On Thursday, I will be presenting at the All About Marketing Tech Virtual Conference & Expo on the topic of targeting and automation. One of the themes I plan to hit upon is about how companies are hindering their marketing automation success with needless complexity. This topic falls squarely in the “land of shiny objects,” which is a recurring theme in many of my posts.
This theme in my posts and the 1:10 p.m. ET session, “Using Automation + Targeting to Engage and Convert,” focuses on how tempting technology can be to the marketing practitioner and how it can lead to the desire to do too many things — to detrimental effect. However, there are three things you can do to manage automation better.
Step 1 in Marketing Automation
First, make sure you have a customer strategy. If you do not have a solid strategy, then you will be automating a bunch of tactics. Unless these tactics sit under a cohesive strategy, they may work against each other.
For example, a price-focused customer acquisition program may hurt long-term brand development or pricing power. When you add automation to this scenario, it will supercharge the tactic and potentially cause greater harm.
Second, make sure you have a test-and-learn agenda. Automation is a very data and metrics-driven process and it is managed by humans, using those same data points and metrics.
Successful marketing automation involves iterative learning to drive growth. Therefore, knowing what you are trying to achieve through automation and running multiple tests to better understand the underlying dynamics is critical.
What tends to happen, however, is that too many objectives are pushed through the automation system and the ability to learn is muddled by an excess of data and a dearth of focus.
The advice I often give is:
“Because you can do something through automation, it does not mean you should.”
Creating a learning agenda you can manage and identifying the critical metrics needed for evaluation are critical first steps before automating a marketing function.
Third, make sure you have a pivot plan. A pivot plan anticipates how you will modify your automation program and lists the levers at your disposal.
For example, if results are not coming in as expected, you may alternate content, alternate segments or redefine the automation goals.
Doing all three at once will most likely leave you as clueless as when you began. While this seems like marketing management 101, it is easy to lose sight of this with automation. Automation generally promises rapid decision-making over volumes of interactions and self-learning capabilities.
As a result, it is tempting to get out of the way and let it do its magic. In the near to mid-term, despite automation’s usefulness, this will not substitute for strategic and management thinking.
I am in no way discouraging the use of marketing automation. It is not only the future, but it is also the present and is driving positive results.
Successful marketers need to start experimenting with the technology now.
However, marketing automation is also not so wonderous and awe-inspiring that we forget that it needs management and strategy. That, in turn, means balancing lofty automation goals with what you can managerially digest.