What do you think of when you hear the word marketing ‘automation’? For many of us, the word conjures images of cold industrial practices, long rows of robot machinery on the production line, spam emails with generic, impersonal greetings.
None of these things are very good, let’s be honest. I think if you went out and spoke to the man or woman in the street, and asked them if they’d prefer a company to deal with them on a personal level or with automated practices, there would only be one answer. Hint: they probably wouldn’t choose the robots.
But we can flip this a little. What about if we asked them to describe the best customer interaction they had ever experienced? Which company provided this? What happened? How did the organization go above and beyond in delivering great service and an incredible experience at each and every point of contact?
Next, we could ask them, do you think this great experience was supported by a personal touch, or by automated marketing processes? Probably, most would vote for the former, and, probably, most would be wrong.
Hidden in plain sight
Of course, this is what we want. We want to provide great experience to our customers, and we want to offer interaction with genuine worth, which meets the requirements of the consumer whenever they come into contact with us. When we engage with a customer – no matter what stage of the product’s or service’s life cycle they find themselves at – we must tailor this engagement to the specific needs and objectives of that customer, and also to our own aims for that particular individual.
This requires intimate consumer knowledge. For businesses operating on a very small scale, this may be achievable in a natural, personalized manner. If our client base is very small, we may be able to reach out to clients individually, holding data profiles on each customer and managing that data ourselves. However, as businesses grow, this becomes unfeasible.
Instead, we must use automation to segment customer groups. This gives us the opportunity to provide smart levels of generic support, geared to a particular group, providing products, services, and support which fit in with their expectations.
In this sense, our automated processes become hidden in plain sight. We use these processes to enhance levels of customer engagement, to understand different customer groups and what they want, and to gain insight into how to turn one-off customers into loyal clients. Marketing automation doesn’t involve churning out general responses en masse; it’s a support system, enabling us to connect customers with what they need.
The personal and automated partnership
Marketing automation isn’t an auto-pilot function; it’s not a cruise control which lets us relax and put our feet up while our business runs itself. Instead, it’s a platform, a facilitator which gives us the additional time and resources required to grow our business and enhance its performance in every area.
Let’s imagine that we’ve used customer segmentation to attract leads, to nurture them during their progression along the acquisitions pathway, and to convert them into customers. We then use our consumer understanding to deliver automated support post-sale and to begin the nurturing process over again. Is this enough?
The simple answer is; no, it’s not enough. This is why we need the personal and automated partnership; the complementary application of automated processes and direct, personal interaction.
First of all, automated interaction with different customer groups needs to be monitored. Processes which might work one week aren’t guaranteed to work the next, and – while automation software can give us data and insight into what’s and what’s not performing well – it can’t make the changes for us. Automated procedures, coupled with personal monitoring, are the way forward.
What’s more, we must understand when to interject with personal interaction; when to override automation and deliver assistance and support ourselves. Again, we learn this by keeping track of the system and by monitoring customer movements and actions.
When the situation has escalated beyond the ability of the automated processes – for example, when a customer has a complaint, or if a consumer needs to place an unusually large order – this is when a personal approach is necessary. Partnering automated processes with a personal touch is how we develop the warm heart of marketing automation.
Seamless customer experience
We can look at marketing automation software as a labor-saving tool. It handles the jobs that we don’t need to do, taking care of the heavy lifting and time-consuming data management tasks, leaving our teams free to focus on what they do best.
But marketing automation is about far more than just making our lives easier. It also gives us the opportunity to create a seamless experience for the customers who engage with us, building a unified set of procedures which provide consumers not only with the products and services that they want, but with the convenience and ease-of-use that they crave.
I’ve discussed the importance of marketing automation in building omni-channel strategies. Omni-channel is the future of customer engagement, and being there for the customer throughout all the twists and turns of modern interaction is vital in retaining these customers and growing our businesses.
However, this also represents the warmth at the heart of marketing automation, and the personal touch that such automation enables us to provide.
The modern consumer expects convenience as standard. The modern consumer has a smartphone, a personal computer, and a tablet device, and utilizes all of these channels – in different ways – when they shop for products and services.
The modern consumer has a busy life. The modern consumer doesn’t have time to visit our bricks-and-mortar stores during office hours when they need support, or to spend their lunch break navigating complex customer service telephone lines when one-to-one interaction is required.
Businesses which understand this, and are able to go the extra mile to provide support, assistance and genuine value to a customer, are businesses which are primed for success. Warmth, personal communication, and a genuine desire to give customers what they need; all of this is vital in modern business, and all of this is underpinned by a solid, reliable automation system.
Back to you
What do you think about the link between marketing automation and personalization? Please use the comment section below to share your thoughts and views. I’d love to know what you think.