Marketing automation has changed business as we know it. In the last decade, it has elevated the role of the CMO, helping marketing to be more productive and measurable through email and nurturing programs, scoring and reporting. Your marketing team more effectively manages all of your company’s contacts so they turn into customers more efficiently.

But how do you more efficiently engage new buyers? Turns out marketing automation has improved marketing, but it’s not the end-all, be-all of marketing optimization. There’s still a massive group of potential buyers who are not addressed by marketing automation alone -- those who have no idea your company or product exists.

Starting at the Top

Despite the boom of innovation around marketing automation technology in recent years, there’s still room at the top of the funnel for technology to revolutionize and simplify marketers’ lives when it comes to capturing new leads. Engaging and converting brand new buyers is the first function of marketing, not just nurturing those contacts you already know. In other words, it’s about using targeted inbound and digital campaigns to fill the top of the funnel with new prospects. It’s essential to engage these prospective buyers before your competition and move them through the buying cycle effectively.

However, digital marketing tools available today are falling short, either focused on tiny, siloed pieces of inbound marketing or starting far below the top of the funnel and keeping those unknown future buyers elusive. Today’s modern marketers’ days are full of best guesses about which campaigns to prioritize, what content to use and what mix of channels (e.g., search, advertising, social) to leverage for each campaign. But they’ve got to do better than guessing. It’s time for the next wave of marketing innovation: technology that starts at the top and takes the guesswork out of modern marketing.

Building from the Bottom

CRM has the bottom of the funnel covered. While there is room for optimization within customer relationship management, this area of the funnel has gone through vast technology improvements and a variety of offerings are available. Customer Management processes have long been taken out of spreadsheets.

Using CRM solutions is highly effective for managing business relationships and the data connected with them. The ability to store customer contact information, accounts, leads and sales opportunities in a central location means the information is widely accessible in real time. However, despite the fact that CRM has become almost a default tool for sales and marketing teams, it’s only addressing the contacts that are already in your system.

Moving to the Middle

The next era in innovation for the sales funnel was marketing automation, and it’s one of the best things that ever happened to the marketing industry. Marketing’s tasks became streamlined and nurturing prospects became easier. As anyone who has experienced marketing automation technology knows, once you know someone is interested in your product, you can set up a personalized journey for them through nurturing programs integrated with email -- if they clicked on a product page, that could trigger an email with a promotion to be sent to them the following day. Those triggers combine to create a workflow that ends up in a sale, and marketing programs become automated.

Learning Opportunities

The thing is, this level of efficiency for prospects still doesn’t address a larger problem of getting more quality leads into your funnel. The big challenge is to engage new buyers before they know your company exists.

Today’s marketers are spending large amounts of time and money to generate new campaigns, content and leads without data that tells them which to prioritize -- “flying blind.” And marketing automation systems will benefit from more visibility into what’s working and what’s not when it comes to filling the top of the funnel with new leads, further automating and improving nurturing and scoring workflows while driving more contacts into your marketing database.

Tackling the Top

Just as CRM and Marketing Automation technology have revolutionized how marketers handle the lower half of the funnel, there has been a gap in technology to manage and optimize the top, replenishing the pipeline with higher numbers of new, high-quality, prospective buyers. Massive amounts of online data exist to help marketers manage relationships and personalize communication, but the most important opportunity for new marketing technology today is truly solving the issue of how to reach the hordes of untouched and unknown new prospects.

With new technologies today, we’re seeing the next era of marketing: platforms that provide complete, data-driven visibility and optimization of top-of-funnel marketing campaigns. What existing content will work best to generate new leads? What gaps exist in your content compared to your competition? How can you use data to automatically optimize each of your campaigns? 

Content marketing is here to stay. Why? Because great content is the way you break through Internet noise to engage new buyers before your competition. Marketing Automation changed marketing, but it’s not the end of innovation. The largest part of the sales funnel -- the top -- has yet to be automated. Right now, using content to optimize digital campaigns across channels to engage new buyers before the competition is largely a manual process. Automate this, and not only do you see more and better leads, but you also are improving the value of your marketing automation platform.

Flying blind will soon be a thing of the past for marketing. You’ll know your buyers and competitors better than anyone. Welcome to the future of marketing!