The term “marketing automation” wrongly creates an impression that every marketing operation can be handled with the click of a button. Generally, marketing automation is the use of software platforms and technologies to process repetitive tasks such as posting on social media, email marketing, lead generation and creating ad campaigns. Essentially, it improves efficiency and reduces redundancy with marketing processes.
However, the “automation” word would often has many people believing that once they invest in these technologies, there’d be no need to plan or strategise with marketing again. Somehow, the software is expected to also include the human touch and make critical decisions. It usually ends in those disappointing scenarios where you are convinced to try a tech-driven idea, and after investing, you’d still get mediocre or no results at all.
In reality, marketing automation affords simplicity and a streamline of activities, but it’s not exactly a magical wand.
According to Madhu Gulati, an Indian-American entrepreneur and marketing operations expert, building a solid marketing strategy goes beyond the technology and the tasks its intended to automate.
“Technology is only as good as the humans who manage it,” says Gulati. “Consider technology as a car – only a licensed driver can use one. A person who knows how to ride a bike and has not learned how to drive a car or has no knowledge about it will certainly crash it.! Technology cannot fix bad processes, poor management practices, or ensure best practices in the industry. Without people and excellent strategies, technology is bound to fail or create more problems.”
An automated marketing plan still requires human intervention to work effectively, and below are six helpful strategies to make the most out of your investment:
Lay out your entire marketing plan before selecting a software
First, draw up a flowchart of the activities involved in your operations and compare them to the features on best-recommended software. For example, if your company requires lead management for targeting specific audiences, software platforms such as Adobe’s Marketo and Microsoft Dynamics are built with excellent lead servicing and follow-up features. Another tool online may be sophisticated but not well-equipped to create personalised campaigns with lead scoring targets.
Create a common exchange ground for sales and marketing
The sales team holds the key to harnessing customer behaviour and working this information into lead conversion techniques. Information such as customer preferences, demographics for a particular product or service, times of the year when they are most required, and the feedback or reviews on all units are essential to the marketing process and should be made available to the team.
“Sales and marketing alignment is critical to driving the overall organisation’s revenue goal,” said Gulati, the founder and CEO of Marrina Decisions, a US-based branding agency that works with B2B and B2C brands to coordinate marketing operations and automation activities. “To ensure success, sales and marketing teams need to have a common goal. For instance, in our organisation, working with various B2B and B2C companies such as Google, Dimension Data, Livongo, and others, we have put together a strategy to ensure those well-defined processes and take a hands-on approach in keeping the two teams engaged throughout the sales process.“
Stage-based optimisation for every campaign
The technology’s primary function is to automate any repetitive or redundant tasks slowing down your workflow. This doesn’t mean it can actually create those tasks or feed itself information. The software managers must optimise at every stage of creating each ad campaign for increased productivity. For example, written content scheduled for posting on social media or email distribution should be made fully relatable to the customer and adaptable to search engine algorithms.
The tech should improve human relations – and not destroy it
In a bid to “maximise” the use of their martech tools, many brands would entirely cut out human agents from interacting with converted-leads-turned-prospects. People want to know that a passionate representative is on the other side offering attention, especially when they are nearly convinced to patronise the brand or service.
“The conversation around AI now is too focused on the question of how AI can replace agent interaction, which is missing the point,” wrote Valley Choices, a venture capital firm and Forbes contributor. “The aim of AI shouldn’t be to replace human interaction but to improve human interaction. Instead of cutting the human out of the support process, AI can instead be used to route calls to the right person as soon as possible. High-stress moments are the ones that stick with customers forever, so it’s vitally important to have a plan in place. What separates the best companies is a keen sense for determining which customer service functions AI can handle on its own and which cases need to be handled by a human with AI assistance.”
Try not to blame the technology
Apportioning blames to the technology easily becomes a coping mechanism for disorganised teams attempting to use an automation platform. Most times, the problem starts by sidestepping the foundational task of laying out your requirements before selecting a platform. Next, an uncoordinated team with poor communication skills would struggle to make the best of any software.
Also, not knowing how to effectively use all the software’s features is a common problem. The solution here is to strategise your communication plan and contact your vendor for training courses.
“After evaluating a good martech fit for your organisation, the next step is to adopt and adapt to successfully use any technology,” said Gulati, a former employee of Microsoft, Market2Lead (now Oracle), and Marketo (a subsidiary of Adobe). “More often than not, the lack of knowledge and expertise is why we blame the technology. In reality, the technology is not exactly coming up short. We just need to figure out how to make it work for us, mastering it instead of letting it control the entire workflow.”
Adaptability is key
Getting complacent with the current version of any software could lead to problems when upgrades are released. Your team must develop a mindset of flexibility toward inevitable changes. Most times, these updates aren’t exactly massive changes. They are usually small additions to existing processes with tiny effects on the current flow.
Also, as you learn to incorporate fresh steps into your operations, your short-term and long-term plans may need revisions to accommodate growth. No plan should be set in stone or rigidly followed. It’s important to encourage your team to think outside the box sometimes and try new strategies on small operations to find the best fit. This way, there will be no limit to creativity and little room for frustration.
“Technology alone cannot achieve anything – it is only as good as the humans that manage it,” Gulati concludes. “Communities are built for technology, not the other way around. Adapting and being a part of communities like martechpulse offers essential support to like-minded marketers and establishes best practices to manage these new martech platforms.