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Can You Keep the Human Touch When Using Marketing Automation?

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Can You Keep the Human Touch When Using Marketing Automation?

Marketers, we find ourselves in a quandary: We want to automate as much of our marketing as possible, yet we don’t want any of it to feel automated.

We’d love to be able to just set it and forget it. But great content marketing is designed to build relationships (that drive revenue). And unfortunately, automating our communication can make that goal harder – not easier – to achieve.

#ContentMarketing is designed to build relationships. Automating communication can make that goal harder, says @DrewDavisHere via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Sure, there are tools designed to automate posts on social media profiles and even the direct messages sent through LinkedIn. We can also choose to automate our most valuable interactions, such as our welcome emails and thank-you notes.

But when we do, the resulting messages don’t feel authentic. They lack personalization – a critical factor in relationship-building and revenue generation. In fact, research from McKinsey found companies with the fastest rate of revenue growth were more likely to prioritize personalization in their communication.

So, as much as we may want to put tasks on autopilot to increase productivity, we wonder how much our relationship-building efforts might suffer if we do.

What should marketers automate?

I’ve spent the last three months wrestling with that question, and it turns out I’m not the only one.

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Even in 2017, 43% of marketers stated the most important objective of a marketing automation strategy is optimizing productivity. It’s not hard to understand why. The average marketer spends 1.25 days each week on non-core tasks, according to new research from Airtable. That’s 25% of our workweek spent managing, organizing, approving, reporting, gathering, and shuffling our marketing campaigns and content through the marketing mill.

Marketers spend 1.25 days each week on non-core tasks, such as organizing, approving, reporting, etc., according to Airtable research, says @DrewDavisHere via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

That’s 1.25 days we could reclaim by automating the right stuff.

Where do we start?

What is the “right stuff”?

Here’s what a few experts had to say on the subject:

“Automate the admin, the mundane, the data collection. Animate the rest with personality,” suggests Patrick Lyver, founder and president of the web design agency Kleurvision Inc. “It works for me, and there are a lot of tools that can help.”

Automate the mundane and animate the rest with personality, says @patricklyver via @DrewDavisHere @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

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Gloria Lafont, president of Action Marketing Co., agrees: “Automation does not mean set it and forget it, nor eliminate the human. It means eliminating as many repetitive tasks as possible in the marketing implementation, so you have more time to focus on making the relationship-building more effective.”

Automation does not mean set it and forget it, nor eliminate the human, says @GloriaLafont via @DrewDavisHere @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Our team set aside 30 days to experiment with ways to follow Patrick and Gloria’s advice. By embracing three simple, strategic ideas, we found an approach that automates mundane, repetitive tasks without eliminating the human touch.

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1. Start with recently acquired customers

My core belief is all good marketing starts with the customers you’ve got. Instead of starting our automation activities with prospecting, social media, and lead generation, we focused on the processes implemented immediately after acquiring a new client.

From the instant we sign a new deal until the final invoice is paid, our team identified 49 separate multi-step automations that could save us time. More importantly, those automations allowed us to craft a unique, consistent, and high-quality client experience.

Designing these automations was surprisingly easy: List every little interaction, task, and deliverable in the client relationship. We just had never tried to formalize or automate them. It’s stuff we’ve done manually for a decade. It’s second nature. Then, we used our CRM’s built-in automation workflows and Zapier to turn each task into a tiny automation.

How much time did we claw back? It’s hard to say precisely, but I’d guess four to six hours per week. That’s six hours we can now spend on marketing instead of managing.

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Yet, we have also recognized that to achieve marketing success with these automated efforts, we need to maintain a high-touch, highly personalized experience for our customers.

That brings us to our second strategy:

2. Ready-to-personalize communication

Any CRM can “personalize” an email or text message: Simply insert {first name} here, add {company name} there, and schedule it to be sent.

However, I am unaware of a CRM or even an AI tool that’s genuinely aware of the communication nuances across different client relationships. For example, some of our clients are “business-casual” communicators. Their emails feel like they’re wearing shorts to the office:

  • They use extra exclamation points and emojis.
  • They send short, punchy text messages.

Other clients communicate with all the formality of a black-tie affair:

  • Their messages are crammed with corporate lingo.
  • Every imaginable stakeholder gets cc’ed.
  • Even their email signatures include legal disclaimers – just in case.

Then, there are clients that fall somewhere in the middle. I call this style “the mullet of marketing” – all business up front and party in the back.

These nuances matter in communication. They’re what supplies that human touch we’re so afraid of losing when we automate.

So, instead of sending pre-written, generically personalized emails directly from our CRM, our team generates ready-to-personalize messages.

Ready-to-personalize or RTP messages don’t get sent directly from the CRM to the client. They require a manual step added into the account management process: For each campaign, the account manager receives a notice that a draft needs their attention.

The CRM has already filled in all the critical customer data – such as first name, company name, and amount due. All the account manager needs to do from there is add some brand personality to the message. It could be as simple as popping in a few emojis, removing the exclamation points, or asking how the customer enjoyed their long weekend or a recent vacation.

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Then, they hit send, and off it goes.

RTP has transformed our perspective on how powerful marketing automation can be.

Yet, that still leaves one last element of our approach that still needs work.

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3. Create a single source

Zero percent – yes 0% – of marketers have a single source of truth for up-to-date information on marketing activities, according to the Airtable report.

On average, Airtable’s 300 survey respondents report they must reconcile between nine and 11 data sources to build a holistic view of their marketing activities and audience insights.

That’s a ton of work.

