Marketing automation technology enables marketers to reach more potential customers faster and with more measurable results than ever before. It’s truly a golden era for marketers.
However, technology doesn’t mean that marketers can shut their brains off and allow their marketing departments to go on autopilot. In addition to marketing’s need to forge closer bonds with sales – something that will be accomplished more through soft skills than software – marketers must use the technology at their disposal in smart ways. Otherwise, the technology merely allows marketers to screw up faster and on a broader scale than ever before.
Here are things for marketers to avoid – and tips for avoiding them.
1. Incomplete Offers
Nothing is worse than successfully engaging with customers and potential customers, then dropping your end of the relationship. A good example of this is the offer that touts a series of content and encourages the customer or prospect to download the first in a series. Little does the customer or prospect realize that the series is one piece of content – the other content never materializes. This is often the result of an internal issue in the marketing department, when shifting priorities move content later in the series to the back burner. The intention is often to get to that promised material at some point, but that point never comes. Meanwhile, the prospect or customer feels like the company has broken a promise.
This is very easily averted by not promising anything you don’t already have in hand. Possessing finished, edited versions of the content touted in an offer ensures you can deliver it; it also allows you to make the copy touting that content better, more accurate and more detailed.
2. Selecting the Wrong Segment
Have you ever gotten an offer from a company and marveled at its completeness, the degree of personalization and its high degree of industry specificity – and then wondered why it was sent to you? Sending something targeted at the construction industry to an accountant defeats the purpose of developing specialized content – but it happens, not because the segmentation is done poorly but because marketers don’t pay attention when they select lists to go with offers. It’s an honest mistake – but it makes your business look like it’s asleep at the switch.
This can be dodged simply by having a process in place for sending out offers – one that includes a final check of the content, intended audience and which list you’re sending an offer to. It’s a simple step, but one which can spare you a lot of heartburn.
3. Jumping the Gun
Alignment means that different departments move in conjunction with each other. That means an offer from marketing that involves other parts of the business can’t be done in a vacuum. For example, an offer that includes a discount on a product is intended to spur greater demand for that product. Does sales know about this, so they can anticipate customer questions? Does your manufacturing or inventory team know about this, so they have the product on hand? “Hopefully” is not an answer. If you don’t ensure that the rest of the business is aware of what you’re broadcasting to customers via your marketing automation, you’re leading them into an ambush. Pitting parts of your company against your customers is not a pathway to a long, successful career.
Alignment can be difficult, but it’s necessary – and working with other parts of your company on offers like this can provide an excellent opportunity to improve communication. Before you send an offer, talk to your peers in other parts of the company to get a feel for whether they can handle increased demand, or whether you’re trying to increase demand for the right things. A little collaboration can lead to stronger offers and a better ability for your entire company to execute.
4. Content Jumble
Imagine a storyteller whose trademark was only providing the first chapter of his stories. Those chapters might be interesting or exciting, but they never pay off in an ending or a resolution, and over time people stop listening to the stories he’s trying to tell.
The same goes for much of the content broadcast through marketing automation: it’s the first chapter of a bigger story, but the second and third chapters never come. When companies view their marketing automation capabilities in a tactical way, this is often the case: they need leads in market X, so a piece of content goes out targeted at that market. The next panic is about market Y, and so a new piece of content is generated for that audience. Alternately, a company, particularly in high technology, might see priorities shift rapidly from feature to feature. The upshot is that no complete story is ever told, limiting the ability to nurture leads and to provide a depth of understanding to target audiences. Response rates will plummet after the initial offer because prospects and customers realize little value from the content.
Content is not something to panic about – it’s something to plan. There’s much more value in a planned content calendar with tracks of content than in a series of one-offs. First, there’s a lot more value for readers, and content that builds on itself through a series of pieces offers more opportunities to promote that content and attract more readers. Second, for the company, it’s more effective to be able to track readership across multiple pieces of related content to judge the readiness of readers to buy. Having a strategy in place instead of a semi-random assortment of stand-alone content allows you to take advantage of marketing automation far more fully.
5. Everything Goes to Everybody, All the Time
Ever had someone leave a flyer under your windshield wiper after parking a car at the mall? The flyer is trying to appeal to a broad audience, so there’s no real effort at personalization, without that, unless the offer is exactly what the viewer wants, those flyers are seen as an annoyance and are destined for a quick one-way trip into the trash.
So it is with your offers when you broadcast them to your entire list, especially when you do it repeatedly. I know – it’s easier than segmenting the list and creating new content. But being a marketer is not about doing the easy things, necessarily – it’s about doing the things that get people to become customers, and hitting them repeatedly with undifferentiated messages is not going to achieve that aim.
Dedicate more time to your offers. Understand who you’re trying to reach and create content appropriate to that audience. Then, use the technology at your disposal and your audience understanding to segment your list and send the appropriate content to those customers and prospects. They’ll get fewer offers – but the ones they get will be much more on target. Instead of tuning you out as a source of noise, these prospects are more likely to read content because it’s about them, not about your entire customer base.
To learn more about marketing automation, check out our free guide: