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Building a Marketing Automation Plan

Published: September 24, 2014       Updated: July 13, 2024

4 min read


As more companies begin adopting a marketing automation platform, it only makes sense that they will see better results from their marketing campaigns, right?

 Not necessarily. 

The truth is, marketing automation alone can’t boost your bottom line unless you know how to use it. Read on to learn how to raise awareness and foster audience engagement with marketing automation. 

Top of the Funnel (Awareness)

There are typically three stages in the sales cycle: top of the funnel, middle of the funnel and bottom of the funnel. Each area is designed for a different type of customer, which means that you should have different types of content and automation tools for the three sections. 

The top of the funnel represents the most basic stage, and many prospects never move beyond this point. Typical content includes social media posts, press releases, social ads – anything that will get your company noticed by your target market. From there, you need a way to capture contact information. This is usually done by offering special content behind a download form.

As soon as someone fills out a form, he is automatically entered into your client database, along with his contact information and whatever else you had listed on the form. This allows your automation tools to score the lead and determine where he is in the buying process. Typically, you’ll establish a lead grading system, which requires setting guidelines for when someone should be bumped to the next stage of the sales funnel.

This is done by assigning points to each piece of content you produce. Downloading a white paper, for example, might earn a prospect 10 points, while filling out a form to schedule a consultation could send the lead straight to the middle of the funnel level. The idea behind lead scoring is to improve the quality of leads that move through your funnel. Companies that don’t have any way of grading their leads often have high conversion rates in the prospect to lead stage but dismal conversion rates in the lead to customer stage. 

ROI: Lead scoring will allow you to spend less time and money on lead generation. 

Middle of the Funnel (Engagement)

The key to having a strong sales funnel is to provide lots of content, both in quality and variety. Plan a meeting with your team and brainstorm all of the angles you can address as well as the types of content you can produce (infographics, videos, quizzes, newsletters, slideshares, whitepapers, ebooks, blog posts, case studies, success stories, FAQs, etc.)

Create an editorial calendar for your blog, long-form content and social media channels and make sure to assign each piece of content points. Engaging with a tweet might earn some one point, while providing an incorrect email address on a form could lose someone 10 points. Once someone interacts with your content enough to gain a pre-determined amount of points, he will be sent to the appropriate stage in the funnel.

You also want to make sure that your content is dynamic, meaning that it’s tailored to each buyer. This process involves using information from your lead scoring system to determine what type of content will be most beneficial to the lead at this stage in the buying cycle. If you see that a lead has downloaded the first two ebooks in a three-part series, you can send an email with a link to the landing page of the third ebook. 

This leads me to the next aspect of middle funnel marketing automation: nurture campaigns. These are campaigns you run, typically email, that serve not to sell your product, but to nurture your relationship with each lead. Doing this will help you maintain more leads over a longer period of time, increasing the chance of you closing more sales instead of losing leads who feel too rushed to make a purchase. 

Finally, the third main aspect of marketing automation is list segmentation. This refers to breaking up your list into more targeted groups to make it easier to monitor a lead’s progress through the buyer’s journey and send him more targeted content.

ROI: Focusing on dynamic content will help you maintain a larger, more diverse content library, while nurture campaigns and list segmentation will make it possible for you to keep in touch with more leads for a longer amount of time, increasing the chances of a conversion down the road.

Make sure to check back next week to learn the final steps in the marketing automation process.

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