Marketing automation as art and science

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Art and automation are not two words that usually go together. Art is creative, subjective, evocative. Automation sounds robotic, impersonal, scheduled, efficient.

The irony of marketing automation is that it leverages an art: the art of relevance. Marketing automation practices and tools help to capture customer propensities and predispositions based on actual customer behaviors, then help to create and send out customized, relevant and timely marketing content to that customer.

In other words, automation is creating and sending out the evocative, subjective, creative (art) messaging that helps us, as b-to-b marketers, better engage with our prospects and clients.

The most critical key is relevance, and recognizing that as b-to-b marketers, we are communicating with individuals and human beings, not business entities.

In our oversaturated world of marketing messages, an individual is exposed to 5,000 marketing messages each day. With the explosive growth of social media, our outreach on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs is creating a deafening din that is almost impenetrable by marketing messaging. When marketers contribute to this cacophony by blasting out mass offers and content not tailored to the audience, there is the potential for serious, irreversible damage to a company's brands and bottom line.

Today, because of irrelevant communications, prospects are reacting negatively, regardless of the channel. The intrusive nature of irrelevant messaging leads many not only to ignore the message but also to take negative actions proactively by unsubscribing, using blockers and—even worse—voting with their online voices, peer-to-peer reviews and, ultimately, with their dollars.

In a world in which online conversations and peer-to-peer recommendations—not marketing messages—are the influencers and determiners of brand perception and revenue, it is critically important for marketers to avoid alienating prospects and customers with additional noise that does not resonate with them.

In the era of customer power, companies become relevant through bonding, not branding.

Positive, proactive customer interaction and personalization are most effectively achieved by listening to, capturing and leveraging actual customer behaviors. Marketers looking to bond with their customers mine the gold that lies within data to harvest valuable customer insights. These insights then become the foundation of all marketing: targeting, messaging and measuring.

Marketing automation tools can help capture inbound customer behaviors to determine the best outbound customer marketing.

So why are marketing automation tools needed? According to the Chief Marketing Officer Council, making communications more personal, targeted and timely is a leading strategy. There are also, however, three common deficiencies:

  • Poor data gathering techniques and analytics.
  • Siloed data and, as a result, inaccessible data.
  • Inaccurate and/or unclean data.
The dirty little secret in our dirty, siloed and unanalyzed data is that most every company faces these same issues.

Enter marketing automation.

Marketing automation tools and platforms help support what I call “precision marketing,” defined as using data-driven insights to improve marketing outcomes. Often it is described as delivering the right message to the right person at the right time via the right channels.

We b-to-b marketers need help to capture and leverage the power that lies latent in data, create customized content based on that analysis and then measure results and learn from each marketing action. Over time and through iterative learning, we get better and better at content marketing and speaking relevantly to our customers.

Leveraging customer insights—including all previous interactions so that present and future interactions remain relevant and engaging—is the key to fortifying future revenue. This can be a rather daunting task without the marketing automation tools that can help break down the barriers of siloed data to improve the relevancy of our communications.

When leveraged properly, marketing automation can drive big results for retention, engagement and your bottom line. Take action. Bond, don't brand. Experience the better marketing outcomes that lie ahead.

Sandra Zoratti is VP-marketing at Ricoh Co., and author of “Precision Marketing: Maximizing Revenue Through Relevance” (Kogan Page, 2012). She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @sandraz, as well as Facebook and LinkedIn.

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