Marketing automation tools make it easy to distribute content for bigger results, faster - but you won't get anywhere without great content first.

If you’re a marketer who thinks that having a marketing automation tool* means you don’t need content, listen up! Marketing automation isn’t a replacement for content. In fact, it won’t work without content.

*What are marketing automation tools? These are your Marketos, your Hubspots, your Eloquas, and Pardots. These are tools for someone that has a website and has content, and wants to to get more out of it.

Here’s one way I like to think about it: Your website is like a car. Your car might be the factory model with no bells and whistles, or a luxury vehicle with all the custom upgrades.

No matter what kind of car you have, it will only get you from pt. A (your goals) to pt. B (the actual result) if you have all the parts necessary to make the car run. That is, you need fuel to make your car run.

There’s no point in having a car with no gas, nor a website or automation platform without content. It won’t do anything. You won’t go anywhere.

Get more mileage with marketing automation tools

Marketing automation tools are great for getting more mileage out of your fuel. They can make your content work harder, smarter and faster.

Platforms like Marketo help you distribute your content in emails and newsletters to your marketing database, and then track the impact through clicks, form fills and related interaction metrics. This is one way to get more eyes on your marketing content, and find out exactly how it’s providing results. 

  • Here’s an example of how it works: A company can use Marketo to send nurture emails to prospect databases and customers. These messages need content to be effective, whether they’re purely educational with links to articles, or promotional pieces with a salesy angle. You can create messages to send as one-offs, or audience-centric, timeless streams that  serve as drip campaigns to users who demonstrate certain activities. Marketo lets you send emails, making it easy to conduct A/B tests and target specific database segments. It’s also a platform to build landing pages and custom forms, making it easy to track the impact of specific campaigns.

Another program we come across a lot is Hubspot, which helps you connect the dots between your content (blog posts, landing pages, social posts and emails) so you can manage and measure your campaigns. It takes some of the guesswork out of inbound marketing by showing exactly how users are engaging with your content, what pages are generating the most leads and conversions so marketers can analyze how people are interacting with their assets.

  • Here’s an example of how it works: A company can use Hubspot to track a high volume of leads through inbound marketing efforts. The program does a little bit of everything: Distributing social media posts across networks and generating reports about engagement growth. It performs A/B testing for landing pages to discover the most effective content and collects data about user activity. You can sync up information from across digital streams to see how campaigns are working together to drive results. 

All of these platforms offer a great deal of value to users, when brands have something to put into them. Marketo isn’t going to drive results if you don’t have any email messages to distribute and measure through the platform. Hubspot isn’t going to reach your marketing goals if there aren’t any blog posts or landing pages to track.

yet, I’ve talked to some marketers who didn’t realize they needed a content provider when they bought Hubspot. And anything they would actually be using that tool to analyze would require content.

Content is the fuel that makes your vehicle work

This might seem obvious. You need content on your website – duh. But  that’s really just the baseline. You need high-quality content consistently if you want people to come to your site, spend time and return.

Your car needs top-grade gas to run well

Quality is the other important piece of the puzzle. You can’t just put any old fuel in your car. Treat your website like the luxury vehicle it is, and fuel it with the high quality gas that’s needed for it to run smoothly (or at all). What this means for a content marketing strategy is that you need to invest in high-quality assets that match your brand and meet your audience’s expectations. 

In a recent Whiteboard Friday, Moz’ Rand Fishkin talked about the pervasive use of the phrase “good, unique content.” and why it’s bad. Good, original writing and graphics should be the entry-level bar for SEO content, not a place that marketers aspire to reach and remain.

Because there’s so much content online (300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute, about 1.8 million blogs are published every day – just through WordPress), and because search results have become so competitive, brands really need to aspire to be the BEST result on the page if they want to rank well.

Fishkin adds that marketers need to set the bar at being 10 times better than the best result out there if they want to be in the top search results for a given query.

You need to be putting the very best fuel in your car if you want it to run at its maximum potential, for as long as possible.

Consistent content is key with marketing automation

Even if you have one piece of content to share per week or month, you won’t get very much insight into the behavior of your audience. You won’t be creating as many opportunities to reach prospects and nurture leads to drive sales.

Ultimately, the automation tool and your ability to nurture leads depends on how often you’re adding fuel.

The more content you put in, the more touchpoints you’re creating with everyone you’re trying to reach. If it’s an email nurture program, new content produces new touchpoints. As long as you don’t blindly throw content in (you don’t want to exhaust people’s interest), and you’re making smart choices with content, you create new opportunities to convert.

Turn your clunker into luxury content

Automation is a great time saver. When you create really great content to consistently put into it, it does the work of distributing it and measuring the results. It makes your website more efficient and more reliable. With the data you get from an automation platform, you can make smarter choices about the content you create and how you nurture relationships with leads to drive sales.

We think you should use marketing automation platforms, but if it comes down to making a choice between that and content marketing, you should choose content marketing.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.