Marketing Automation has been a buzzword for some time now, and it’s easy to see why. Every day, millions of people engage with their favorite brands online, and each user comes with their own stack of behavioral quirks: a wide variety of browsing habits, shopping preferences, and online actions. With so many differences in a given audience, how do marketers keep these varying personas engaged effectively throughout their customer lifecycles?
Over the past decade, marketing technology has stepped up in a big way to help with lifecycle management. Marketers can now reach their customers at scale with email, mobile, social, and web campaigns. This creates efficiencies for the most repetitive parts of the marketer’s job, to be sure. It has changed the way companies market to and nurture leads; instead of going after sales prospects that don’t fit, there’s a way to nurture them into becoming strong leads.
And yet, marketing automation as it is today has a fatal flaw: It takes too much of marketers’ time to use effectively, so much so that the value gained from using these tools is depreciated by the effort required to use them.
The Efficiency Valuation: Time vs. Effort
There is no doubt that marketing automation tools have changed the entire industry, and equally no doubt that these are some extremely powerful tools. The fact that marketers can manage all different types of lifecycle campaigns across multiple channels is a hugely significant accomplishment.
Still, there is no denying the amount of work placed on the marketer’s shoulders, which ends up negating some of the tool’s original purpose.
The ideal automation tool – and frankly, what has been promised across the board – is one that will free up marketers’ time. The whole point of marketing automation is to increase efficiency, to get more done in less time, to reach more prospects with less effort.
And yet, to get any sort of return on the investment made, marketers must dedicate a huge amount of their overall time and effort to set up and maintain these systems. This might seem like an acceptable trade-off for what is then being accomplished – lifecycle campaign management and lead nurturing for large volumes of customers – but the reality is that automation is still not living up to its true potential.
The efficiency valuation is relative, when you consider how much you can actually use these platforms vs. what is possible – and frankly, what is needed to survive in today’s market.
Today’s Marketing Automation: Already Outdated
The truth is, today’s marketing automation platforms were built to deal with volume, not personalization. They were designed to handle the massive amounts of emails that needed to be sent, along with other channel management, to make inbound marketing a possibility on a grand scale. This was a response to the changing needs of companies and marketers as they dealt with an increasingly active customer base.
It was brilliant – but now, the needs have changed again. Multichannel touchpoints, action-based email marketing, nurturing customer lifecycles: these are all considered standard features.
Today, customers want more. They want real-time recommendations and the ability to jump from device to device. They want relevant content and offers personalized to their interests and what they want to buy. They’re no longer impressed by a series of nurture emails; they want to know how those emails relate to them, personally.
And they can well afford these demands. Thanks in part to automation technology, there are a myriad of brands and companies that vie for customer attention. Consumers have choices. And the pressure is on marketers to rise to that challenge.
However, the current tools were not built for this. There are some rudimentary predictive features on some platforms, but email until today has largely been trigger-based. There are usually some analytics built in, based on the idea that results data is valuable because, and this is a direct quote: “much of contemporary inbound marketing relies on trial and error.”
Marketing automation, as it turns out, is in need of some upgrades. The way they are now, automation platforms are campaign management tools, not necessarily marketing tools.
The Future of Automation
This is where the next phase of automation is: to move away from management tools into active marketing tools. It will have the ability to integrate data-driven insights in real time to create dynamic campaigns as each customer interacts with the brand.
And it will save time – not relatively speaking, but in practice. This will allow marketers to dive deeper in what makes marketing so successful: engaging content, relevant messaging, and the ability to connect with each customer.
Once that happens, the possibilities will grow exponentially. We look forward to it.
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