Marketing automation has been powering digital marketing for decades now, helping businesses to personalise campaigns and to aim the right messages at the right people. For marketing to be effective, however, it is essential to use technology as an enabler, not the driver.
No matter how sophisticated Martech becomes, it is not a magic bullet. Without the right balance of people, process and technology behind a marketing strategy, at best it will miss the mark, and at worst you may find yourself losing customers as a result of over-marketing. Keeping people at the heart of marketing helps to avoid and overcome these challenges, generate engagement and loyalty, keep things fresh and, most importantly, reminds organisations that even with access to all the data in the world, it is ultimately people who make buying decisions, not algorithms.
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Processes as frameworks for success
It’s amazing how many people I speak to whose marketing processes are driven by technology. It often seems that their end goal is to use all of the features and functionality of a Martech package, rather than taking a step back and adopting a more strategic approach aimed at increasing customer engagement.
Technology should be adopted to enhance marketing processes, not determine them. Martech exists to optimise: to speed up working, automate tasks where possible and – where it aligns with the strategic vision – to open up new opportunities. If Martech software can achieve the same goal as a manual process in a tenth of the time, for example, then it makes sense to use it. It should be up to the marketing team, the people, to design processes that allow for creativity, analytics and technology to work together; to ensure you are getting the most out of your investment in technology without shoehorning it into processes and campaigns for its own sake.
With this in mind, it is important that you have the right people and team structure in place who understand how, when and where to use technology to achieve the best results.
It’s all in the team
A strong marketing team is made up of people with a diverse range of skills – from strategists and data analysts to identify strengths and map trends and focus plans, to creatives and ‘doers’ to design and deliver beautifully tailored campaigns. A good marketer needs to understand how technology can help to enhance, personalise and deliver these campaigns through the appropriate channels – but also to be able to think beyond the barriers of what technology can provide.
Technology makes it easy to execute, analyse and measure a marketing strategy with the push of a button and while this is helpful – especially at scale – where we see the most effective personalised marketing is in teams with marketers who are not afraid to ask questions. They need to be able to query the ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘who’ behind every marketing decision – whether technology or human driven – to ensure it is relevant, beneficial and being delivered to the right people in the best possible way. Good marketers know this and understand that if we want customers to continue to agree to share their data, we need to earn their trust.
For example, we have all received an email or seen a pop-up advert where this wasn’t the case. I recently received an email from a company I have transacted with in the past, having bought men’s outdoor clothing. The email offered me a sneak peek at the new season’s skirts and dresses – a bit off the mark. The odd mis-targeted communication may not put us off buying from a brand who has treated us well in the past, but constant, irrelevant emails – especially ones offering a discounted price for an item we’ve already purchased – will eventually take their toll and encourage customers to go elsewhere.
This misalignment can be avoided in organisations where people, aided by technology, make the final decisions when it comes to targeting and delivering campaigns and offers.
Looking beyond digital marketing
Getting the balance right
Cultivating an understanding of how Martech works and the best ways to use it help to avoid mistakes like the one above. By investing in experienced team members as well as training and mentoring programmes, you can help to build team members’ confidence in using technology to streamline their ways of working, without becoming complacent or overly reliant on it.
The point of placing humans at the heart of marketing is not to eliminate automated customer journeys or downplay the importance of Martech – quite the opposite in fact. It is about having frameworks in place for easy decision making and marketers overseeing technology to ensure customers are receiving engaging, relevant and timely communications. AI and machine learning are brilliant, and will play an increasingly important role in marketing, but we are not yet at the stage where we can trust machines to do everything for us. I would argue that even then, we will still need people at the heart of marketing. After all, we are all more than just the sum of our data.