Thursday, February 19, 2015

Myths That Give Marketing Automation a Bad Name

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As an industry, marketers are hounded to build compelling narratives and connect with customers on an emotional level. Mentioning the word “automation” can quickly stir up resentment and lampoons. This is especially true for the growing industry of marketing automation software.

Despite its potential, a significant number of businesses still view these systems as untrustworthy spam factories that harken back to the heyday of aggressive, un-targeted email marketing.

This perspective is founded on a number of myths, many of which seek to transfer blame from the marketer to the automation system. In truth, marketing automation is simply a tactic for scaling the strategies a business already has in place. It doesn’t introduce an entirely new set of principles.

When used correctly, it maintains the personal touches found in manual efforts and introduces them in specific, targeted ways to segmented audiences.

If marketing automation fails, it’s the fault of the marketer, not the software. As evidence, let’s deconstruct four popular myths.

1)      Marketing automation is spam

The inbox is a private space, protected by increasingly sophisticated spam filters that guard against unwanted email blasts. Therefore, it’s very off-putting for consumers when an unsolicited email appears in their inbox.

These types of emails are disruptive because they’re irrelevant, not because they’re surprising. Consumers often welcome relevant surprises, but irrelevance is a waste of precious time.

Powering email campaigns with marketing automation is a popular practice, but that doesn’t excuse poor segmentation or non-targeted emails. Sending effective emails at scale does require a lot of hard work and skill, but it’s the marketer’s job to segment the prospects correctly rather than blasting everyone in their database with the same content.

When executed well, email automation can be invaluable for nurturing and educating prospects who aren’t yet ready to make a purchase. Most consumers still read their email, and they don’t mind being marketed to as long as the material is useful.

       2) Automation isn’t for humans

Automating the processes of marketing won’t turn your brand into a robot. In fact, just the opposite should happen. Quality marketing automation software acts a lot like an operating system for marketing departments, because it touches social, email, landing pages, and even pay per click campaigns. Deploying marketing automation results in a wealth of data about consumer behavior across your digital properties.

Equipped with this information, marketers can segment audiences based on their behavior and preferences and develop campaigns that specifically target each group. Even if a prospect takes an unexpected action, it’s easy to set up rules that transfer them to a more appropriate campaign.

All of this heavy data analysis and segmentation should lead to a healthy dose of targeted marketing. If not, the error lies in the market’s inability to comprehend and leverage the data the system provides. Or the marketer has set the system up incorrectly.

Robotic marketing arises from a lack of context; it’s essentially saying the same thing to everyone. Automation software was developed for the exact opposite purpose.

3) Automation doesn’t need a manager

Letting automated campaigns run without any oversight will inevitably lead to disaster. It will result in spamming people and sounding like a robot. The idea that the system will run itself is preposterous, and only fosters lazy marketing automation practices.

To be effective — not just in marketing automation but in any digital channel — marketers must use data to test and iterate, with the goal of finding out what tactics best suit the needs of their market. Automation software comes packed with different features for split testing landing pages, email campaigns, and a number of other touchpoints to help with in this endeavor.

If marketers aren’t constantly testing and refining their offerings to better serve their audience, then they haven’t joined the rest of us in the Internet Age where marketing has become a data-driven practice.

                4) Marketing automation only benefits marketers

Because consumers have such a low threshold for inconvenience, making the customer journey a seamless experience should be a priority for any organization. That means lining up sales and marketing — two departments that don’t always see eye-to-eye.

Marketing automation systems provide the best opportunity to join these two forces. Most products integrate with customer relationship management systems, which means you can connect the two main systems for each department. Data can then flow back and forth between the two platforms, and their respective teams.

This results in sales getting a better picture of which leads are worth following up with and which need more time to research. For marketing, they can look at which leads convert best once they get to sales and use that information to hone their strategies.

This not only makes for a happy marriage between the two households, it also yields better results for the customer — which translates to better results for the company.

Implementing marketing automation isn’t easy. It requires a lot of work to set up and even more work to optimize and use correctly. It’s not a product that everyone should adopt.

It’s also easy to use incorrectly. Proper targeting and impressive amounts of content are required to fuel the marketing automation engine. But when done well, it can lead to happier customers and scalable processes.

 About the Author: Zach Watson is the content manager at TechnologyAdvice. He covers gamification, healthcare IT, business intelligence, and other emerging technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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