Marketing automation can be a God-send for large businesses.
But a lot of smaller businesses – and even medium-sized models – are often priced out from adopting automation software because the basic start-up price is usually a four-figure sum.
And, as I’ve previously wrote, my fear is that a lot of smaller businesses can take the leap too soon and sacrifice a lot of their natural charm and creativity for a complicated system that can feel robotic.
There’s no doubt about the potential rewards, though, and the ability to save a huge amount of man hours automating a lot of tricky time-consuming processes.
And some providers are starting to recognise it, too. VentureBeat reports that marketing automation provider Wishpond is offering a free ‘forever plan’ which should turn quite a lot of heads.
MailChimp is also offering paid-for automation, to help marketers using its platform to send specific emails at certain points in the user journey. That’s interesting for people that communicate heavily with their customers via email marketing.
But for all the potential of marketing automation there’s still a lot to do for marketers to make it feel like a natural process and part of customers’ daily lives.
Do you use marketing automation for your business? What have the results been like, and how has the software helped you grow? Let me know in the comments section below.
A bad Experian-ce?
A friend forwarded me quite a few emails last week from Experian.
Nothing bad, of course; he was searching online for a free credit report and, with Experian being the top product on Google, he chose them.
He’d also heard good things from friends so signed up for the 30-day free trial. He cancelled it though after a week because, as well as getting the free credit report he was after, felt plain fed up with the amount of emails he got in the space of a few days. It was about one email a day, and though it sounds like a lot of fuss over nothing, I can see where his frustrations are coming from.
A daily email packed with calls-to-action, encouraging him to do things he didn’t really want to do. He only wanted a credit check but every day he was being hammered to ‘join the conversation’, try and win Amazon vouchers, read guides, try their CreditMatcher, and more.
Experian, as a note, also runs its own marketing automation services.
Coming on strong
He cancelled his free trial, which led to some jumping through hoops because the FAQ said it could only be done over the phone.
His overall consensus was that, for a free trial, Experian were coming on a little too strong for him when he only wanted to take the trial at his own pace. He didn’t want to go through the hassle of messing around with email settings to choose what he received when he was still undecided about membership.
Couple that with having to search 20 minutes to find out how to cancel his trial and the user experience, according to him, was one of the most frustrating he’s had; especially for a free trial.
I want to be fair though and try to look at it from Experian’s point of view. They’re a massive company. Even some government departments use their services, as do some of the world’s largest financial institutions.
So marketing automation makes sense for them, especially when they have so many people signing up for a free trial that they want to become regular customers.
But, as my friend found out from his experience, in the quest to make those kinds of conversions on a mass scale it can also put up an invisible barrier that can only be breached by something special; the human element.
Do companies like Experian go too far with marketing automation or does the strategy make sense? How can more creative elements be injected into the mix? Let me know below!
Can creativity and automation work?
I hope that doesn’t look like I’ve picked on Experian; I just felt that automated email example was a great way to illustrate where companies try to make conversions and where user frustration can creep in with the robotic nature of marketing automation.
But Experian are in the same boat with a lot of other companies. Maybe Experian is one of the more successful adopters; a survey conducted earlier in 2015 by Ascend2 discovered that a mere 25 per cent of B2B marketers thought their automation attempts were successful.
At the same time, though, 91 per cent labelled automation as very important to their marketing strategy. Interestingly, 40 per cent said the biggest obstacle they were facing was the lack of quality content and 38 per cent a poor strategy.
That’s so telling. Creativity’s not something that you can really automate, which is why smaller businesses like to partner with marketing firms. The creative, social, and inbound teams can all come together with a creative strategy that gets results.
Well, in a perfect world at least. But if creative, engaging content isn’t being produced at a fast enough rate to be automated then the automation strategy needs to be reformed.
A good, creative, long-term strategy is the cornerstone for sustained growth and online success, whether you’re using marketing automation, pairing with a marketing company, or doing it all yourself behind the scenes.
But whichever way you choose to do it you have to remember the human element at all times. It’s so important to have that connection with people, to make them feel valued, answer their questions, inform, and entertain them to keep them coming back for more.
Marketing automation will continue to grow and will – eventually – become more affordable for businesses to use if the likes of Wishpond continue to offer competitive pricing models. But no matter what the potential of the platform may be, or the promises it offers, your audience and keeping them happy is what matters the most.