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22 February 2016

Marketing automation: The next big thing going south?

A while ago I read a blogpost about HelloFresh, a company that delivers recipes with all the pre-measured ingredients to your door each week. Ingenious service, you might think, but what actually got me to read the post was its rather offensive title, including the word Foodjehovas... What happened to the author was that he decided to cancel his subscription, and that's when it all went south.


According to the author, HelloFresh, always represented by Maartje, turned out to be an "evil ex" and unleashed all of her efforts to win back her ex: calls, emails, more calls, ... Even ignoring the fact that his phone number was on a blacklist and that her emails were marked as spam. Finally, Maartje understood the message. Three months later however, she was back... 

The comparison with an annoying ex-girlfriend is remarkable, and of course not what you want for your brand. Your customers aren't playing "hard to get" and neither are they looking for a persistent ex. Do you want your brand to be the intrusive ex-girlfriend or rather the understanding ex-boyfriend? I believe your answer doesn't require much thought.


Towards contextual marketing

What this situation actually boils down to is the use of marketing automation in a world where customers are more connected than ever before, yet looking for an authentic, emotional connection. Marketing automation is hot amongst marketers, which explains why it is also predominant in our Yearly Marketing Survey 2016. But, as the HelloFresh situation shows, marketing automation should be handled with care. If not, your workflows that contact an unsubscriber may start to lead their own lives. 


At The House of Marketing we believe that the true impact of marketing automation comes not from the technology, but from the human marketers who provide the actual intelligence. This is exactly what the concept of contextual marketing comes down to: using what you know about your contacts to provide a highly targeted and valuable message to the right person, at the right time and through the right channel and device. Marketing automation is the right tool to help you with this by ensuring that your data is used to its full potential. Your customer is in the driver’s seat and you must be there when it suits him or her best. 


Avoid the “dark side” of marketing automation

It is easy to see marketing automation as a tool that simply automates the work of a marketer, holding on to the “if this, then that” mentality. I believe that the true value of marketing automation can only emerge once you let your customer drive, so to speak. Now how can you as a marketer let go of the “auto pilot” mode?


  • Data is king as it provides the necessary context for your communication. It all starts with asking the right questions, keeping your data clean and finally using it intelligently. The strength of marketing automation lies in a deeper level of personalization and follow-up of your leads down the funnel, not in sending out spam communication.

  • Content is queen. Your marketing automation implementation process will not be successful without value-adding content. It’s what pulls customers to your brand because you align with their interests, and it’s what keeps customers coming back because they want to know more. Content and data together are the key elements of “the bright side” of marketing automation.

  • Plan a limited amount of workflows and scale up over time. Don't go overboard and plan hundreds of flows based on all the actions a visitor could do on your website. Instead, think of your funnel and list the actions that you want a certain buyer persona to take.

  • Don't set it and forget it, but measure and track whether your workflows are actually delivering in terms of conversion along the funnel, rather than sending out useless communication to contacts. Marketing automation software provides a deep-diving reporting platform that speeds up your learning curve and enables optimization along the way.

  • Think outside of the marketing automation box. Your contacts and leads will not always follow the customer journey that you mapped out. They are not bound by the imaginary workflows that you set up in your marketing automation tool. This means that you can't be bound by these flows either and must learn to walk in the shoes of the customer.

I believe that marketing automation is an evolution that can strengthen the relationship between a brand and its customers and can have an immense impact on the customer experience. These 5 things to keep in mind will definitely put you on the right track to the future. 


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