Why is marketing automation in high demand?
Simply put, because time is limited, but customers and data are not.
When I started to dig into this question, I found that it was hard to define what marketing automation even is. Does marketing automation including email drip campaigns?
Does it include the use of CRMs?
But it also includes things like deep-dive analytics, social media autoresponders, mention trackers, and scheduling tools.
It includes entire areas of specialization in the marketing world, like programmatic marketing.
In short, it’s any tool that lets you
- Perform marketing tasks faster, more efficiently, and at a larger scale than you could if you did them manually
- Perform a range of tasks that would actually be impossible without said tool
- Provide a more customized experience for your customer with (possibly) less actual work on your end
Marketing automation allows marketers, whether alone or as part of a team, to expand their skills, and reach more customers in a more personalized way, and that’s just lovely, but I think it’s really in high demand because our jobs just wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
It didn’t used to be like this. As Casper said at the end of Kids, “What happened?”
Sit Ye Down, Young Whipper Snapper, and Learn the Tale of the Advertising Age
Once upon a time, as the ancient U.S. advertising execs tell it (highball in hand, of course), advertising was, basically, loaded into a shotgun and blasted throughout the land.
And if a message happened to hit, one hoped that it hit true — but you really had no idea if it would or not.
There was a lot of guesswork.
But people had money and didn’t really know what they were doing, so they spent it on ad campaigns that kinda sorta worked (mostly because consumers were complete ad-virgins and easily swayed by simplistic messaging).
The bigger the client, the bigger the shotgun — some had cannons, some had tanks, but they all used the same approach:
Use a handful of messages for a handful of very roughly segmented markets.
This was done because
- It worked (the consumer base wasn’t immune to constant bombardments of messages yet)
- It worked well (see A.)
Then, well, it stopped workin’ so good.
People stopped paying attention.
Seas of once-ripe markets became flushed with apathy, were cured of naivety, and became afflicted with ad blindness. The discerning customer went from having more money than products (or sense) to having more products than money (and maybe a little sense).
From the 20s through the 60s, advertising was like fishing in a sea that no fisher-person had ever fished (we’ll sort of ignore the 30s/40s and that whole Great Depression/World War II thing, but advertising worked then too…).
But, once folks stopped paying attention, they really stopped paying attention.
Marketing, True Marketing, Got Into Full Swing in the 60s, Mostly Because Untargeted Ads Stopped Working
By the time we get deep into the 60s (at least in the U.S.), you just couldn’t draw in large groups of customers with a simplistic, untargeted message like you once could.
Instead, you had to sharpen that aim a bit.
The 70s, 80s, and 90s saw marketing really come into its own, with advertising becoming a progressively smaller piece of the pie.
You really had to clearly (and cleverly) define your market, narrow your message, focus a lot more of your time on a much smaller group if you wanted to achieve an effect.
Most consumers appreciated this new approach — and still do. You know how it feels when you get a marketing message that seems just perfect for you and your life in that moment? A message that makes you say, “Golly gee! That’s something I’m actually super interested in! Clickety Clackety!”
It’s a nice feeling to know that some marketer somewhere finally figured out what it is you want.
But then, just when marketing thought it was safe, something terrible happened in the 90s — some idiot had to go and invent the World Wide Web (thanks Tim!), and marketing suddenly had a brand new medium to dive into.
Fast forward to today, and we have an interesting (and confusing) situation — a vast amount of buying and selling is done online, and, by virtue of the fact that many consumers are practically oozing data about themselves while they prance about through the wild cybernetic lands of the internet, marketers suddenly have the information necessary to target customers at a truly unprecedented level of specificity.
Which is critical, because it’s harder to reach our customers than ever before — that ad blindness of an earlier age has advanced to stage-4 ad hatred.
So not only do we need this data to function effectively, not only do we need as much of it as possible, but we need a way to aggregate and sift through the data in a meaningful way — we need to be able to do this quickly and effectively, and then we need to leverage said data across an ever-increasing number of channels (because, you know, traditional forms of advertising and marketing never went away — we just have this new lump of digital channels to play with now).
And we have to do so for an unprecedented number of savvy, rich consumers. With markets in previously impoverished parts of the world suddenly (and spectacularly) becoming rich and discerning, there are more opportunities, across more channels, and in more places, to make that sale.
All that noise I was sputtering about above concerning decades and such really only applied to the western nations at first, but the rest of the world has very quickly caught up — and will likely soon surpass — many of the western-oriented marketing efforts of today.
Which means that the modern marketer doesn’t just need to be savvy — they need tools. They need tools to automate some processes completely. They need tools to parse and analyze data. They need tools to create marketing channels that literally don’t exist otherwise (programmatic marketing is a perfect example of this).
And honestly, they need tools just to survive. They need these tools to simply do their jobs. Much of modern marketing is not possible without the use of marketing automation tools.
And this isn’t just on the lead-gen side of things — this applies even more so to retention efforts. Your competitors are using an incredible number of tools to constantly reach out, engage, and sell to their existing client base.