Any marketer who’s attempted to marry their Google Analytics with their customer database, email marketing platform, social media insights, and a pipeline of opportunities has faced this nightmare head-on.

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Fortunately, there’s a solution: customer data platforms. CDPs used to be for massive enterprises blessed with a vast IT staff capable of building custom connectors for proprietary platforms.

But that was the old days.

Today, any company (even yours) can use free (or low-cost) web-based tools to build your own CDP.

We’re planning to use those tools to reduce the number of platforms needed to run reports and find new insights. We’re confident those insights will help us find the perfect balance between automated efficiency and authentic communication that builds client relationships. So, that’s next on our list.

With our initial 90-day automation experiment closing, we’re excited to see if we can achieve similar results when communicating with our prospects, leads, and open opportunities.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

Get more advice for content leaders in the Chief Content Officer digital magazine. Subscribe today to get it in your inbox every quarter.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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7 Critical Factors You Must Consider When Choosing RPA Tools

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Robotic Process Automation is a technology that makes it easy for businesses to build, deploy and manage bots that can replicate humans interacting with digital systems and software. These bots can perform structured and pre-defined tasks such as filling out a form, processing a financial transaction or sending messages.

The core purpose of robotic process automation is to automate mundane and repetitive tasks so that your employees don’t waste their time on those tasks and focus on more value-driven activities with automatic employee monitoring software. Yes, a human first has to define the workflow for a bot for it to work but once done, it can perform most tasks automatically.

Advantages of Robotic Process Automation

Here are some of the advantages of robotic process automation:

  • Optimal resource utilization
  • Save time
  • Reduces cost
  • Minimize errors
  • Increases business capacity

Disadvantages of Robotic Process Automation

Some of the disadvantages of robotic process automation are:

  • Requires monitoring and maintenance
  • Not capable to extract information from unstructured datasets
  • Can not automate complex tasks
  •  The time-consuming and costly setup process

In this article, you will learn about seven critical factors you must take into account when choosing robotic process automation tools for your business.

Before discussing factors you should consider when buying robotic process automation tools, it is important to understand that every robotic process automation tool has its own format and does not offer any kind of portability. This means that there are no standards so the one size fits all formula does not apply here.

Make sure that the robotic process automation software you are planning to buy has all the features you need along with some handy extras. Ask for proof of concept before rollout and only buy the software when you are sure that it is the right choice to meet your business needs.

7 Factors To Consider When Buying RPA Tools

Here are seven factors you must consider when buying a robotic process automation software

1.  Ease of bot setup

Setting up a robotic process automation software can be a daunting challenge for businesses as it can take a lot of time and resources. That is why it is imperative that enterprises invest in robotic process automation tools that are easy to set up and use.

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It must also allow a level of customization and let businesses create custom bots for different buyer personas. Developers should be able to call the robotic process automation tool API when writing code for automation.

2.  Low-code capabilities

Gone are the days when only experienced developers could create websites and apps. With the advent of low code tools, anyone can now create an app even with little to no coding knowledge(accounting app, management app, etc.). Low code development lets you drag and drop ready-made components from the tool library and write small code snippets for functions that are not present in the tool library of the tool. Choose robotic process automation tools that offer these low code capabilities.

3.  Machine learning capabilities

As mentioned before, robotic process automation software struggles when it comes to extracting actionable insights from unstructured datasets. Since a major chunk of company data is in unstructured form, it makes robotic process automation tools useless.

That is where the machine learning capabilities of these robotic process automation tools come in handy. With these capabilities, it can parse through documents, find information and return it to users. This can enhance the user experience and boost customer loyalty. Some vendors might give this a fancy name but the functionality remains the same.

4.  Integration with enterprise applications

Another important factor you can not afford to ignore when buying robotic process automation software is compatibility with enterprise applications. At the end of the day, your robotic process automation software’s utility is highly dependent on how these tools can integrate with your existing business application. This is about your data integration with supermetric alternatives and so on.

Its capability to extract data from your existing business applications matters most. Does your robotic process automation tool offer plugins to seamlessly connect it with your database, accounting systems, HR systems, appointment setting services and ERP systems? If yes, then you should certainly consider it as an option if it fulfills all your requirements.

5.  Orchestration and administration

Before these bots can take care of mundane tasks, you will have to first configure them and feed them with the right information as well as a secure credential. This secure credential is usually stored in a credential store. If you want other users to use your bots, you will first have to authorize and authenticate them.

You should also allocate resources for certain bots which trigger when a special event occurs. Once you have set it up, now you have to monitor it so it can work without human involvement. You will have to constantly improve its machine learning capabilities so it does not need human support when performing tasks.

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6.  Process and task discovery and mining

Identifying business processes you want to automate and prioritizing them is critical for the success of your robotic process automation implementation. Unfortunately, it is also the most time-consuming part of the process as well.

The more your robotic process automation software lets you mine for processes from system log and construct task flows by observations, the easier it will be for you to implement it and automate your business processes. Look for robotic process automation tools that make task discovery and mining painless.

7.  Scalability

If you are planning to implement robotic process automation throughout the organization, you will bump into scalability issues. The best way to resolve these scalability issues is to implement them in the cloud, in containers or via virtual machines. If the orchestration component can allocate extra bots when needed, solving the scalability problem is not a problem.

At the end of the day, the success and failure of your robotic process automation rest on identifying the best tasks and processes to be automated. Make sure to document every step involved in the process. Never cut corners in testing cycles because it can lead to some missing links in your robotic process automation systems.

What factors do you consider when selecting a robotic process automation software? Share it with us in the comments section below.

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