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How to Use Marketing Automation to Improve Content Marketing Results

How to Use Marketing Automation to Improve Content Marketing Results

Content marketing can lead to some pretty exciting business results. We've seen this firsthand as a content marketing agency that helps clients achieve their goals through content. But we've also seen this through our own content strategy.

By making an intentional pivot from outbound marketing and focusing more of our attention on inbound marketing strategies in 2018, we increased our contact form-to-call rate, our SDR outreach call rate, our close rate for sales calls, and our average monthly fee from marketing sales closed. On top of that, our company saw a 47% increase in marketing-generated revenue between 2018 and 2019.

But here's the thing: We could recognize this content marketing ROI only because we measured important content marketing metrics. By using a marketing automation system, we've been able to more easily review data and see the measurable impact our content strategy is having on our business.

The Impact of Marketing Automation

Marketing automation can play a huge role in maximizing the results you see from your content marketing efforts. Each marketing automation system has its pros and cons, but the benefits we've seen from using HubSpot should be applicable to whichever system you choose. Marketing automation has enabled us to:

• Align sales and marketing.

According to HubSpot, 1 in 4 companies says its sales and marketing teams aren't aligned. This is a problem. When marketing and sales are misaligned, you run the risk of overcomplicating your sales process and wasting valuable time on leads that aren't qualified. That's why we've worked hard to make sure our sales and marketing teams are aligned, and HubSpot has been a key tool in this journey.

Our company was founded in 2011, and for most of our history, we had a member of our team handle the time-consuming task of manually qualifying leads who visited our website. Qualifying leads has helped us ensure the leads that marketing hands over to sales are more likely to become customers so that we don't waste time focusing on leads who aren't ideal fits for us. But now that we have HubSpot's lead-scoring capabilities at our disposal, we're able to identify qualified inbound leads on a rolling basis without devoting hours of time to determining the quality of the leads.

Learn how your marketing team can equip your sales team with the content it needs to close new business by downloading The Content Marketer's Guide to Sales Enablement.

• Gain a deeper understanding of the journey our leads take before becoming clients.

We use HubSpot's marketing and sales tools, which allows us to track the full cycle of an inbound lead. With Google Analytics, you can see the pages being viewed by your audience, but marketing automation platforms do a much better job of doing this on an individual basis so you can see which leads are visiting which pages.

For example, let's say you had an awesome Q1 and Q2 but saw a drop-off in leads generated in Q3. A good project would be to use your marketing automation system to look back at the website journeys taken by a handful of your inbound leads that later closed. Then, you can compare that information to a handful of inbound leads that didn't close. From there, you can optimize your content for the paths that have proven to be the most successful.

Key Metrics to Track With Your Marketing Automation System

Now that you know why marketing automation is so important, let's dive into the tactical side of things. Here are some content marketing metrics that we track with our marketing automation system and how we use each data point to fuel our content marketing strategy:

1. Marketing-qualified leads

We use HubSpot's automatic lead scoring, which allows us to follow the journey of someone who trades his or her contact information for a piece of high-quality gated content. This person is then considered a lead.

Create high-quality gated content that generates leads for your business by downloading your free gated content checklist.

Based on the criteria we've set, a lead will receive a numerical score. For our purposes, leads who score 12+ are considered a marketing-qualified lead. This group receives a customized nurture experience from our inbound sales development representative based on the content each lead has downloaded. The ultimate goal? To set up a call.

So wait — what about those leads who aren't qualified? We keep those in our system because while they might be unqualified today, the more they engage with our website, the more chances we have to move the score across the threshold of becoming a marketing-qualified lead.

As you build up your content marketing engine, you'll be able to better forecast how many marketing-qualified leads, or MQLs, you need to attract in order to hit your marketing-generated sales goals. You can use this simple equation to start down the path of better forecasting:

MQLs equationLet's put this into practice. Let's say we know that we have a 5% close rate and that we need 20 new clients this year. That would mean we need at least 400 marketing-qualified leads over the course of the year in order to hit our goal.

Bonus tip: Because we track marketing-qualified leads, we can also monitor the specific initial marketing source that generated this lead (e.g., social media, webinar, organic search, etc.). The goal is to have all of these sources generating marketing-qualified leads regularly. In reality, these sources fluctuate, so it's the marketing team's job to monitor which of these sources are performing the best and whether certain sources need more attention.

2. Call-to-action clicks and conversions

In short, a call to action is text or a button that prompts visitors to take a specific action. (See that image at the bottom of this article? That's one of our CTAs.) We've talked with a lot of companies that want the ultimate CTA to be setting up a sales call. That can be great because it indicates that whoever engaged with that CTA is super interested in what you have to offer. But not everyone in your audience is ready to get on the phone, so focusing only on "set up a call" CTAs is a missed opportunity to engage with audience members at every stage of their journeys.

Just because someone isn't ready to get on the phone doesn't mean that person isn't a valuable lead. It just means he or she needs some more nurturing and education to become a marketing-qualified lead. Because we know the value of marketing-qualified leads, it's important for us to have a variety of CTAs that prompt site visitors throughout the marketing funnel.

content marketing funnel: awareness, consideration, decision

HubSpot has a feature that allows us to track CTA clicks so we can see not only how many people click on a CTA, but also how many people fill out a form as a result of clicking a CTA. This is hugely important data for us because it shows us how our CTAs resonate with our audience and how effective our content is at converting visitors into leads.

To learn more about how you can use content marketing to convert your audience into leads, download The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing for Lead Generation.

3. Traffic metrics

As a content marketing agency, we practice what we preach. One of the ways we do that is by guest posting educational, thought-leading content in publications that speak to our target audience. This is a key driver of our referral traffic. Tracking this referral traffic is an important means of understanding how people find our website. From there, we can optimize their experience with content and CTAs to encourage them to continue engaging with relevant content on our site.

In addition to referral traffic, we also pay close attention to organic traffic. Organic traffic is the top metric marketers use to gauge content marketing success, and we're no exception. Because 68% of B2B buyers do research independently before making a purchase decision, all the content we create is optimized for SEO visibility. When we write content, we focus on educating our audience and then optimizing for search using our keyword research so that our target audience can find it. We track our organic traffic and keyword rankings to ensure we show up as a result in relevant searches. If we're not ranking well, we run the risk of losing business to a competitor who showed up ahead of us.

4. Email metrics

Our weekly newsletter is an important regular check-in we have with our leads. Our primary goal is to provide enough value to drive leads to engage with our website again. Because we use the email feature in HubSpot, we can see the newsletter as a component of a lead's journey.

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A couple of email metrics we regularly track for the newsletter are open rate and click-through rate. These metrics tell us whether we communicated enough value in the subject line to get people to open the email, as well as whether readers thought the content of the newsletter was valuable enough to click through to read more on our website.

Content marketing can be a fruitful investment for your company — but you can only see business results and adjust your content strategy accordingly if you're tracking important content marketing metrics. Marketing automation is a great way to track key metrics without investing huge amounts of time into measuring and documenting those data points.

Are you looking for tangible next steps you can take to start boosting these metrics and seeing content marketing ROI? Download your free ROI checklist:

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About Becky Ruyle

I'm the director of brand and content for Intero Digital. I'm a wife and mom to two beautiful girls, and I'm a big Missouri sports fan and lover of sushi. I have a passion for using marketing to educate, tell stories, and drive business results.


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