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Content Marketing & Marketing Automation: How They Fit Together

Marketing Automation

Understanding How to GET and CONVERT Qualified Leads

Hubspot understands the value of content marketing better than any other marketing automation system provider.

However, when evaluating Hubspot as a marketing automation solution provider, it’s easy to get sucked up into thinking that content marketing and marketing automation are the same thing.

They are not the same. The differences are quite pronounced, but they absolutely depend on each other for successful marketing. Here’s how they differ and how they fit so neatly together in the greater scheme of marketing:

1. Lead Generation versus Lead Conversion

The two critical elements of any marketing strategy are lead generation and lead conversion. First, you have to GET leads, and then you have to convert those leads into paying customers.

Content marketing is the “Lead Generation” piece of the puzzle, and that’s where Hubspot really shines brighter amongst the marketing automation software companies.

There are essentially three ways to get qualified leads for your business:

  1. Outbound Marketing. With outbound marketing, you create a massive leads database. Ideally, you’ll qualify those leads with a thorough vetting and analysis process. Then, you go TO those leads with sales letters, Email, or other direct marketing approaches.
  2. Search Marketing. Search marketing has many definitions, but when I think of search marketing, I think of it in terms of online advertising. People “search” for a solution or answer and come across your advertisement. They click on the ad, go to your landing page, opt-in to your system, and you’ve now got a lead.
  3. Content Marketing. Content marketing is what Hubspot does so well. They create reams of “Content” in the form of articles, white papers, special reports, videos, and Infographics. This content is placed on a variety of places online, including Hubspot’s website and other websites. People find the content, enjoy the article, and opt in to Hubspot’s marketing automation system by attending a Webinar or downloading a report.

That’s where lead generation ends and lead conversion begins.

2. Marketing Automation is the Lead Conversion Piece of the Pie

Once you have a lead, you need to convert that lead into a sale. Before marketing automation, lead conversion was the realm of sales.

Today, we use automated systems to “nurture” a lead and “influence” their thinking. Some think of marketing automation as “lead nurturing.” I think it is better defined as “lead influencing.”

You want to influence the thoughts and feelings of your lead so that they don’t consider any other alternatives. Hubspot, for example, overwhelms their leads with so much valuable information that the lead can’t help but think and feel that Hubspot is “the best.” It works.

3. Tying Content Marketing and Marketing Automation Together

Content marketing gets prospective customers TO your website landing pages.

The landing page converts a prospect (someone who doesn’t know you and whom you don’t know) into a lead.

They are nothing more than an unqualified lead until you turn your marketing automation system loose on them.

Marketing automation then influences their thoughts and feelings about you by sending them highly targeted information, data, advice, and even stories.

Here’s essentially how it works:

  1. Build credibility & trust. Once the lead opts into your marketing automation system by signing up for a Webinar, downloading a report, or exchanging their contact information for some other valuable bit of information, you send additional valuable information that builds your credibility and establishes trust. This is not the time for the hard sell.
  2. Track their behavior. The system tracks their actual behavior – Emails opened, Email clicks, web pages viewed, videos watched, reports downloaded, etc.
  3. Targeting & influencing. Now that you know their specific areas of interest, you feed them highly targeted content JUST related to their interests. This content helps to influence their thinking about you and how you can uniquely satisfy their needs or solve their problems.

Finally, the marketing automation system “scores” (Lead Scoring) their behavior. This information, as well as ALL the lead’s actions, are passed to a Sales Force system, such as The sales team can easily see the “hottest” prospects based on activity and score.

Sales can also see the specific interests of the lead and address those needs during any subsequent communication.

Thus, when you combine content marketing and marketing automation you will have more highly qualified leads who think that you’re the bee’s knees of your industry.

A note about Hubspot: The Hubspot system has all the pieces, including a new lead scoring mechanism. As a company, they are tops at content marketing. Although their software is capable of complex if-then-else lead nurturing logic, they seem not to use it in their own marketing. So, when I refer to Hubspot as a leading content marketer, I’m talking about how they market themselves, and not the relative capabilities of their software as compared to other leading marketing automation companies.


  1. John McTigue says:

    While I agree with you that HubSpot is the King of content marketing automation software, your post seems to imply that they don’t do the marketing automation piece of the puzzle. With the release of HubSpot3, they are now right there in the conversation with Marketo, Eloqua and others in my opinion. Integrated landing page and CTA creation, A/B testing, lead nurturing workflows, “smart lists” and lead intelligence along with API integration with SFDC and other CRM’s make HubSpot a pretty robust contender in the marketing automation world these days. I will grant you that they are a bit late to the party, but no one else is on their development trajectory in my view, and the total integration of all of the digital marketing is a powerful cocktail. By the way, they just released a lead scoring system that looks a whole lot like Marketo’s in terms of functionality. I look forward to discussing this with you soon.

    Best, John McTigue, EVP, Kuno Creative

    • Sid says:

      John, you’re right about HubSpot in terms of what their software can do. I was speaking in terms of what they actually DO with their software. I’ve downloaded well over 20 different reports from Hubspot. I have yet to receive a follow-up message that’s tied to my download (that’s the nurture piece of marketing automation). That is, while their software is perfectly capable of nurturing me as a prospect, they don’t seem to be making use of their own capabilities.

      So, yes… in terms of functionality, Hubspot is right up their with companies like Marketo. But, I wonder when they’ll start using the marketing automation piece of their own software. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

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