As I’m sure you do, I have quite a list of marketing folks I’ve been following for years in social media. That smart group of people has been integral in helping me learn and shift from a more traditional marketing mindset to digital, and, ultimately, to inbound. Over the years, it’s been interesting to watch generally accepted ideas become outdated, or new topics hotly debated.
It wasn’t too long ago that marketing automation was the topic that was hotly debated. According to Scott Brinker, “the word ‘automation’ implied a fairly mechanical, impersonal nature to interactions, at a time when social media mania was rising, emphasizing the power of the human touch.” People seemed to settle into two camps—the For and the Against. Fortunately, marketing automation has become a more sophisticated technology, and I think there’s a better understanding of what it actually means.
Let’s briefly run down all the things that can be automated using the latest marketing technologies:
There are many efficiencies to be gained and remarkable experiences to be delivered using marketing automation. But despite the technology’s current level of sophistication, there are do’s and don’ts for automating any of your marketing activities.
DO understand that marketing automation is a technology, not a strategy. This is a Dan Stasiewski original he reminds us of regularly. It’s one of the tools in a marketer’s toolbox they can use to achieve the results desired from the strategy.
DON’T overlook all the things that can be automated and what you could gain from automating a process. Lead scores are a great example of marketing automation at its finest. If you didn’t have some kind of scale in place to group your leads according to interest level, imagine all the time your sales team would waste—and what a turnoff it would be to potential customers—having sales conversations at the wrong time. And this filtering isn’t something you’d want to do manually.
DO take advantage of automation technology to build lead nurturing workflows. This allows your leads to progress through the sales funnel at their own pace and at different times. Can you imagine trying to keep up with that manually?
DON’T automate the wrong things. Don’t be a bot. Don’t set your blog posts to automatically publish to your social channels. Take the time to write a compelling message for each channel that will attract readers to your blog post. Then you can use automation technology to schedule those posts for peak times. As Jason Falls wisely pointed out, there is a difference between “automating the sharing mechanism, and automating the discovery and review of the content being shared.”
DO automate email communications, especially from your sales team. Take advantage of the efficiencies gained by letting them focus their time and efforts on leads that are ready and want to have an actual conversation.
DON’T send canned email communications. Marketing technology is sophisticated enough now that you can deploy personalized content at just about every touchpoint. It’s simple to ensure emails sent via automation are customized for the individual reader, beyond just inserting their first name.
DO make sure you’re collecting enough of the right data to make automation really work for you. The capability is there, but without the right data triggers, you won’t be able to take full advantage.
Going back to the For or Against Automation debate, I can say I’ve solidly landed on the For side, but only when automation is used the right way. It still requires effort on the part of the marketer to create or curate the best content, but leveraging automation technology for delivery, notifications and segmentation can power very individualized experiences for your potential buyers, which is what they demand today.
Let’s hear from other marketers out there. How have you used marketing automation? Are you for or against it? Leave a comment below!
Photo credit: pasukaru
With a decade of marketing experience, Meghan Sullivan is a Senior Consultant at Kuno Creative and is passionate about developing and executing inbound marketing strategies for her clients. When sheís not doing that, sheís probably curled up on the couchwith her dog and iPad, or exploring Clevelandís incredible food scene. Connect with Meghan on Twitter or LinkedIn.