Is it just me, or does anyone else think that putting the words personalised and automation together is an oxymoron? How can you have a real relationship with a customer if you are sending them one of a choice of responses based on a piece of software understanding key words in their digital communications? One could argue that it’s possibly the most impersonal personalised way to respond.
While I understand the concept of marketing automation – which according to Wikipedia "…refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organisations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks" – I’m not convinced it is the marketing magic-bullet marketers have long been looking for. If the point is to establish a truly personalised customer buying journey, how can it be achieved by an automated process?
Marketo does marketing
Before you start thinking that I’m anti-automation, I want to reassure you that is not the case. This post was prompted by reading (albeit skimming) a mahoosive 100 page presentation titled The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation produced by the clever marketing people at Marketo. It’s a fairly weighty document detailing automation and the personal buyer journey.
Now Marketo is obviously doing something right. For one thing, they found me. If my memory serves me correctly, I think this piece appeared on my LinkedIn feed. I’m a writer working in marketing – so far, so good with the targeting and messaging. They came up with an excellent title for the piece which certainly piqued my interest. Was the content good? It was certainly very long, surely to goodness 100 pages is too much for anyone to read? Having said that, it was written to appeal to those thinking about adopting a marketing automation platform, so I guess it needed to cover a lot considering the investment required.
Keep in touch
As someone who works as a communicator in the communications sector, logic tells me that marketing automation should work. Hubspot, Marketo and the many other agencies that have sprung up to produce content tell me that indeed it does actually work, with impressive ROI figures and growing sales. I’m pleased, after all, I spend most of my working hours producing said content. What I would say is that it’s worth exercising a bit of caution if you’re contemplating a move to inbound marketing and automation. Here’s my two cents worth:
- Regularly check in with your customers and listen to what they have to say and what specifically they want from you. While marketing automation by its very nature works on numbers, make sure your personal touch really is personal.
- Plan your content carefully – make sure it’s relevant and interesting. It’s not all about the hard sell. A balanced viewpoint will resonate more than a biased one.
- When it comes to keeping the conversation going with your customers, choose the method of communication that most suits them. There are many ways to keep in contact, from texting to EDMs, so take your customers preferred channel of engagement and connect on their terms.
- Don’t try and connect too often – you’re not that important in their lives and no-one wants to be hounded.
- Unless you have thousands of customers, with hundreds of queries weekly, then forget automation. To maximise your ROI, you need to be talking to large quantities of people.
Keeping customers sweet
As a footnote to this post, we (at Badger) are currently working on a good old-fashioned bit of direct mail. A client has asked us to come up with a piece to thank business customers for their patience while an online service they use has been offline. We’ll be sending out a chocolate bar with a bespoke branded wrapper.
I’m pretty sure that the recipients would rather get this gift than a texted email apology, which goes to show that sometimes the personal touch can achieve cut-through and standout for all the right reasons, and help make someone’s day.