Opportunities for automation are seemingly everywhere, from business processes to the customer shopping experience. And the promised benefits sound too good to turn down: One McKinsey report suggests automation can improve more than 30% of sales-related business processes and deliver a 10% uplift to sales revenue.
Today, we discuss marketing automation specifically. These tools include resources for automated targeting, chatbots, specialty email programs and more. Marketing automation can be powerfully useful, but it requires a cohesive strategy. When implemented improperly, marketing automation can negatively affect your customer experience by obstructing or changing the expected journey. It can also create technical debt. That’s a scenario where your marketing technology investments fail to deliver promised results and ultimately cost you money.
Fortunately, proper planning can help us avoid common pitfalls. Let’s take a look.
It’s tempting to think new technology will solve all your problems. But, by responding reactively to problems, we can only solve one issue at a time — no matter how great the technology is. When solving challenges with technology, we must think deeper. How will this affect my business? Bottom line? Employees? When solving challenges within the marketing funnel, we must think broader. How will this affect the customer relationship? Brand reputation? Overall buying journey?
Let’s imagine a customer service team is overwhelmed with returns management, for example. A first-line chatbot might initially reduce the volume of unsatisfied customers, slowing the flow to the service team. But, we didn’t solve the actual problem. We just slowed the bleeding. The customers still need to make their returns and will still end up at customer service eventually. Only now, they’re likely frustrated they’ve hit some roadblocks and maybe even less satisfied than they were.
So, in this case, maybe the chatbot shouldn’t even be the first-line option. In this example, we might use the chatbot instead within the returns process itself, seeking a strategic way to improve the experience for both the customer and the service team. Perhaps the chatbot provides a short survey. Then, we can apply machine learning and artificial intelligence to understand what’s driving the returns and try to limit the volume at the source. This is just one example of how we should be thinking about technology within our marketing funnel — and how the implications can be much bigger than the challenge at hand.
Here again, we remind ourselves that automation is about improving the human experience, not replacing it.
Automated emails are a great way to free up employee time, for example. We invest time upfront with writing and design; then, we set the schedule. Then, the automated program sends emails based on interactive behaviors — like account sign-up, cart abandonment, purchase, and more — all without employee intervention. This frees up valuable time to develop campaigns, focus on sales, build relationships and more.
But we must be cautious about how much we rely on these automated experiences. Too much automated messaging can “de-personalize” your brand experience, reducing any brand equity you’ve built. With too much automation, you’re just noise… another fish in the very crowded sea.
Instead, frequently measure and analyze your automated campaigns and tools for efficiency. Much like auto-pilot, you still want to be in complete control of your brand experience. Technology should help you improve the experience, but it should not be the only aspect of it.
A “set it and forget it” mindset that can accompany marketing automation can also make us lazy with fundamentals, creating complacency around messaging and campaigns. Ignored marketing automation efforts have a way of deteriorating: creative turns stale, messaging grows ineffective, and eventually, campaigns fail. A well-oiled machine won’t stay that way without proper care and maintenance. If that’s what you want from your marketing automations, you must care for them like any other marketing effort.
Routinely evaluate your messaging. Measure interactions at every possible touchpoint. How long are site visitors engaging with your chatbot? Why did one email outperform all your others? Treating automation like any other campaign will ensure you get the most from any data you acquire along the way and that you properly measure the return on your investments.
This holistic type of approach is how we know which investments in automation technology are worth it and which are pure costs. It’s how we prove marketing is delivering returns across the business. But we can’t do any of it without a strategy. So before you dive into marketing automation, be sure you have a cohesive strategy to guide your efforts. Need help putting one together? Let’s talk.
Featured image by Canva Studio on Pexels.
Zlata is a full-time publicist, part-time writer, and round-the-clock ambassador to wit and humor. As a publicist for over 15 years, she helps launch products with creative ideas and garner press coverage that drives reputation and sales. She also contributes to a variety of lifestyle publications in the areas of food, parenting, health, beauty, marketing, travel, and home. When she’s not crafting kitchen concoctions for her food blog @lifeandthymez, Zlata can be found spending time with her family, having #zlatathoughts, and fantasizing about being a Real Housewife of New Jersey.