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Can Big Data Lead to Big Love? Marketing Automation and Your Customers

Marketing automation may be based on calculated processes and hard data, but it can be used to build warm and dynamic relationships with your customers when used correctly. Your campaigns can give your customers exactly what they are looking for from you — if you share the right content with them in the right way. Susan Tormollen (@tormollen), VP Marketing at Balihoo, knows that marketing automation can give you a lot more than just clicks and sales.

“By using marketing automation,” says Tormollen, “you are able to better understand your customer's preferences and desires. This translates into both a stronger relationship with the contact when they are in the early prospect stage of the relationship, all the way through to when they become a customer.

Drew McLellan (@DrewMcLellan), top dog of Drew’s Marketing Minute, The McLellan Group,  and Agency Management Institute, knows that automation done right can create and interactive experience that gives real value to your customers and prospects.

“Automation allows you to create a user experience that puts the user in the driver’s seat,” explains McLellan. “They can access the exact information they want, how and when they want it. But every potential customer isn’t necessarily going to want exactly the same information.  With automation, you can also create multiple paths, so each person can have a different experience, based on their own needs and interests.”

How do you create campaigns that will give your customers a great experience, and increase their love for you? Every type of marketing media has its own tips and tricks, but McLellan assures all that great service is great service —  no matter how you deliver it.

“Like any marketing, it boils down to the content,” says McLellan. “If you want to create communications that feel very personal and personalized, you’ll need to write your content with that in mind. Make sure the voice matches your brand and isn’t filled with jargon or marketing weasel words. The combination of well written content and automation can create a very personal and very customizable experience for your users and a great sales funnel for you.”

Building A Complaint-Proof Campaign

Everyone can share an example of annoying, overdone contacts from a business who data-captured you. Don’t run the risk of alienating your current customers and contacts. If you are ready to start your marketing automation campaigns, McLellan offers these dos and don’ts for you to remember:

  • Set clear expectations: You need to be very clear about what they’re signing up for and how it’s going to be delivered. This isn’t an area to get cute. Be direct and over communicate.

  • Have plenty of exits: People don’t want to feel trapped in an automation loop. Go out of your way to point to unsubscribe links and option.

  • Over-deliver on content quality: They’ll only stay for as long as you provide value so pile it on! You’re better off communicating a little less but making sure that every communication is packed with useful information. Do this consistently and your audience will stay for years.

Vintage Italian Wisdom for the Modern World

The Pareto Principle, when applied to business, states that 80% of your sales will come from only 20% of your customers. That 20% deserves much more of your attention. An organized marketing automation system can help you learn who your best customers are. Having segmented lists helps you get the right message to the right people — saving you time and effort.

To better understand your customers actions, and make sure you are delivering content they will enjoy, Tormollen recommends that you monitor:

  • When your customer open emails

  • When they engage with content (email content, link to other content like whitepapers and videos, your website)

  • What content they engage with (topics, formats)

  • The frequency with which they choose to engage

  • Conversions that take place

Deepak Gupta (@dgupta5150), who blogs at Marketing By Deepak and is a Marketing Automation Consultant at Autodesk, agrees that you must look carefully at your results in order to target the customers that you want, and to communicate with them in a way they will appreciate and respond favorably to.

“It is extremely important to truly understand, using deep dive data analysis, the segmentation and persona that resonates within each channel,” says Gupta. “With that understanding, one can message according to that particular channel. For instance, social media channels like Twitter and Facebook may attract students or younger professionals, whereas LinkedIn may attract more B2B decision makers."

Businesses Do Not Grow By Automation Alone

Running great campaigns can grow your business, but they will not replace all of your customer service and communication needs. Automated communication can be a great way to deliver an introduction, reminder, and thank you — but customers’ needs may deviate outside of your sequences. Tormollen wants you to be ready to respond to them.

“It is important to also remember that personal engagement beyond automation is essential,” says Tormollen. “At Balihoo, we typically take a test-and-learn approach to better understand when a call vs. an automated communication is the right tactic in the relationship process. You need to be cautious to not rely solely on automation. It's imperative to carefully monitor all stages whether it is lead scoring, messaging, data cleanliness, or unsubscribes. Remembering that each name in your database is actually a living, breathing person helps. It means tweaking and optimizing to ensure you are treating your prospects and customers with respect, as well as leading them down the right path for their needs.”

McLellan agrees that you must still be available to your customers in other forms. “Just because you’re using automation software doesn’t mean you should be hands off.  Always give your audience a way to contact you and your team and make responding to those communications a priority. They’ve given you their attention, so you should return the favor."

Have Patience and Be Nimble

Creating good content and creative campaigns can take a lot of effort. It may be tempting to just focus on one platform, or to re-use the same work everywhere. Your customers do not fit into a single mold, so your campaigns need to be equally unique. Gupta thinks that having campaign entry points on multiple platforms is a great way to capture leads in ways that are most relevant to the customers themselves. 

Gupta explains: “Some customers may prefer to react based on a Facebook Ad, PPC or LinkedIn Ad rather than opening an unsolicited or semi-solicited email. They may a see a marketing message they like, go to your landing page, and then download an asset in exchange for an email address, first name, and last name.”

He continues, “Once that initial handshake has taken place and you have that customer’s attention, you can follow up with emails, retargeting, or display ads for further content delivery and move them along in the marketing funnel from early to mid and eventually late stage. Then some customers who are super busy, like an executive, may prefer to be emailed initially for an initial asset download, and may prefer to be followed up with via emails only as they move through the marketing funnel.

Gupta further emphasizes that success will come from treating your customers as people first, not just prospects. “All too often, I have seen companies try to convert a lead into a sale right away without understanding their true needs and send the wrong message at the wrong time to the wrong person and then hope for a miracle in revenue growth.” Take care in crafting your message and delivery method, and always stay focused on the fact that “customers are simply humans that want to be heard and communicated with respectfully.

Start Today for Successful Relationships

Implementing marketing automation campaigns may be a significant undertaking, but it can no longer be ignored. Gupta thinks that its use will “grow as customers become increasingly complex in how they are approached, and as competition between companies becomes more fierce since customer data becomes more accessible.” Make this data work for you, and communicate with your customers in your own unique, sincere voice. You will find that marketing automation will build great bonds for your business.