As the range of available tools for digital marketing continues to expand, so will the range of opportunities for marketing automation. But entrepreneurs and online businesses should be wary of drawing the wrong conclusion from this trend. The growth of marketing automation does not mean that you will soon be able to install an app and simply rely on it to send on marketing materials through your email or social media accounts. The need for working relationships with digital marketing firms will not diminish, but those firms should become more and more capable of reaching large audiences with relevant and effective content, in a short time frame.
The point of marketing automation, like any other automation, is not to remove the human element but rather to let professionals and experts focus more of their attention on the creative aspects of their industry while letting machines and algorithms take over the processes that require repetitive actions or large-scale calculations and data processing. Digital marketing firms should always be on the lookout for new tools that can be trained on the sorts of procedures that they typically perform for various different clients as means of implementing and refining a creative campaign.
It’s by no means impossible for individual companies to acquire the tools of marketing automation and try to use them to take their marketing campaign in-house. But in absence of the marketing experience that professional firms would use to hone those tools and direct them toward the right outcomes, no company should assume they will have more success going this route with marketing automation than they would if they went in-house with a more traditional, step-by-step digital marketing campaign.
There may come a day when algorithms can recommend creative content based on certain inputs about your customer base and marketing goals. If and when that day comes, it may be worth reassessing whether marketing automatic diminishes the value of a third-party marketing team. But until that day comes, it’s a good idea for all the clients of such a team to manage their expectations about marketing automation and to think of it as a topic that tests the efficiency of the team they’re currently working with.
Company owners and marketing managers may have to have a conversation with those teams in order to gain an appropriate understanding of how marketing automation is being used. If it isn’t obvious that relevant tools are being used, they doesn’t mean they aren’t. As a matter of fact, when marketing automation is visible to the untrained eye, it’s probably a sign that it’s being used ineffectively. You can usually tell when you’re talking to a machine, but you shouldn’t be able to tell if the product you’re using was assembled by one.
Example: Chat Bots
Then again, talking to a machine is actually an apt description of one the processes of marketing automation that a digital marketing firm might implement. We’ve discussed the role of chat bots in earlier posts, and we’ve acknowledged that there are good and bad ways of utilizing them. If they are well programmed based on intensive data analysis by a digital marketing firm, then they can very efficiently direct website visitors or app users to the exact content they’re most interested in. However, if they’re over-utilized or poorly refined, the same tools can be an annoyance to one’s target audience, and drive them away.
Chat bots a prime example of tools that can take certain marketing functions out of human hands, but only if they are put into place by people who know what they are doing. It’s still entirely up to human beings with an understanding of creative marketing to design the initial inputs so that chat bots will capture the attention of those who need them, produce the outcomes they’re promising, and avoid negative associations in people who neither need nor want to use them.
Example: Customized Content
Chat bots are a well-worn example of marketing automation, and thus they are potentially useful as a test of how well a digital marketing company adopted the use of automation tools early in its operations. This in turn may be a sign of how well they’re able to manage the inputs and outputs of newer marketing automation tools, which might create much more sophisticated changes in user experience.
The most familiar modern examples of marketing automation are paradoxically inaccessible to small businesses and firms in niche industries. But as the range of available tools continues to grow, there will inevitably be more opportunities to apply lessons from these examples to all sorts of digital marketing campaigns.
You may not even think of the home screens you see on streaming services or large-scale online retailers as examples of marketing automation, but that is exactly what they are. In almost every such case, every user sees different content upon login. And even when logged out, content may vary based on factors like device location and the type of device using. All of the differences are subtle ways of attempting to appeal to the individual user through a process of marketing automation that was carefully adopted and refined by the company in question.
It’s probably too much to expect for a boutique digital marketing firm to design websites so they’ll display highly personalized content for different types of visitors. However, this isn’t to say that smaller web marketing teams with a more niche clientele can’t take a critical look at the same sorts of data points that giant tech companies would use when refining their marketing automation tools.
Even if the tools in question don’t create many significant changes in user experience for visitors to a smaller online retailer, they can be a source of valuable insight into the site’s visitors. This in turn can set the stage for continued refinement of overall user experience. And as marketing automation tools continue to develop, every adequately experienced marketing firm may be able to help every client to reach out to every potential customer with the sort of personal attention that only digital automation can achieve.