Marketing automation is taken as a standard ‘must-do’ these days. While it can bring good results, does everyone know what they are doing when it comes to automating their marketing? Is there one formula that serves any and all cases? How much resources should a company spend in automation? When should an auto-generated conversation be pulled into a manual level of engagement with a company staff member? These are debatable questions, so I gave it a go with a bit of research.
Before we look into the CONCLUSION and RESEARCH results shown below, it is a good thing to re-visit a few thought-provoking concepts related to marketing.
1- THE CONNECTION TO “CLIENTS”
Clients – Paying Users – Consumers – Customers – Buyers: is it all the same? YES and NO. Yes, because all of them are promoting growth to the company they interact with. No, because within each company the “lexicon” will be different, and in most cases deeply connected to the company culture. In the end, money, money, money, will have to change hands for a business to be a business – we are just understanding how it happens.
In Digital times of Internet massification, it is also important to consider “active users” that are not the ones directly paying the bills. Google and Facebook are examples where most users are not paying anything.
Taking THE HEALTH OF THE BUSINESS as an ultimate goal, marketing automation (just as any marketing the business does) will have to be part of a cycle where clients are happy clients and will stay that way. It is cheesy, I know, but the word ‘HAPPINESS’ actually brings together all of the elements needed in a successful marketing strategy.
Happy will mean: a) satisfied with product/service; b) sense of fairness in pricing/fees; c) comfortable with client-company relationship and interaction channels; d) sense of trust in the present and future;
The connection to clients will touch all of these ‘happiness’ points. Marketing will have to be involved in every step of the way and elaborate a plan for all channels to work towards a clear goal. With this in mind, we can start thinking of marketing automation as a “piece-of-the-puzzle”, that can be added into every possible channel/connection point, or not.
The best companies will have the best ‘grades’ on these. But here we already ‘stumble’ upon an important point: MAKING CLIENTS HAPPY COSTS MONEY.
2- COST OF CLIENT HAPPINESS – IS IT WORTH IT?
It is key to understand the cost related to ‘happiness’ at each stage of the business: 1) before client acquisition; 2) during client acquisition; 3) after client acquisition. The importance of each stage will vary depending on the type of business. A SaaS business will most likely value post-sales more than a retail store, which will value the purchasing moment the most.
One step further, the STAGE AND SIZE of a business will also play a part on decisions related to investments in ‘client happiness’.
A small business may be focused in growth and investing more in pre-sales, where an established business will be already integrating the client experience throughout all stages of the relationship.
THE COST here can be calculated down to the last cent. It is really a matter of direct relation to growth, alignment with medium and long-term plans for the business without hurting the short term performance. Being a typical business situation, it will be time to ‘juggle’ resources wisely, performing a great spectacle without compromising the end game.
With this in mind, when should marketing automation be applied? Before deciding on details of the automation, choosing the stage of the relationship and its importance to the overall business will be a great start. This, of course, should also be calculated. Data-based decisions will guarantee that management can effectively implement these “juggling” strategies.
Managing data, however, will take either human resources from within the company, or require that an external partner can do a great job. This brings us to our third point: IS A 3RD PARTY PREPARED TO MANAGE YOUR MARKETING?
3- CAN YOU TRUST A 3RD PARTY FOR MARKETING AUTOMATION?
WHO CAN YOU TRUST? A fair question. How to answer it? SIMPLE – JUST ASK WHY.
If the answers to the question “why should I trust this or that 3rd party company?” are not directly related to what you are aiming to achieve (real business results), then you should probably not trust them.
B2B must not be emotional. Especially when dealing with digital services, it is key to relate any given technology to precise and real applications and results.
CASE STUDY: I had a conversation last week about a company providing an automatic algorithm for “optimal investment strategy” in Social Media content promotion. Being in the field myself, and having access to Social Media Data, I embraced the discussion making questions about ‘how did this company offer that?’ How was it that they could tell another company of the “optimal investment” if all of the money spent in social media promotion is recorded at a very private level, meaning only the company spending it (and the social network) know about the numbers?
It turned out that this company was using social media interactions (and not the money) as a basis for their ‘optimal investment’ metric. The conclusion then was that the “feature” offered is basically a “marketing gimmick”, fooling their clients into believing in a metric not related to the many aspects of a business which need to be analyzed before the words “optimal” and “investment” can be used. Social Media, just as many other aspects of Digital Marketing, does not have a “one-size-fits-all” formula behind it. And that is the beauty of it.
It is worth making all the questions – ‘digging’ deeper will never be a waste of time.
4- IF YOU ARE IN DIGITAL, BE DIGITAL
Marketing is as old as our days in the caves. Who can say if the writings on the wall were not advertising for the next big mammoth hunt? It is in our blood. It became a science. It has evolved and today it is not what it was yesterday.
A common problem in this DIGITAL TRANSITION we are living, is the conversion of knowledge from “analog” to digital. Meaning that many principles valid before the digital age will not work the same way in digital. Marketing automation will deal with a series of data structures, with software and hardware, to deliver results. For a marketer to make a decision in such context, it is key to understand what the technology behind it means.
It is no shame to ask a “techy” friend for advice. It is no shame to go back to school and study digital marketing sitting next to teenagers. It is no shame hiring a digital mind to train the entire “dinosaur” team. But it is a shame to deliver less results because of pride and refusal of evolving. Don’t be that person.
5- RESEARCH RESULTS
I will highlight the main points of their answers over my questions, since this became more of a qualitative research than a quantitative one.
1- QUESTION: Do you use marketing automation? why? and in which stage?
- All of them said YES.
- Main reasons were “speed”, “competitiveness”, “scalability”, “clear data-based view of the process”
- Stages used: PRE and POST sales. On the ‘pre’ stage they mentioned display ads, trial signups, lead generation. On the ‘post’ stage they mentioned loyalty programs, first instance of account management (detecting low usage, promoting engagement), renewal of contracts, surveys, referral programs.
2- QUESTION: Is there a ‘one-size-fits-all’ formula? why?
- All said NO.
- Because the dynamics of each business and each moment in the business will change. Businesses must adapt to each moment they are facing and focus on not making mistakes. One mistake in a badly setup marketing automation will resonate very loud in the market, making potential and current clients less likely to spend more in the company. Automation should serve a specific objective, and not become the entire relationship a company has with its clients.
3- QUESTION: Does Digital Marketing “suck the soul out” of the true company-client relationship? why?
- NO. If it does it is not being done correctly.
- Because the ‘digital’ is just there to make things easier for both sides, clients get a faster response into simple issues, companies save resources. At some point, in most businesses, human interaction will need to happen. The more digital a business is, the better communication strategy and branding it needs to have to keep any kind of ‘soul’ alive. It is very unlikely that clients will look for the ‘soul’ of a business, they will notice the presence of it when that business exceeds their expectations, and digital can help on that.
In the case-by-case universe of digital marketing, marketing automation must be carefully looked into before it is ‘set loose’. Companies have the need to reach more clients and in the world of today these clients can be across the globe, far from the physical headquarters.
It matters to be real, independent of being digital or “analog” in the client relationship. It is important to be consistent and deliver true results and a reliable positioning no matter what.
A RISK involved with marketing automation is of not only making mistakes, but of not knowing that mistakes are being made and continue to do things wrong.
If you go digital, be digital, live by data-based decisions, and don’t be afraid of reaching out if help is needed. It is not a shame to learn, but it is a shame to treat your client community badly because you are too proud to step out of your comfort zone.
GET OUT THERE – and automate, but consciously.