The other day as I wandered around Melbourne International airport I felt a little uneasy by just how many apps and other online platforms served up content relevant to my upcoming trip. My banking application popped up with a notification asking me if I wanted to register my overseas travel, opening Google on my phone automatically served up my flight information, somehow my Airbnb accommodation had been added to my Google calendar and the ads in my Facebook feed presented a plethora of tourist activities upon landing at my destination.

On the one hand I love the improved experience I get from each of these businesses and on the other I still feel a little bit uncomfortable with my every move being observed and in many cases used to ‘sell to me’. Enter the age of automation.

Whether you agree with the online monitoring of everything we do or not, it’s worth thinking about how technology and automation can be used to improve your customer’s experience, leading to greater satisfaction and ultimately customer retention. For the customer, the seamless flow of information appears magically crafted by phone fairies but in reality a programmer somewhere in the world programmed some conditional statements into the code. While your business may not be in the market of tracking your customers every move or their search history there are still many customer interactions that you can automate.

Technology isn’t just about making life simpler for consumers but also for us marketers and business operators. Marketing automation should enable you to better engage with your consumers, past present and future without taking any of your time. While it may take some initial legwork to get it established, once the automation is in place it will make your life easier! Automated communications enable you to nurture your prospects with personalised, useful content assisting to convert them into customers, later increasing their engagement and satisfaction until they become loyal customers. Automated marketing may require an in initial investment of both time and funds to establish it properly but provides an excellent return on investment.

So where do you start?

The first step with any new marketing strategy, automated or not is to revisit your goals. What are you trying to achieve? It’s better to look at your current communications approach and consider whether it is in fact right for your customers’ needs and wants rather than simply automating a process because it is the way it has always been done. Consider questions like; is this the best time to contact a prospect? What do they want to hear about from us after 1 month as a customer? When would be a good time to ask them for feedback on their experience as a customer? And so on. We don’t want to let marketing automation lead us to implement strategies that don’t actually make sense to our customers.

Automating our marketing makes things easier for us in the long run so do take the time to narrow down your customers into different groups. Create highly personalised communication that is relevant to your customers at whatever stage of the customer lifecycle they are in. With automation in place mass written generic messages should become a thing of the past. The key to effective automation is that it doesn’t necessarily feel automated; it feels personal and engages customers at critical points in the relationship.

So what could you automate?

The list of possible options is lengthy and ultimately is determined by what business you’re in, what your current processes are, who your customers are and of course what your goals are. Most marketing automation focuses on four channels: web, email, social and mobile. Automation software commonly features:

  • Email marketing including automated responses based on events (if x then y), personalisation and deliverability.
  • Online marketing including A/B (split) testing of campaigns, landing pages, mobile optimisation and search tracking.
  • Lead management including behaviour tracking, lead nurturing, segmentation and scoring/grading.
  • Social media engagement, automating posts and tracking who’s sharing your content and driving engagement
  • Campaign management including allocating budgets to segments and drilling down into where your money is best spent

So how do you actually do automation?

There are three critical components to marketing automation. Firstly, a central marketing database. Somewhere that keeps a record of all of your customers and prospects as well as their interactions and behaviours. Your database will enable you to segment your audience and send the right message at the right time and record the fact that you have done so. The second thing you need is an automated marketing engine. This is the software that creates the environment in which you can connect your online/offline channels and is basically the ‘middle man’ between your database and your customer interactions. The final piece of the puzzle is an analytics engine. You want to be able to test and measure the success of your efforts. There is no point going to the effort of automating your marketing if you are not measuring, reviewing and improving. The whole point of automation is to better engage your customers and ultimately lead to greater conversion rates and retention.

There are some great reviews of the automation software available in the market place. Many of the companies offer a free trial so you can work out which platform is right for you. Of course if you’d rather handball the task to someone else we are always here to help.

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