Are you doing the same?
Marketing Automation Is in High Demand Because It’s Impossible to Succeed Without It
If you want to dig into the data, you can just read this post on modern marketing automation —it’s chock-full of mind-blowing stats on the subject — but I hope that I can convince you without those numbers.
The truth is, the modern marketer is floating in a cloud of impossibility if they don’t have access to marketing automation tools. One of the easiest places to see this is in a digital marketing technology that has aged enough to become a commonplace of modern marketing — email marketing.
Email is one of those marketing channels that’s declared dead every 6 months or so, but, just like the rumors that Nick Cage died again (he didn’t — dude’s gonna live forever), the idea that email marketing is dead is false.
In fact, email marketing probably has more application in the world of retention than in the world of sales (though many marketers will tell you otherwise). Email allows you to engage with your customers in a very personal way, keep your brand top-of-mind throughout the customer lifecycle, consistently offer discounts and promotions that bring cooling customers back into the heat, and, generally speaking, is thought of as a wonderful thing and valued heavily by your best customers.
But without automation, the task of squeezing value out of your email list(s) is nigh on impossible.
Without automation, you’re reduced to the marketing blasts of the 1940s — a poster slapped on a wall, an ad blasted across a radio, even a commercial on the ole’ boob tube.
These old methods lack any sort of sophisticated targeting methods, but more to the point, they lack any sort of personalization — and though you can easily personalize your email marketing on a small scale, you can never do it (while also targeting effectively) on a large scale.
You need automation tools for that.
Sure, I can put my poster up in a place that I know is frequented by “students” — at a university, for example. I might know their general age range, I might know their general interests (based on the mind-blowing insight that they are, in fact, students), I might even be able to target a little more narrowly by location — putting my poster in the hallway outside the English department, for example (a foolish idea, by the way — English students have no money).
So I’m sort of targeted, but certainly not on an individual level — personalization is impossible, and a lot of people are going to pass that poster who aren’t students, or who don’t fall into that traditional student category of 18-22 with limited income and a keen interest in fidget spinners.
But what about my email list? These people are already my customers, so I already have a pretty darn good idea of who they are and what they care about, but, thanks to some fancy marketing automation tools I have integrated into my website and a few other choice digital properties, I’m not just be aware of who they are or what they care about — I’m able to see how they act, what they do.
Often in real time.
(Now that’s the kind of insight the high-ball-sipping ad execs of a previous age would have slobbered over.)
Marketing automation gives me the capacity to get incredible, actionable data on my prospects, data that help me create narrowly targeted, highly personalized emails, emails that take into account:
- What ads are capturing my customer’s attention
- What my customers are doing on my website and on other websites
- What they are and aren’t purchasing
- What they’re thinking about purchasing but haven’t pulled the trigger on just yet
- What products or services they’re clearly not interested in
Along with that, I can see a whole host of other pieces of data which, when aggregated with a few other choice metrics, allow me to send them a finely crafted, hand-tuned email with an offer I know they won’t be able to refuse.
Marketing automation, depending on the tool used, of course, allows me to create a series of sophisticated alert dependencies, workflows, and scoring systems to, basically, let the cream rise to the top.
Instead of facing the herculean task of trying to sift through all the data, craft the perfect message, personalize that sucker, and send it off to my prospect (who is 1 in 10,000, or 100,000, or 1,000,000…), instead, I’m able to find those folks who are the right fit for the time, the product, and the message, and I can automate and personalize a lot of my interactions with them in a way so sophisticated that my customer is unaware I’m not really doing this on a one-to-one basis.
In reality, I couldn’t do that if I wanted to, not at a large B2C, but even folks who work with high-level, high-earning, niche customers can use a little automation in their life.
Marketing automation makes collecting that data, analyzing it in a meaningful, time-efficient way, and exerting the effort required to leverage that data for a great number of existing customers, possible for the average human being (or the average marketing team, anyway).
Automation Is Critical Across the Board, and It’s Only Going to Become More Important as Time Passes
So I’ve got good news and bad news.
Here’s the good news — a robot isn’t going to come along and take your entire marketing job any time soon. What most marketers do is just too sophisticated at the moment for a robot to take over in the next 20 years or so.
The bad news?
Those dang ole’ robots are gonna probably take over a portion of your job, but even worse, they’re going to give certain marketers a serious edge over others.
The golden rule, according to that weird, creepy guy in Aladdin with teeth like piano keys is, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”
The golden rule of modern marketing is, “Whoever has the tools wins the customers.”
The truth is, humankind is only what it is because of its tools — the marketer with the better tools is going to rule the day and that’s only going to get worse as time passes and the tools become better.
Marketing automation is still a fairly new technology, but it’s going places, those places are generally in an upward direction, and they’re going there fast.
If you’re not on board, you’re going to get left in the dust.
And nobody likes getting dusty.
To learn more about what some of these automation technologies look like in practice, read our article on ecommerce and igaming here.