Marketing automation is coming! Marketing automation is coming! We’ve been hearing that one since at least 2014, but the question remains as to when it will actually arrive. It’s no wonder people are looking forward to it eagerly. The promise of being able to tie your customer databases to your marketing system, and have a computer automatically sending out precisely-targeted messages without much human involvement is certainly exciting.
Are we much closer to that goal than we were a few years ago? Is marketing automation something your ecosystem could expect to be utilizing in 2019? Let’s take a look.
The Future of Automation
At the high end, there is a lot of interesting work being done by the largest organizations. Google recently posted a fascinating “Think With Google” article specifically about their implementation of marketing automation systems. It’s revealing both in terms of how much potential there genuinely is… but also in how hard it would be for smaller operations to embrace.
Among the highlights from their article:
- They tested a huge number different data points in their ads, tracking response rates in great detail, looking for aspects which best improved brand awareness, or drove conversions.
- They’re utilizing heuristic “machine learning” to crunch and average out hundreds of previous campaigns, looking for commonalities. This system is starting to get better than the humans at predicting the effectiveness of specific messages.
- They’ve deployed thousands of templates for different use cases, tuned to use all manner of data on users to deliver relevant ads. Apparently they even consider local sports team scores!
- They aren’t abandoning human creativity, and are still seeking out productive partnerships and creative solutions a computer can’t think of.
It’s fascinating stuff, but it requires resources and data-crunching ability well beyond most organizations. Indeed, it’s hard to think of more than a few dozen companies in the world with the capabilities to do this sort of thing. Mostly search engines, online superstores, social media platforms, maybe a few top-tier games companies.
What Marketing Automation Could Do For You In 2019
So what are the options for an organization that isn’t worth billions of dollars? There are still some smaller-scale technologies you could potentially embrace. After all, even something as basic as a social media post scheduler like Hootsuite is technically “marketing automation.”
- Learning your own key signals. Sure, you may not have Google’s data-crunching capabilities, but you can still keep an eye on your various marketing campaigns, track their effectiveness, and start looking for successful common elements. These elements can then be earmarked for future leveraging.
- Social media scheduling. Speaking of Hootsuite, you really should be using a program like it to handle your social media posts. It makes life a lot easier, particularly if you’re maintaining several different accounts. Just don’t forget to have someone onhand to do live responses to customers!
- Predictive lead scoring. If you have a strong lead/customer database with clean data, this is definitely do-able. There are several systems on the market which can crawl through your leads, scoring them based on your specified criteria, to select the best-qualified leads. This can even be used to prioritize which leads you refer to your partners!
- “Smart Content” and email customization. Another achievable tech are customized emails, tailored per lead. This is good, since it helps keep the materials relevant. Smart systems can take content from other sources (like your blog or social media feed) and re-purpose it into an email format.
The Dangers Of Marketing Automation
Finally, keep in mind that there are several potential drawbacks to marketing automation. The biggest ones include:
- Most systems will cost money, often a monthly subscription service fee. You’ll need to do a lot of cost analysis to decide if it’s worth the investment.
- Marketing automation is absolutely not a fire-and-forget solution. Even the most basic services will need some days or weeks to get up to speed, and many will require a substantial learning curve – for both you AND the smart systems.
- “To err is human; to really foul up requires a computer.” When marketing automation can communicate with thousands or millions of leads, that means gigantic mistakes are possible.