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Do it once (and only once) with workflow automation

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Do it once and only once with workflow automation

There’s a concept in productivity philosophy that suggests you “only handle it once” (OHIO) — the idea is that you immediately deal with whatever crosses your desk rather than wasting time by setting it aside and getting back to it later. When designing workflows for myself and my team, I like to take this a step further and set up processes in such a way that people need only do a simple task a single time. 

“Why would you do something more than once?” you might ask. You may not think of it that way, but, in many cases, everyday work involves doing the same thing several times. For example, you mark a task as done in your product management software, then send an email to your colleague to let them know it’s complete. You enter content into the CMS for your website, then copy the same content to the system you use for your mobile site. Not only is this kind of thing inefficient, but every time you’re entering or copying data from one system to another, you risk introducing errors. 

In my last article, I explained how I save new contacts’ information by entering it into a form that then updates a variety of different systems. This time, I’ll walk you through a few more examples, explaining the automation tools that enable them. 

Cross-posting from one website to another

At one time, we’d frequently cross-post content from one of our sites to another whenever the article would be of interest to both audiences. Rather than start completely from scratch, I designed a workflow where editors would select a certain category in WordPress (which wouldn’t be displayed on the site) to indicate that a piece should be published on both sites. 

cross posting processcross posting process

The annotated screenshot above, along with this shared Zap, gives you a sense of how this worked. The trigger setting the workflow in motion was the publication of any article on the first site. The first thing Zapier did, using its built-in filter function, is to see whether the requisite category was checked. If not, nothing more would happen. 

If the Zap continued, it next copied over the featured image associated with the article. This took several steps, in part because we were getting a lot of time-out errors on the second site. We solved this, for the most part, by getting the name of the featured image file, downloading the image to our Google Drive if there wasn’t already a file with that name in the folder, then uploading that image to the second WordPress site. 

We continued to have time-out problems, so I set up a step whereby if the image wasn’t uploaded successfully to the second WordPress site, a default generic image would be selected instead. This kept the process rolling along rather than getting stuck on an error. 

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Finally, the system would create a new post on the second WordPress site, copying over the headline, body copy and featured image. The rest of the images within the article were still hosted on the first site, which we’d decided we were OK with. The resulting post was set to Draft status rather than automatically published because we did have to do a few things manually. 

The manual part (and why)

First, you may notice the process doesn’t address the question of authorship. Because WordPress stores authors as ID numbers, and because our author IDs differed from one site to another, we couldn’t just copy an ID over. At one point, we did a lookup in Google Sheets that matched ID numbers from one site to another, but that ended up being difficult to maintain so we went with selecting the author by hand.

Our categories and category IDs differ from one site to the other, too, which means we categorized the articles after they’d been copied over to the second site. In addition, we went into the Yoast SEO plug-in and designated the original URL as canonical. This also gave us the opportunity to check the article over to ensure everything functioned as intended before publishing. 

Making form submissions go further 

The submission of a form is a fantastic time to trigger other events. For our MarTech Intelligence Reports, we use a form to gather information about software vendors in the categories we cover. When someone we’ve asked to fill a questionnaire hits submit, this triggers a number of processes. 

  1. The company logo they’ve uploaded gets added to a Google Drive folder set up for this purpose.
  2. The answers are copied into a Google Doc, which serves as the starting point for a vendor profile. Internal parties receive an email notification with a link to the draft.
  3. The submitter receives an email acknowledgment.
  4. The status of the ClickUp task representing that vendor profile is automatically updated to indicate that we’ve received the form submission
  5. A comment is posted to the ClickUp task with a link to the draft document. 
  6. The vendor’s analysis of industry trends goes into my unstructured data store tool, Mem, so I can tap it when writing the analytical part of the report. 
  7. The submitter’s name, company and email address are added to my directory of contacts.

I’ll walk you through a few of these processes so you can see how it all happens.

Even though we cover a lot of different software types in our MarTech Intelligence Reports, we use a single questionnaire to gather info from vendors. That questionnaire uses conditional logic to ensure the right questions appear for the correct category. This means that when we make a change to a question that’s required for every vendor, we don’t need to change it 12 times in 12 different forms. We also use a hidden field to link the form to the task for which it is being submitted using a task ID. 

Uploading the company logo (number 1 above) uses a simple JotForm function to call a webhook at the time of submission, sending the uploaded image to the proper Google Drive folder. 

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1652464191 427 Do it once and only once with workflow automation1652464191 427 Do it once and only once with workflow automation

Creating a Google Doc draft from the form input (number 2) uses native JotForm functionality to send an email with form data when it’s submitted. One general challenge with these form submissions is that even though the conditional logic prevents certain questions from appearing to the person filling out the form, those questions (and blank answers) are output whenever you export the form data. And as we expand to cover new categories, this issue grows larger. 

