Jenna Tiffany: The top 3 things to watch out for when using Marketing Automation
Marketing automation is wonderful. It’s taken so much of the hard work away from marketing departments that it’s tempting to sit back, relax, and let the software run the show.
But let’s not forget that marketing automation isn’t there to replace human marketers. It’s there to enable them. The software can only work with what you give it, and it can only do what you tell it to. So it’s easy to make mistakes!
Here are three of the most common issues to watch out for when using marketing automation:
1. Not using MA to its full potential
I get it. Software can be complex, we’re not all genius hackers who speak like eight different programming languages. It’s tempting to set up something basic and leave the MA to do its stuff.
This is especially true if the platform you’ve paid for doesn’t offer the right kind of training to its subscribers. Often, marketers are presented with an MA subscription and told to get on with it. They find themselves flailing in the dark, so they input as much as they can work out by themselves, and then they step away.
Marketing Automation software has a lot of potential. It can make the life of a marketing team an awful lot easier, and enable you to optimize your campaigns. But you do need to know how to use it and what you want it to achieve. Define your strategy, set your objectives and then use the software to help you achieve your goals.
Once you’ve determine your strategy, you need to make sure you’re getting the best out of your software. Invest the time and resources into proper training. Quite honestly, this should happen before you even buy your software. Build MA into your strategy, and train in the basics before you look at any of the options available. That way, you’ll know what you need, what you’re capable of, and what’s best for your operation!
2. Content is a feeder
Marketing automation runs on content. If you don’t have the right kind of content to feed the software, what’s the point in your subscription?
Good quality, relevant content is web-fuel. It’s what draws people in. It’s what they engage with. It’s how we marketers get our messages across.
Without it, you can have the best tech aligned with the best people around – but you’ll fail.
Lack of good content is a big problem. The crucial word here being ‘Good’. There’s plenty of clickbaity fluff out there, but that’s not going to engage your audience or put your MA through its paces.
It’s easy for people to ignore automated rubbish. Every second email which comes in is spammy junk. People delete emails before the content even hits their consciousness. If you’re lucky, they’ll hit 'delete' before that spammy content you’ve sent out damages your brand by association.
So, you need to get your content marketing strategy right. Make sure that the content you’re sending out is good quality, has value for your audience, and is engaging. Plan ahead, to make sure that you can keep the momentum going – but don’t deviate into clickbaiting or keyword-stuffing. That way lies brand ruination. It has always been and will always need to be about your audience.
How does this apply to MA?
Well, when you’ve got an automated platform publishing content on a pre-set schedule, it’s tempting to bank a load of filler and leave the bot to it. But this isn’t what MA software is for.
If you’re going to get the best out of your software then, sure, get it to schedule content releases at timely intervals. But make sure that the content you’re priming it with is timely, relevant, and of GOOD QUALITY. Otherwise, it’ll be obvious that you’re using an automated system, and nobody thinks twice about ignoring a bot.
If you want your MA to perform at its best, don’t feed it junk spam. Feed the software with good quality content. Content that will power your customers along their path to purchase!
3. Over-reliance on the software
Customer journeys in the modern world can be pretty complex. With hundreds of options to choose from, tons of ways to interact with brands, and a whole lot of psychological factors at play...well, things aren’t as simple as they used to be!
The trouble is, unless you configure the software to your needs and keep a constant eye on it, marketing automation software won’t be helping towards achieving your strategy. It’s complicated software, but in many cases the software may only do what it’s told, and doesn’t always take into consideration the wider context around it, unable to deviate on its own accord. Which means that it can end up a bit too rigid and rule-bound to effectively engage with non-classic customer journeys.
So, if a lead is very warm but approaching from an angle that the software doesn’t ‘expect’, that lead will be ignored. The automation won’t step in to clinch the deal, and the lead will go cold.
This isn’t the only way in which software rigidity can be a problem. Take future campaigns, for example. Looking at what we did well and what we did poorly is how we refine and improve our marketing skills. When human marketers take the leads, each new campaign should (in theory!) be better than the last.
But not all software can learn like that. Once you’ve told the software what rules to follow, it’ll carry on doing that no matter what, until you're utilising Machine Learning and AI tech. Aside from that, other MA doesn’t necessarily learn from past campaign mistakes without your input.
Darwin famously called adaptability ‘the key to survival’. The same is true for marketing – it's marketing teams which can adapt with (or, ideally, before!) a fast-changing world which will flourish. If you’re relying too much on non-adaptable automated systems, you may have a problem.
Look, MA software is great. It can do a lot of that vital stuff which would take humans ages (and bore us!). But it can’t do that creative and adaptable thinking which marketing teams desperately need. It also can’t do the basic human touch thing which is SO important for developing a relationship with customers.
The trick here is to use the software to its full potential – but to recognise where that potential ends. Don’t get over-reliant on the software. There’s a lot that it can’t do. The human element is still the most important thing you’ve got going for you. The job of the software isn’t to replace human marketers. MA’s job is to make it easier for marketers do what they do best: connect with other humans. Don’t forget that!