Irony: Optimizing Marketing Automation Requires Human Intervention

  |  August 20, 2012   |  Comments

Technology doesn't come up with great creative approaches and associate the right message with the right lifecycle stage; humans do.

It seems to be a great truth in digital marketing that the more automation you apply to data management, the more you need smart people to manage and optimize it. Contrary to the machine automation benefits of the 20th century, where automation on the assembly line increased productivity and replaced human workers, marketing automation technology increases output efficiency and scale, but still requires marketing expertise and analytics to ensure the ROI. Think about it. It's not a failure of technology or faulty logic. I believe it's simply good business strategy.

Will the marketer not bogged down in operational details and with plenty of time for strategic planning please step forward? Yes, that would be a lonely line I suspect. We crave the benefits of marketing automation because we want to automate the execution of campaigns. However, we can't automate the strategy. No technology in the world can understand the nuance of customer behavior for our business, create compelling creative assets, and ensure that the analysis and analytics we perform as meeting the right benchmarks for ROI. The results of our automation certainly give us guidance and can generate data - and make it accessible for insights - like never before. But technology doesn't come up with great creative approaches and associate the right message with the right lifecycle stage. Humans do that. Analytic, customer-centric, marketing-savvy, and digital-experienced humans, to be specific.

It's sort of like the old maxim about the art and science of marketing. The art is done by humans, the science by technology. It's helpful to think of the co-dependency that way, even though the lines are somewhat porous between them. The reasons that marketers invest in marketing automation technology are usually tied to two main goals: data integration and accessibility, and productivity and efficiency. That includes both art and science benefits. Some of the problems that automation technology solves include:

  • Improving marketing efficiency:
    • Obtaining a single version of the marketing truth to enable decision-making.
    • Understanding and improving cost savings on managing vendors, cross-database queries, and APIs.
    • Optimizing investment across channels. How much did customers buy at each stage of the journey? What is the purchase volume per impression?
    • Creating one set of measurable metrics.
    • Managing programs that involve one or more agencies and several internal teams (usually called "workflow" in technology offerings).
    • Ensuring cost savings - targeted impression-buying for equal or lower cost.
  • Data integration and accessibility:
    • Moving from basic customization of email to higher relevancy and targeting.
    • Creating advanced segmentation.
    • Having the ability to manage and optimize multi-touch nurturing campaigns.
    • Increasing programmatic buying and decision-making in real time.
    • Doing (or increasing) customer-level or persona-level analysis.
    • Taking advantage of digital consumer interactions - quickly, or in real time - across channels like email, web, call center, and social.
    • Utilizing anonymous (e.g., visitor) data to improve web and messaging experiences.
    • Enabling a complete view of the customer path to purchase (and repeat purchase).
    • Eliminating silos or marketing data.
    • Utilizing all or most of the data that is held on customers and prospects (across channels).
    • Tracking all visitor and customer touch points across channels.
    • Presenting the best offer for each touch point or lifecycle stage - both push (email) and pull (website or call center).

All those things are possible to achieve with good marketing automation or integrated marketing management tools. For example, we would know that this customer has come to X websites, participated in Y social communities, and registered for Z products - the technology tells us that. The technology can also determine the best offer to put in front of that customer, based on past purchase, season, and popular behavior. The technology can also tell us which channel to use to optimize response for this type of offer for this customer's preferences. Propensity modeling can show us when to expect this customer to return, and what they may be looking for at that next visit. The technology can also predict the right times and offers for offline media that influences digital behavior - like broadcast and direct mail.

The human brain comes in when you start to consider the customer experience and journey. Humans ensure creative assets are in place and in the correct format - at every stage of this multi-channel journey. Usually more creative assets are needed the more customization the marketer enables via the technology. Analysts review the right reports, and discard unhelpful or outlying data in order to focus the team (and the budget) on the most successful offers, channels, and media. And, every customer interaction creates a new data point for future opportunity. The technology reports it all to us and executes our plans. But it doesn't do the art - which is truly what makes marketing effective and powerful.

How are you managing the art and science of marketing, using the automation tools you have today? Are there gaps that technology can fill for you - in order to enable more strategic use of your human talent? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tags:

ClickZ Live Toronto On the heels of a fantastic event in New York City, ClickZ Live is taking the fun and learning to Toronto, June 23-25. With over 15 years' experience delivering industry-leading events, ClickZ Live offers an action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covering all aspects of digital marketing. Register today!

ClickZ Live San Francisco Want to learn more? Join us at ClickZ Live San Francisco, Aug 10-12!
Educating marketers for over 15 years, ClickZ Live brings together industry thought leaders from the largest brands and agencies to deliver the most advanced, educational digital marketing agenda. Register today and save $500!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie Miller

Stephanie Miller is a partner with brand and marketing technology strategy firm TopRight Partners, which helps customers use the technology they have today to do the marketing they want to do today and tomorrow. She is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable customer experiences. A digital marketing and CRM expert, she helps sophisticated marketers balance the right mix of people, process, and technology to optimize a data-driven content marketing strategy. She speaks and writes regularly and leads several industry-wide initiatives. Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT toprightpartners DOT com or @stephanieSAM.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce
This Magic Quadrant examines leading digital commerce platforms that enable organizations to build digital commerce sites. These commerce platforms facilitate purchasing transactions over the Web, and support the creation and continuing development of an online relationship with a consumer.

Paid Search in the Mobile Era

Paid Search in the Mobile Era
Google reports that paid search ads are currently driving 40+ million calls per month. Cost per click is increasing, paid search budgets are growing, and mobile continues to dominate. It's time to revamp old search strategies, reimagine stale best practices, and add new layers data to your analytics.

WEBINARS

Resources

Jobs

    • GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator
      GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator (British Consulate-General, New York) - New YorkThe GREAT Britain Campaign is seeking an energetic and creative...
    • Paid Search Senior Account Manager
      Paid Search Senior Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring a strategic Paid Search Senior Account Manager...
    • Paid Search Account Manager
      Paid Search Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring an experienced Paid Search Account Manager to...