The Power of Assists: Marketing Technology Is a Team Player

Riddle me this, Batman: If one player scores nine goals for 18 points, but another player scores only four goals for eight points AND provides assists for another 20 points, then who has made the best contribution to the game? Most of us would answer (correctly, I think) the second player, with a total of 24 points to her credit.

Hockey and basketball both track assists as well as goals in determining “winning” teams. This idea is translated well to business by Karl More on Forbes.com, where he makes the case that the person providing assists in business is just as important as the person who scored the goals. Solutions selling practices have made this common knowledge in many sales organizations – where the long list of thank-you acknowledgements recognize the many people across the company who contributed to the sale, from product to sales ops to legal to marketing.

Marketing organizations also rely on effective, collaborative teams. We achieve individual success by function or channel, but also support the success of our colleagues by reviewing results as an integrated, customer-level experience. The collective result is of exponential value to the business – it’s the combination of intent and content. When NHL legend Wayne Gretzky famously defined success as skating not to where the puck is, but to where the puck will be, he was referring to teamwork as well – passing to where the teammate was headed, and trusting each other enough to know strengths and take advantage of opportunities together.

I would like to posit that our marketing technology – particularly automation software – is also a team player well suited to provide assists. What is the point of assists in business? They are helpful because they enable the other players to be in position to score. Marketing automation does this pretty well, in two main ways:

  1. Right person. Segmentation tools are the core of marketing automation, but what gives them the power to be the assist to the team is the combination of scoring and messaging that are built in. Many marketing technologies have automation triggers for lifecycle and behavioral targeting. Those nurturing campaigns have real impact, and free up the marketing (and sales) human teams to focus on other strategic initiatives.
  2. Right message. Once the audience member is identified as a real person with real needs and interests, the content management power takes over. This is a different kind of assist to the team, by automating the thousands or tens of thousands of combinations of content and offers that meet the segmentation and scoring criteria. If a human had to curate and compile all those outbound messages by hand – across multiple channels – it would never get out the door. The technology provides the assist.

I think we could consider adding a third, Right Time, as many campaign management and programmatic publishing tools also provide near real-time response. However, I think of Right Time more as strategy than tools, since by itself it doesn’t add value – it’s only valuable when aligned to the strategy and to customer experiences that are meaningful. Most mobile experiences, for example, are local and real-time. Some social customer service opportunities need to be real-time, but they are rarely automated. I wrote about Real Time vs. Right Time in a previous column.

Are you using your automation tools like a team player to provide assists? Do you agree: Is Right Time the third “assist” from automation tools?

Image via Shutterstock.

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