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To automate or not to automate – This is NOT THE question

Your company is thinking about growth, pondering about the large questions of business life. You have heard that every other company in the known land, or at least in your circle, have taken on a marketing automation software and scaled up beautifully. Which means that now also you and your team are creating pros-and-cons lists, developing plans, and having debates on whether or not you should take on one of the many marketing automation tools available. In reality the question isn’t if you should or shouldn’t automate your marketing, it is when you should and what should you automate.

Marketing automation is a great tool but a bad leader

The great question your company should be asking is who will be the software’s leader? Many companies often imagine marketing automation is going to take away your work and that an AI will handle your marketing. Unfortunately, those companies realise quite quickly that marketing automation doesn’t make decisions on its own and it definitely has no idea how to communicate with people if it hasn’t been taught what to say. Which is why the software needs a leader, a parent to guide it and give it instructions. This parent needs to also keep an eye on it, evaluate its results and behaviour and adjust it when needed. This way your company will get the most out of marketing automation.

Marketing automation can be a great tool to improve customer experience…

Imagine your potential client, a new potential lead, encountering your company in one of your channels. This person downloads an excel tool you have created for improving their finances. In doing so your marketing automation takes note of this human. They have lifted their invisibility cloak and become known to you. So now you have created and designed a beautiful flow for the automation to execute. Depending on this specific person’s journey, the automation will take this person to a path. The path includes retarget marketing, personalised newsletters and tips to other useful sources for the same topic. The activities have been spaced out so that the person doesn’t get suffocated by information and different actions are taken only if this specific person clicks, visits or checks something on the predefined customer flow.

Eventually once your automation flow has reached a point where it is time to contact this person, the software sends a message to your sales who see what this person is interested in and what they have done on the flow previously. The sales team contacts this person offering a one-to-one with your advisors on personal finance. This person has a great idea of your company and they book a time with you. A beautiful automation story has just reached its first pitstop on, what will surely be, a long customer journey.

…But it can also be a tool that ruins it.

Think of the last time you added your details to a form online when downloading a guide or testing a new tool? Must have been quite recently. Then think of the customer journey that will have started from there. Did it unfold like the earlier one or like the example you are about to read.

You have just filled in your details to a form that allows you to test a platform for 7 days for free. The form is online and normally these forms only ask for your email but this one has asked your phone number as a required field, but it has also been clarified that you will only be called if there is an issue with the tool. You fill the form on Sunday.

At 7am on Monday your phone rings. You do not answer, as it is early. Then at 7:04 you get an email from the company from whom you downloaded the tool telling you about their services. Another call at 4pm. Another three emails that day. No emails the following day. You are annoyed but test out the tool and are somewhat satisfied but it doesn’t have some functions you need. You open a chatbot on the site to ask for some answers. The chatbot refuses to let to speak to a human operator, even if that is an option, as they keep telling you that they know answers to thousands of questions. You ask your question, the chatbot doesn’t know the answer but won’t let you speak to person. You send an email. An email is responded by sending you a guide that you already had (as it was sent to you when signing up for the 7 day trial). No further human contact.

On the last day of the trial you get an email at 7am. Another at 8. Next at 9 and so on for the rest of the day. At 4 pm you get a call that is your generic “buy our product” call. You voice your thoughts and you are promised further answers. After that day there is no communication. Automation path has run to its end.

This is unfortunately not an uncommon marketing automation story. In the excitement of automating daily tasks many companies have gone a little automation mad. Which has resulted in aggressive and spammy automation paths. If your company is dreaming of taking on marketing automation it is important to remember that there is always a human at the end of the automated communication. Do you want them to feel appreciated, offer them interesting and insightful information and let them lead their customer journey, or do you want to leave them feeling annoyed and attacked? This answer should be simple. Which is why you should always automate with caution and with your end client in mind.

Marketing automation doesn’t take away the human connection

When your company has grown to a size where you realise that there are regular tasks that you believe would be better automated then it is time to take on automation. When you feel like you have found a group of unknown leads that want to form their own path on your channels and search for answers in their own paste before you contact them, then you should consider automation.

Marketing automation is a great tool for improving your customers journeys online and provide better customer experiences. But all this requires you to have thought of your customer before taking on automation. If you take on automation just to help your day and take some of the load off your hands it is certain that your company isn’t going to get everything out of marketing automation. Marketing automation needs time, data and constant testing and realigning. Once you have learnt how to use it and how it can serve both you and your clients then it will eventually take some load off your hands. But you need to be willing to do the work as otherwise it will be marketing automation leading you not the other way around.

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