If you want to play ball with the top dogs of marketing, you need to look at their tactics. One method which has become increasingly popular in recent years with companies of all sizes is marketing automation.
Marketing automation can take repetitive grunt work, such as follow-up emails and upselling messages, off your hands by (you guessed it) automating these processes. Essentially though, marketing automation allows you to nurture your prospects and deliver meaningful, useful and contextual content to them, all with minimum effort on your part. It can, therefore, be used to convert your customers, making them happy and obviously benefitting your margins.
Sounds great right?
However, there are downsides to automating all of your marketing. Here we talk you through both the positives and negatives of marketing automation and what it can allow you to do when used correctly.
We all know what it’s like to be bombarded by too many messages from a company – irritating. Especially if half of them are irrelevant, overly promotional or even duplicated – as time-poor consumers we’re likely to delete such messages without even opening them.
While marketing automation allows you to seamlessly communicate with your customers at key points, it also means you’re at risk of bombarding them. As your marketing is automated, you lose that human judgement which can draw the line between appropriate, and annoying. And as you’ll never be relevant to 100% of your audience 100% of the time, you risk targeting your customers with incessant marketing which can only lead to one thing: opt-outs.
Automating your marketing activity gives you and your staff more time to focus on enhancements or proactive projects – the kind of thing that, unlike repetitive email activation, can move your business forward.
Marketing automation also allows you to communicate effectively and widely over a range of outlets. As you can diversify and spread your message over more channels than you would be able to do using manpower alone, automation allows you to perhaps move into unexplored areas such as social media or responsive mobile work. Just remember that your system should be chosen more for the success and results it offers rather than the time you save.
As marketing automation, especially from an email perspective, works mainly on previously aggregated data such as time lapsed or click-through rate, you need to make sure you input enough data in the beginning for your automation system to work with. If a customer hasn’t visited your site for two weeks, is that really enough information to deliver an effective and targeted campaign? What you really need to know is why they haven’t visited your site, and perhaps a list of the sites they are visiting. Good marketing takes into account these behavioural considerations and means that the resulting automation is centred on the prospect.
In the same way, it’s important to spend time at the beginning of the process really evaluating whether marketing automation is right for you and your business. For example, if you’re a fairly small outfit, you might want to spend some time building your client base and getting to know your customers first.
You’ll also need to choose your vendor, and work out if the marketing automation tool you choose easily integrates with your existing systems and service providers. Integrations are notoriously complex and should definitely be a factor you consider at this stage. It’s essential that your systems are talking to each other – why invest so much time and effort into your lead generation if your new prospects never make it into your sales funnel?
As a result of these considerations, marketing automation can be long-winded to set up, and the quality of your results is all down to the work you put in at the beginning.
There is a fundamental problem with the name “marketing automation”. It suggests something easy, simple, and even robotic. Which is exactly the type of content that search engines, the content marketing movement, and most importantly, your customers, would prefer you moved away from.
Digital success these days is all about frequency, quality, originality and consistency. Customers are growing savvy and are also getting used to personalisation – they want to be served relevant content rather than spam. Automating your marketing makes it all too tempting to serve up the same irrelevant and impersonal content to everyone without taking into account what it is they want to see.
The key to understanding marketing automation and how you can use it is to realise that it can’t replace your creative human effort. Delegating all of your marketing to a system and expecting it to perform as well as you would won’t work. The strength of marketing automation lies more in scaling your marketing efforts and maximising the reach of your communications.
Put in the groundwork first, make sure you have a good database to work with and don’t neglect good quality content, and you might just find marketing automation can deliver some pretty impressive results.