Marketing automation services are the rocket, but content is the fuel

January 4th, 2012 by Robert Pease

This is a guest post by Russell Sparkman, CEO of FusionSpark Media, Inc., and Founder/Director of the Langley Center for New Media. Russell is a presenter at the 2nd Annual Content Marketing Retreat happening January 26 & 27 in Langley, WA (just outside Seattle).

One of many things on my mind for the coming year is the relationship between content marketing and marketing automation, as well as other platforms and services.

Increasingly, the “what is content marketing?” question is being replaced with the “how do we do it efficiently and effectively to raise awareness, generate leads and convert more sales?” question. One answer is marketing automation.

When properly applied, marketing automation tools promise to help manage the process of deploying and then tracking responses to content throughout the awareness, consideration and decision phases of the purchase cycle.

At the end of the day, however, marketing automation services are tools which, in the absence of content, are simply tools.

How do you fuel your marketing success?

After a presentation on Content Marketing that Chris Baggott of Compendium and I gave in Seattle last year, one audience member, Brian Hansford of Zephyr 47, emailed me with the following message: “Marketing automation services are the rocket, but content is the fuel.”

In subsequent conversations, I learned from Brian that the choke point for marketing automation users is content creation and curation.

The problem is that while marketing automation companies offer tools that automate processes such as collecting leads, triggering responses and follow up to leads, sending emails and so on, there’s truly nothing that’s automatic when it comes to tailored marketing messages.

The truth is that, in this day and age of social media, there are no short cuts. Effective marketing communications still requires creativity, skill and craftsmanship to create quality content. Put another way…. automating bad or poorly thought-out processes put you on the fast track for failure.

The good news, though, is that while you can’t automate strategy, you can employ a systematic approach to help streamline your process, increase effectiveness and keep you on track in delivering relevant and compelling information to the people you want to engage with.

In Part 1 of this two part blog post, I’ll first describe The Content Marketing Cycle, and in Part 2 I’ll go into detail about how Content Strategy is used to create an Editorial Calendar that’s in alignment with the primary phases of the buying / decision making cycle.

Illustration of the Content Marketing Cycle

The Content Marketing Cycle, ©Fusionspark Media, Inc.

The Content Marketing Cycle

Analysis & Insight

A key tenet of Content Marketing is being relevant to the people (the group formally known as the audience – see Participation, below) you’re trying to reach. With the right analysis and insight into what are people’s problems, issues, concerns and interests it’s possible to map content to match needs with laser precision. Analysis and insight comes from everything from customer surveys to listening to how your product, service or cause is discussed in social media channels.

Content Strategy

Content Strategy, as it pertains to marketing, is the deliberate mapping of content creation and curation to prioritized desired outcomes, target audiences and audience needs in order to accurately define and efficiently deploy the right content across multiple platforms, within human and financial constraints, for the purposes of building product (or cause) awareness/consideration and ultimately driving people to purchase (or donation) decisions.

It’s a mouthful! But that’s it in a nutshell!

Content Creation

Creating content that’s of value to the people who buy your product or service or support your case is one of the most important steps you take in establishing yourself as a trusted, definitive resource. And in a competitive scenario, whoever has the best content, wins.

Content Curation

By creating your own original content, you establish yourself as an expert in your product, service or cause. Once you’ve begun to establish this level of authority, then your recommendations of related content produced by others has value. By collecting, or curating, related content and publishing that in your web site, through your social media channels, and so on, you provide added value to your constituents. Curating content also serves the purpose of maintaining a constant flow of updated content, keeping your website fresh, providing both social sharing and SEO benefits to you.


By this stage of the cycle, you’re thinking like a marketer and acting like a publisher by creating or curating carefully planned content that’s relevant, compelling, educational or entertaining for the people who are part of your community. Now you need to reach them where they are, when they want it, on the platform of their choice. You have a multitude of options,  from eMail outreach and mobile apps, to sharing throughout the Social Media space.


Remember that part about “the group formerly known as the audience?” It’s a tough habit to break, but start referring to your circles of customers and constituents as people, and it becomes easier to think of them as participants in your Content Marketing. Plan on how to empower the people who favor you to talk about your brand. This means baking participation in from the outset. Bake in word-of-mouth opportunities.


Back in the Content Strategy stage you will have made decisions about how you’re going to measure success. Remember that sales or donations are not your only measurements of success. Other conversions to measure will be how many new email addresses or other signups did you capture? How many times was your content posted to Facebook, tweeted in Twitter, discussed in LinkedIn? How are pages of your content ranking in Google? For all of the aforementioned, what types of content generated the most results?

Notice how Evaluation brings you back to Analysis and Insight. This is a cycle, in which experience and insight gained through one content marketing initiative is rolled over into the next.

Chance favors the well-prepared

Understanding the Content Marketing Cycle and having a systematic approach is important because it not only helps us be more efficient and effective at each phase, but it helps us be prepared for unforeseen changes – because rest assured, change does and will happen.  When this happens, think about the phases of the cycle, re-evaluate what’s working, what’s not and get back on track.

Learn more about Russell Sparkman and the Langley Center for New Media.

We would love you to try out LoopFuse here.

To find out exactly what LoopFuse does, click here.

To add LoopFuse to, click here.

You can follow LoopFuse on Twitter here or join us on our Facebook fan page here.


Comments are closed.