The Future of Marketing Automation
Why Today’s Tech Should Facilitate – Not Replace – Human Engagement & Interaction
The marketing technology that exists today offers staggeringly complex and advanced functionality to help you kick your sales prospecting and customer retention processes into beast mode. Marketing automation options are endless.
But, buyer beware.
Even sunshine hurts if you get too much, and too much software and marketing automation just for the sake of it can hinder—not help—your sales and retention efforts.
With the power of artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and smart algorithms accessible to brands of every size and industry, the last decade of marketing automation has taught us a critical lesson:
Digital engagement automation should play a crucial role in your marketing strategy to help you identify and move prospects through the sales funnel and motivate cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. It should also enable you to personalize interactions and aggregate prospect and customer data.
Most importantly, it should enable you to provide personal, one-on-one, human-facilitated sales, and service of the highest level.
Why? Ultimately, people buy from people, not brands.
We’re in a time where too many marketers have gone off the rails automating so many interactions that they have become completely disconnected from their prospects and customers.
In an attempt to be hyper-personal, they’re actually losing that human touch.
The future of marketing automation is all about using automation to facilitate, not replace, informed and personalized high-touch service.
Here are the 5 key areas of next-level marketing automation to consider:
The Latest Trends in Marketing Automation
If you read our recent blog about building a comprehensive marketing stack, then you already know that marketing automation software should be a critical component of your integrated software system.
Here’s a teeny history lesson: About a decade ago, marketing automation technology and strategies went mainstream. Over the past ten years, as tech has evolved and marketing automation software adoption rates have skyrocketed (with 51 percent of companies using it today), businesses reached the tipping point in marketing automation utilization (and then catapulted over the edge).
What we mean is that too many brands are now maximizing marketing automation tools within their prospect and retention strategies, because they can.
Rather than bringing brands closer to sales opportunities, however, automation overload is creating barriers between brands and their customers.
Digital automation can help to scale and streamline workflows that otherwise can’t be managed manually. However, when overused, marketing automation results in entities becoming more detached from their prospects and customers, nearly eliminating every human to prospect/customer interaction that is critical to service excellence.
The Importance of a Human Touch in Marketing Automation
The brands and marketing strategists who are leveraging marketing automation well are using marketing automation to facilitate human interactions, not entirely eliminate and replace them.
The most successful brands—in any industry—are those whose competitive advantage stems from offering high-touch service and direct access both to prospects during the sales process, and customers throughout the length of the relationship.
This lesson is equally important for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and start-ups. If you are hoping to grow your personal brand, and think you can become wealthy with a set-it-and-forget-it marketing automation, sales, and service strategy that leaves you plenty of time to cash checks and cash out, think again.
The most successful business leaders amp their hustle and their revenue by being accessible, responsive, and attentive to prospects and customers. They build genuine relationships with key clients and leads.
That sometimes means getting into your Instagram DM, and replying to people’s specific questions. Or replying directly to clients via your customer service email, addressing their specific concerns, situation and learning goals. Human-to-human.
We know, you’re sitting there thinking, are you telling me that a fully automated marketing strategy is not the way to build a brand?
Yes. Yes, we are.
More specifically, however, we’re saying that marketing has its place in informing your sales and customer development strategies and streamlining communications within your sales funnel—but that should be its only role. To take your brand to the next level, you have to do the things that don’t scale and do them one person at a time by using the insights gleaned from your up-front marketing strategy and the data that lives in your customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Bottom line: The only way to build raving brand advocates is to deliver personal attention.
Now, let’s talk about how to get it done.
A Place for Technology and Technology in Its Place
To best leverage tech without losing your human touch, consider the following three keys to leveraging modern marketing stack components to inform a personal, one-on-one approach to prospect and customer relationship management:
1. Use tech to know where your time is best spent
Hint: it’s with your highest revenue potential prospects and customers.
Yes, we just said that to build your business, you need to interact one-on-one with your prospects and customers,. Let’s quantify that statement.
In reality, you may have thousands of contacts you are actively nurturing in your sales funnel, but there is only one you, 24 hours in a day, and seven days in a week.
Save your highest-touch, one-on-one time for prospects who are in the buying phase of the customer journey, and who have high revenue potential. This level of data may be obtained through marketing automation solutions and stored in your CRM.
Which leads us to number two below.
2. Use marketing technology to identify prospects and their sales funnel location.
If you strategically build your software stack, you should have access to all the data and insights you need to understand where prospects are in the sales funnel. You can also identify existing customers who are ripe for cross-sells and upsells.
For example, the person who clicked on a social post and read your recent blog that gives a high-level overview of your software category and its benefits is likely still in the learning phase of the buyer journey. The prospect who clicked on a promotional email and navigated to your checkout page, however, is probably ready to buy if given the right incentive—like an offer for a one-on-one, personalized software demonstration.
This leads us to number three.
3. Understand the engagement data you need to inform your marketing strategy.
Leverage your marketing automation software, CRM, checkout page software, and other software stack elements to collect such behavioral data as:
- Website Pageviews – This can tell you which visitors are learning about your products and reaching your checkout pages without making a purchase.
- Search History – Understand what products or information visitors are searching for on your website to inform your product development roadmap and your promotional strategy.
- Purchase History – Personalizing future offers based on purchase history can significantly boost repeat sales, subscriptions, cross-sells, and up-sells.
Click here for a deep dive into seven performance statistics you need to know to run your business.
Bonus Ninja Tactic: If the idea of such analysis and personalization feels overwhelming, understand that you don’t need to build one-off campaigns for each prospect.
