Your journey to the customer Marketing automation is not your auto pilot By Jim Schwenke

Apr 20, 2016

Relationships, not reruns

So your Salesperson had a great phone call with his client. He made his pitch and covered a lot of information, and they agreed on next steps. They both walked away feeling great.

Two weeks later, his client is in town for a follow-up meeting. He sits down with her and starts talking about a completely different topic. He addresses her by name but talks to her as though they’ve never met. He completely ignores the conversation they had two weeks ago. In fact, he doesn’t even acknowledge it.

But he repeats some of the same information. He delivers the same messages. And he smiles as he always does.

She then reminds him that they already talked about all of this and that she already told him she’s interested. He shrugs off her comments—in fact, he acts as if the conversation never took place—and presents the same materials to her, again.

And then a few days later, he calls her, introduces himself one more time and starts talking about another completely different topic without acknowledging any prior conversations.

What’s going on here? DREHB? (Did Robots Eat His Brain?)

You’d probably never try to create a customer experience like this in the real world. But plenty of marketers like you are doing it every day using their new and expensive automated marketing platforms.

Drip marketing is a perfect example of this. Through the use of an automated system, emails, landing pages and thank-you notes can be delivered at set speeds, thereby “shortening” the sales process.

Really?

“Marketers need to return to the human element. We need to channel the mindset of the consumer.”

Smart marketers, not robots

If we look at what is now called lead nurturing, we see the obvious advantage of marketing automation systems—to create linked conversations, ongoing and in real time. Nurturing uses data to gather information to “path” the individual down a customized experience that’s relevant to their interests and desires.

But the platform is simply a tool for customer engagement, not the solution. 

For that, we as marketers need to return to the human element. We need to channel the mindset of the consumer. We need to create ongoing dialogues that continue communication flows unique to each individual we’re trying to reach.  

Just as drones, self-driving cars and assembly-line robots require some sort of human involvement, so, too, do the automated solutions in marketing.

On average, 49% of companies are currently using marketing automation. More than half of B2B companies (55%) have adopted the technology.

Source: “The Ultimate Marketing Automation Stats,” Emailmonday, 2016

Humans respond to emotion

In the context of marketing automation, well-crafted conversations and their numerous variations can only be created by sales enablement with a human touch. By writers who understand what people need, how people behave and how to develop meaningful relationships through psychographic content. It’s not redundant, shortsighted or ignorant of prior interactions. It is honest, helpful and understanding—emotional.

Let’s go back to the conversation we started with. This time, let’s try it with effective marketing automation and a human touch.

To repeat, your Salesperson had a great phone call with his client. He made his pitch, covered a lot of information and agreed on next steps. They both walked away feeling great.

After the meeting, he sits at his computer and enters what he learned into a marketing automation system.

Here’s what happens next.

A series of follow-ups are set in motion—all built on a repeatable model, but based on his understanding of what his client needs and how she behaves.

A couple of days later, she receives an email from him, thanking her for their meeting and reviewing the steps they had agreed on. In it, he suggests that she go to your website to get in-depth information regarding one of the key points he knows she’s focused on, and he offers to answer any additional questions she has. 

By tracking his client’s behavior, the system sees that she not only went to the website per his suggestion, but that she also reviewed a few other sections, one in particular.

She then receives an email from him acknowledging her interest in not only the initial subject but also the other topics. He provides her with additional information about the topic she lingered on and invites her to either view a demo video or set up an appointment for an in-person demonstration.

Unfortunately, she does neither. 

A few days later, she gets another message from him, acknowledging that maybe she still hasn’t found what she’s looking for and offering her alternative options based on her past interests, such as links to articles or white papers. 

The back-and-forth communications continue, following his client’s lead. When she acts, she gets a response. When she doesn’t act, she gets a helpful prompt offering something more relevant to her.

A mix of marketing, storytelling and technology

As you can see, the purpose of the automated system is to create an ongoing communication stream mapped to the customer journey. It’s about moving the individual in a forward motion (derived from past experiences), down their own path (created by their actions) and at their own pace (based on engagement).  

It’s a unique blend of marketing and storytelling—authentic and believable, yet persuasive and reassuring. It’s neither advertising speak nor sales pitch. It’s friendly, approachable and honest, with a hint of bias. The humanized sweet spot.

Sure, with data we can find out what drives an individual. But we need humans—real, thinking, empathetic people—to put that data to use. 

That’s how marketers can create those thought-provoking, relevant conversations that stir an individual’s emotions and move them through the self-realized path to discovery.

Jim Schwenke

Jim is a creative who’s practiced the psychology of advertising for over 20 years. His focus: persuasion through the understanding of human behavior. Jim is not a robot.

More from Jim Schwenke:

Marketing automation needs humans

Next up:

Leadership and communication myths

In leadership, marketing and brand strategy, success comes from looking outward, to the people you’re trying to reach.

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