a content strategy is the fuel for your marketing truck, this stage is the ignition, which begins the journey for you and your new prospect. Your lead-attracting content should excite your new visitors, giving them the first exhilarating rev of the engine.

2. Capturing leads

The better the content explains what you do, promises results, connects with your audiences and answers their questions, the more likely they are to offer their contact information. After all, this stage of the marketing automation process is an exchange: they give you their information, and in return you give them your advice, expertise and product offerings.

The content in this stage of the marketing automation process is deeper and more sales-focused than the initial lead-attracting stage. It should be designed to give your readers a reason to want more from you.

Webinars are great for communicating how you can help your prospects. Interactive content like calculators, tests and forms help your audience get a customized idea of how you can specifically help them succeed. This lead-capturing content strategy is the oil that helps your prospects move down the funnel.

3. Nurturing leads

Content continues to fuel your marketing automation progress in the nurturing stage. Now that you have captured leads, you need to get to know them, keep them engaged and above all, make sure that they are healthy, qualified and curious about how your brand can help them.

Just like a car, your marketing automation system needs maintenance to continue to operate smoothly. You – should – take your car in every 30,000 miles for a tune up, have it inspected once a year, keep the tires inflated properly, wash it, change the oil… the list goes on. Similarly, maintaining a nice list of leads in your database, and making sure that they will work best for you, is a full-time job.

You maintain your list with an armada of email blasts containing product information, company or industry news, and original research and stats help to deliver authoritative, encouraging messages to prospects who want to learn about you, and who might be ready to become customers. Traditional, written content is great for emails, but including slide decks, videos and interactive guides or tools are also increasingly effective formats to mobilize your prospects.

This is the point when you begin to get to know your prospects – what they like, what they want and what works best for them. At the nurturing stage you’re in full gear and cruising, and regularly refueling along the way in your journey. A constant stream of content to all your prospects at their specific stages in the funnel will keep them aware, engaged and ready for the next steps.

4. Making your automation personal and powerful

Segmenting and scoring your leads is one of the most functional and powerful benefits of marketing automation systems. The more quality content you create, target and distribute to your audience, the more insight you will have into who what content works best, and which prospects respond most positively to which assets.

Once you have enough data from your content campaigns, you’ll be able to score your leads and determine who is the most sales-ready. To get the most detailed, actionable data about your leads, you need a robust fleet of consistent content campaigns, and a diverse range of formats, subjects, deliveries and voices.

Your convoy of content-fueled vehicles should include everything you need to efficiently communicate with any of your contacts:

  • A Prius carrying repurposed, recycled evergreen content.
  • A tractor trailer transporting your heavy-hitting content like videos, webinars, podcasts, whitepapers and slide decks.
  • A motorcycle for delivering your most agile content, directly to highly-targeted segments.
  • An RV with enough room for a wide variety of custom content.

A diverse marketing campaign is the most effective way of succeeding with your marketing automation campaign. Your caravan of marketing automation should look more like an organized, sleek presidential motorcade than a chase scene out of the latest Mad Max movie.

Content and marketing automation have a strong, symbiotic relationship. Your diverse content campaigns are how you fuel your marketing automation, and your marketing automation platforms are how you mobilize and apply your content.

Kyle is the Marketing Manager at Brafton. He is a Rhode Island native with a love for marketing, food, the ocean, music, dogs & naming things he loves.