Especially if you are managing a prospect list of hundreds or thousands, manual assessment and tailoring are impossible. Use the data you extrapolate to build actionable and informed customer segments in your marketing automation software, and implement campaigns based on customer behavior patterns and sales funnel location.
For example, consider campaigns aimed at:
- Targeting website visitors who have never made a purchase with a special promotional offer
- Encouraging annual repeat purchasers to migrate to a subscription plan
- Move loyal customers to the next highest product segment tier
- Reengage customers who haven’t made a purchase in six months to a year
Where the Magic Happens: Forget All-in-One Solutions—Today’s Marketing Automation Tech Best Practices are All About Integrations
If you read our previous blog post, 15 Marketing Stack Components You Need to Grow Your Business Now, then you know that there are a plethora of niche software system categories available to help you grow your brand and boost revenue.
The best marketers are leveraging these tools to move prospects through the sales funnel and identify high-touch opportunities.
To identify such sales candidates, you need data. But if you’re using separate systems to identify and target prospects and customers, as well as collect engagement data about them in return, you will end up with fragmented data that doesn’t give you the holistic insights you need without a full-time data analyst and a smart computer that could rival those at NASA.
For example, what good are email open rates from your email marketing automation system if you can’t identify where those prospects are in your sales cycle using data in your CRM?
Furthermore, what good are retargeting statistics from your social media platform if you can’t easily send engaged prospects a follow-up promotional email from your marketing automation software?
The key to maximizing your software stack is a reliance on a single data set that flows from system to system. That means your marketing stack must be integrated.
Re-read that last sentence. Siloed systems that rely on their own disparate data sets result in duplicative data entry, manual management, and errors. The most successful marketers are building software stacks that send and receive data from a single data repository—typically a CRM—using smart integrations.
Usually managed through application programming interfaces (API), such software integrations allow you to achieve the key to fully maximizing your software stack: data ubiquity.
Software stack data synergies will enable you to execute personalized marketing communications, and then analyze the results at the customer level. From there, you’ll know when it’s time to make an impact through one-on-one sales.
An integrated software stack that shares a single data repository is the best way to cultivate a comprehensive view of your prospects and customers to facilitate effective, impactful, and informed personal service.
Tie Together your Marketing Automation with White Glove Service
Remember that the goal of leveraging marketing software and integrated data to help you build personalized outreach campaigns is to move prospects through your sales funnel to the point where you can interact with them one-on-one, using what you already know about them to help you close a deal.
Therefore it is critical for every personal interaction you have with customers and prospects to be outstanding.
70 percent of people won’t forgive a business if they receive bad customer service.
To bolster your ability to provide the highest quality personal brand interactions, consider these four customer service strategies:
Be Responsive and Accessible. Respond to all inbound correspondence, including email, phone, or web form. Do so promptly and courteously.
Especially if the request is for more information, pricing, or a solution demonstration, you should respond with personal outreach within 24 hours. In those moments where you have the attention of a prospect who is actively in the buying stage of the sales cycle, you can exponentially boost your sales closing rates if you act quickly, attentively, courteously.
Be Personal. Use the information you have gathered in your integrated marketing stack to make your interactions relevant and personal.
For example, if you are giving a live demonstration of your software, do your homework about your prospect in advance and tailor your demo to be sure you are addressing their needs.
If, for example, you know the prospect’s company has less than ten employees, be sure to point out your software’s team collaboration features. Or, if you are hoping to move a prospect from your competitor’s product to yours, and your reputation management software informed you that your competitor recently experienced a data breach, be sure to put the prospect’s mind at ease by addressing your solution’s data security protections.
Add a Live Chat Feature to Your Website. No one in your company can likely close a one-on-one sale like you.
If you often feel like all it takes to earn a new customer is your ability to speak to them directly, then a live chat feature can put you in direct contact with prospects actively engaged with your brand and your offerings.
Live chat allows you to answer shoppers’ questions, delight them with personalized and accessible service, and even help them through the checkout process.
Live chat also helps to boost revenue. Website visitors that engage with your brand via live chat are worth 4.5 times more than visitors that don’t.
Data also shows that there is a ten percent increase in the average order value among customers who engaged in a chat before making a purchase.
Remember that the key here is a live chat with a real person—not a bot.
Live chat is one more opportunity for a representative of your brand to be present and accessible to customers and provide the highest quality service they want and deserve. This is also another way in which your marketing automation facilitates a human touch at a key time in the customer’s journey.
Monitor and Respond to All Communication Channels. Today’s consumers expect anytime, anywhere, any channel access to brands.
That means they demand more than one channel to contact your service and sales teams, and you need to monitor those channels.
A recent study found that 33 percent of Facebook customer queries are left unanswered. A brand that doesn’t respond promptly to customers or prospects is likely to lose market share, so put a plan in place to monitor social media engagements, web forms, support and service email addresses, and phone lines to ensure no customer outreach ever falls into an inquiry black hole.
By offering personal, attentive, responsive, multi-channel service and support, you will differentiate your brand from those relying so heavily on engagement marketing automation that they are failing at being human.
Today’s tech is only becoming smarter, more advanced, and more intuitive. It will always play a role in brand development, marketing, and service.
That being said, it needs to stop replacing the totality of your customer and service interactions.
Make sure to leverage the best of technology—its data mining abilities, its workflow automation, and its sales cycle identification capabilities—to facilitate, not replace, high-quality customer service.
Do this, and you will stand out in a world of overly digitized, overly automated, impersonal competitors who are leaving market share on the table by migrating too far away from the heart of genuine, quality service.
It’s all about the part where two people shake hands and agree to work together. Create the conditions for this human touch.