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How to Build the Perfect Campaign with Marketing Automation [Expert Interview]


Meet Ryan Johnston.

Today’s guest expert is Demand Generation Manager and long-time Pardashian Ryan Johnston. He’s here to share his expertise on building and managing campaigns — from kicking off your strategy as a novice to seeing more success as an experienced marketing automation user.

Alright Ryan, take it away.

Tell us a little bit about your background with the Pardot team, as well as your current role.

I joined the Pardot team in February of 2011 on Valentine’s day (so I immediately got 30 new Valentines — hasn’t happened since) as the second marketing hire, brought in as a marketing coordinator. Since then my role has grown into running our demand generation/campaigns team, which encompasses lead gen, marketing ops, website, events, etc. Oh, and entertaining the team with terrible jokes.

Yeah, that Valentines joke rolled right off the tongue. We’ll see if you can work a few of your famous puns in here as well.

Ok, so what advice would you give a marketer who is sitting down to build his or her first marketing campaign with a marketing automation platform? Any specific questions they should ask themselves? Things to consider?

Well, first of all, I would tell them not to build anything in Pardot yet. Your marketing automation tool is there to support your campaign and what you’re trying to accomplish — it’s not going to be the actual accomplishment itself. It’s just going to be the processes and the systems on the back end helping to get you where you want to go.

So first sit down and figure out where you want to go: why are you building a campaign? What do you want to accomplish? What is your primary goal? That’s going to affect your entire approach: if you’re trying to generate new leads, that’s different from trying to move leads through the funnel, which is different from increasing brand awareness — knowing these goals not only keeps you focused, it’s going to determine every aspect of building your campaign in Pardot.

From there, you need to consider things like: who are you targeting? What messaging are you going to use? What content will you need, and what channels and tactics should you leverage to distribute this content and messaging? Once you start to combine all of this information, you’ll start to see how you can map that out in your marketing automation platform, (features like folders and your in-app marketing calendar can help you stay organized). And finally, you can start to get into the more granular questions, like what data do you want to capture, and how are you going to measure success of your campaign?

So, I’d recommend not even starting to build a campaign until you know how you can actually reach that goal and prove whether or not it was successful.

We often advise marketers to get sales involved in this process. In your personal experience, at what point should they be pulled in? Is it better to talk to them right off the bat? Is it better to go to them with a loose plan and get their feedback on it?

Well, I think it depends on what the source of your campaign is. If sales generated the idea for the campaign (say they came to you looking for more content to target a specific vertical), they should be involved early on and every step of the way, so that campaign can address the pain point they’ve expressed.

If marketing is coming up with the campaign, start thinking about messaging and goals on your end, but don’t forget to pull sales in to ask what resonates. They’re directly interacting with your buyers every day, so they’re going to have a better sense of what messaging is resonating and what isn’t.

Also, there should be a sales activation aspect to any campaign you run. You don’t want to just put content out in market and have leads start coming in, and sales not know what’s out in market, how to follow up with those leads, or what additional content they can provide that will make sense. So, if you’re not including them from the beginning because it’s a marketing initiative, you still want to make sure sales can speak to that campaign and follow up with prospects accordingly.

I think it’s really helpful for our readers to hear real-life examples; can you describe one of your favorite campaigns that you’ve helped to organize for Pardot (without giving away any trade secrets)? Any important lessons learned along the way?

I actually have a fair amount of content out there on ‘how Pardot uses Pardot’ — case studies on what’s worked well for us and the details of our strategy. One example that comes to mind is a webinar I did recently on how we use segmentation. You can listen to the full thing here, but it basically talks about our segmentation efforts for targeting the SMB market. Pardot gave us the ability to pick a specific segment, target it, and have content and messaging that resonated with that audience. We asked people to share a company size, and then we used that one data point to personalize their whole journey. Anytime we knew we were talking to an SMB marketer, we could ensure we provided a tailored buyer experience from start to finish.

I also recall you writing some posts for the Pardot blog on our campaign efforts around Dreamforce (definitely a relevant topic at the moment!), so I’ll include those as well:



Alright, Ryan, any expert tips for marketers who are fairly experienced with building campaigns in Pardot?

Dynamic content — if you’re not using it yet, you should be; if you are using it, think about how you use can use it more. That’s another thing we employed in that SMB campaign I mentioned, so on the autoresponders, in the thank you content — every time someone was engaging with our web presence, we made sure they saw the right messaging and we kept them engaged. By applying dynamic content everywhere we could, we created a consistent flow of content that would be relevant to them.

Beyond that, I’d say content mapping. I’m not sure that it’s much of an ‘expert tip’ anymore, but it’s definitely something that marketers need to do if they aren’t already. So, when you’re looking at your funnel, having a thorough understanding of what information prospects need at each stage as well as what’s going to move people on to the next stage. That not only helps you to plan your content creation effectively, it also allows you to segment and serve out the right things to the right people — as opposed to just shotgunning stuff out to everyone and seeing what sticks.

Ok, we’ll go ahead and wrap up now — but first, your favorite summer camp story. Go.

So I didn’t actually go to summer camp, per sé, but I went to tennis camp in middle school.

We’ll count it. Story?

Not too much to share — we mostly just listened to Linkin Park’s ‘Meteora’ every day on repeat while we played poker after practice.

Poker? Interesting, what does one wager in poker as an 11-year-old?

Tootsie Rolls are a great currency. Also, chips…because they’re like poker chips, but they’re Lays.

There it is. I guess that’s where the puns all started. Well, I’ve learned a lot; hope our readers have, too! Join us next week for Matt Miller’s discussion of user testing, how to do it effectively, and why marketers should care. Cheers!