Just what is marketing automation? For most content marketers right now, it means using the great tools out there to automate email marketing campaigns. And these tools have been amazing – helping to segment audiences, scheduling automatic emails that are differentiated for those segments, and providing key tracking metrics. Such tools have streamlined and eased the content marketer’s job, so that s/he can focus on the actual creation of content for those emails.
More Than an Email Marketing Campaign
The concept of content marketing automation is rapidly expanding. Yes, it is still focused on the customer experience and relationship management, but it now encompasses a vast range of customer communication, nurturing of leads, social media management, analytics, and market research.
If you are looking for a recent example other than email, think no further than chatbots – automated and intelligent means of communicating with customers to answer questions and resolve issues. And when they are armed with artificial intelligence and machine learning, their ability to respond grows.
The point of marketing automation is to ease the job of marketers and yet not lose the critical personal interaction that today’s consumer demands.
Automation, in fact, is a great option for much greater efficiency, time savings, and certainly a reduction in costs. And, if the customer is satisfied and happy, then it’s a “win-win.” Given this understanding, in a recent survey, 44% of respondents stated that automation will be a more important skill next year (2020).
How to Implement Automation
The first steps are four-fold:
01. Decide Upon Which Tasks Will be Automated
What are the most mundane and repetitive tasks that you are performing? Certainly, one of them is emailing, but there are others too. How many times are you answering the same questions or resolving the very same issues, such as return/refund procedures?
02. Research and Evaluate Automated Software Options
There are some well-known and popular software options out there, and they have great reputations. But you should also look beyond just the top offerings, because you may have unique needs, and there may be less-known options for those specific needs. You may end up with more than one option. Once you do decide, moreover, take the free trial – you want to make sure your selections have been right.
03. Get the Team Up to Speed
All new software involves a learning curve. A marketing leader should master it and then train the others on his team until everyone is comfortable using it. Not doing this means that it will not receive optimum use.
04. Assess Effectiveness
Most automation tools come with analytics built in, and you should take advantage of the data to evaluate the effectiveness of each element/function you are using.
About Those Options…
Once you have identified the processes you intend to automate, you will want to explore the options (#2 above, expanded). You might want to begin by looking at these big players in the market:
This is one of the best-known automation tools out there, and can provide a wide array of automation – from emails to CRM, to setting up automated live chat features, and more.
Among other things, this company’s software offers automated management of campaigns, emails, tracking of visitors, personalizing messaging, lead generation, and tools for budget automation.
This is a great platform that focuses more on B2B marketing. It provides automated lead generation, nurturing and scoring, obviously customized and personalized email marketing, integration of content with social media platforms, and more.
Those marketers who really want to focus on customer data and interactions will want to look at this software. It captures data on individual customer behaviors, and then triggers responses according to pre-determined “rules.” When each lead can be profiled, it becomes easier to move them through a sales funnel.
Of course, there are many others, and all can be found through searches. Searching by the specific processes you want to automate will help you find the right one.
Marketers are Not Off the Hook… Not by a Longshot
As wonderful as marketing automation is, it does not create content. That continues to be the responsibility of the marketer and his/her team. And here is what the content must do:
- It must demonstrate expertise and authority in the business niche
- It must educate its target audience
- It must establish relationships and trust between the business and the target audience.
- It must increase brand awareness and web traffic
- It must bring its target audience to making purchasing decisions
In short, automation streamlines and makes the process more efficient, but marketers must control the message – the topics of those messages and how they are presented.
Crafting the Messages
Any content messages fall flat if they do not honor the audience receiving them. The thing about content is that it is not crafted to sell. It is crafted to educate, entertain, or inspire, and, most importantly, to develop trusting relationships with an audience.
Here are some “Golden Rules” for content.
01. The Focus is on the Audience
There is no access to huge amounts of data about consumer behaviors, and marketers should be using it to get a deeper understanding of their target customers. This knowledge will provide insights into wants and needs and thus topics for content. Every piece of content should be crafted to engage the audience.
02. Establish a Voice and Tone that Matches the Business
The content produced by an investment bank will be very different than those produced by companies like Red Bull. Because the audiences are very different. The voice and tone of content has to “fit” the brand. Once a voice and tone are established (serious, light, kicky), stick with it. It’s what your audience expects. Can you imagine Red Bull producing a piece of content that deals with the scientific lab research behind its product? Never.
03. Humanize the Content
Audiences want to believe that the content is produced by a human with the goal of establishing a relationship. This is why marketers often tell stories, feature individuals within the company and happy customers in their content, and put a “human” face on the business.
04. Don’t Be Boring
If all of your content looks the same, you are boring. And bored people don’t focus on what they are reading/seeing. But even more? They stop coming to visit you. Mix up those pieces – tell a story; create an informal video; throw in a piece that is nothing but humor; come up with some inspirational quotes for no other reason than they are cool. You can even set up a type of format schedule, so your audience knows what the “plan” is. The point is this: you engage people with variety.
If you struggle with variety, creativity, and compelling copy, then get some professional help. There are lots of creative copywriters out there who can weave a topic into an amazing piece. Try freelancer websites, like Upwork, or professional writing services, like Trust My Paper, and check out what you can get.
05. Be Trendy
Fads and trends come and go. And in your niche, there are trends. Capitalize on current trends in your niche, but as they fade, you need to fade from them too. You have to stay current, so use tools that will tell you what is most popular and trending at any given time. Buzzsumo is one pretty cool resource for this (as are your competitors, so feel free to spy a bit).
06. Use the 80/20 Rule
Also known as the Pareto Principle, in terms of content, 80% should do anything but relate to your products or services. 20% can feature products or services and CTA’s related to them. Sticking with the 80/20 rule will endear you to your audience.
07. Automation Allows Testing
When content delivery is automated, it can be easily analyzed for effectiveness. All automation tools provide for this, so use all of the available data to continue with what is working and fix what isn’t.
In the End…
It’s still all about the customer experience. So, you have to think about the balance. What can you automate and still keep your audience comfortable, engaged, and feeling important and nurtured? And what must you assume yourself, in order to maintain the necessary relationships? Automation is wonderful, especially with the new AI and ML technology, but don’t let it become impersonal.