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We get around this by utilizing the native email notification feature, which is set to only include fields that are completed. The email goes to a Zapier tool called “Email Parser by Zapier” that parses the email with all the questions and answers (but only the relevant ones, because the blank ones weren’t sent over) and copies plain text into a Google Doc.

It’s not formatted very nicely, but it’s a good head start, putting the answers into the tool we will use to write the profile. That same Zap emails the team working on the report with a link to the Google Doc so we can get to work.

Automatically setting the status of the ClickUp Task (number 4) is something I’ve only recently implemented and I’m really finding it useful. The form submission triggers a webhook from Zapier that passes over the task ID number from the hidden form field. That sets off a POST to the ClickUp API that checks a box in the linked task to indicate that the form has been submitted. 

1652464191 288 Do it once and only once with workflow automation1652464191 288 Do it once and only once with workflow automation

I’m using the API instead of the native Zapier ClickUp integration because the native connector requires me to designate a space, a folder and a list for each Zap. Because of the way our tasks are organized in ClickUp, this means I’d need a separate Zap (or some other functionality) for each report. With the API, I only have to specify the unique ClickUp task ID to work with that task.

For whatever reason, though, the API doesn’t allow me to change task statuses. So I have a checkbox within the task record that essentially asks “is the form submitted?” and that box is checked through the API when it is. Then, I use native ClickUp automations to change the task status to “Info Submitted” and put a little comment on the record alerting the assignee. 

1652464191 561 Do it once and only once with workflow automation1652464191 561 Do it once and only once with workflow automation

This process doesn’t “know” about the other Zap that creates the Google Doc, however, so another API call (number 5) is for connecting the task and the draft. Whenever a new Doc is created in the designated folder, Zapier parses the title of the document and extracts the task ID (which I’ve set up to be the last part of the title).

1652464191 91 Do it once and only once with workflow automation1652464191 91 Do it once and only once with workflow automation

With that task ID, it uses the ClickUp API to POST a new comment to the task providing the assignee with the Google Doc URL.

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How it appears in ClickUp

As I explain this, I realize that I probably ought to combine number 2 and number 5 into a single Zap. See? We’re all learning together!

Is all this worth the trouble?

As you can see, there is a lot of detail work involved in setting up these workflows and, like any other computer process, it’s not very forgiving — include an extra space or leave off a slash mark and that’s the whole thing scuppered. 

That said, if you’re automating processes your team encounters over and over in the course of their daily grind, it’s well worth the trouble of the initial setup. We’re doing 12 MIRs this year and each one of them has somewhere between ten and 22 profiles, so it’s worth it to me to set this up once and potentially benefit 286 times in 2022 alone. Once automated workflows like this are functioning smoothly, they eliminate a lot of mind-numbing repetitive work and let you focus on more creative, strategic tasks. 


About The Author

Does your marketing team need a digital experience platform DXPDoes your marketing team need a digital experience platform DXP

Pamela Parker is Research Director at Third Door Media’s Content Studio, where she produces MarTech Intelligence Reports and other in-depth content for digital marketers in conjunction with Search Engine Land and MarTech. Prior to taking on this role at TDM, she served as Content Manager, Senior Editor and Executive Features Editor. Parker is a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported and written on the subject since its beginning. She’s a former managing editor of ClickZ and has also worked on the business side helping independent publishers monetize their sites at Federated Media Publishing. Parker earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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Lessons From Air Canada’s Chatbot Fail

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Lessons From Air Canada’s Chatbot Fail

Air Canada tried to throw its chatbot under the AI bus.

It didn’t work.

A Canadian court recently ruled Air Canada must compensate a customer who bought a full-price ticket after receiving inaccurate information from the airline’s chatbot.

Air Canada had argued its chatbot made up the answer, so it shouldn’t be liable. As Pepper Brooks from the movie Dodgeball might say, “That’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ’em.” 

But what does that chatbot mistake mean for you as your brands add these conversational tools to their websites? What does it mean for the future of search and the impact on you when consumers use tools like Google’s Gemini and OpenAI’s ChatGPT to research your brand?

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AI disrupts Air Canada

AI seems like the only topic of conversation these days. Clients expect their agencies to use it as long as they accompany that use with a big discount on their services. “It’s so easy,” they say. “You must be so happy.”

Boards at startup companies pressure their management teams about it. “Where are we on an AI strategy,” they ask. “It’s so easy. Everybody is doing it.” Even Hollywood artists are hedging their bets by looking at the newest generative AI developments and saying, “Hmmm … Do we really want to invest more in humans?  

Let’s all take a breath. Humans are not going anywhere. Let me be super clear, “AI is NOT a strategy. It’s an innovation looking for a strategy.” Last week’s Air Canada decision may be the first real-world distinction of that.

The story starts with a man asking Air Canada’s chatbot if he could get a retroactive refund for a bereavement fare as long as he provided the proper paperwork. The chatbot encouraged him to book his flight to his grandmother’s funeral and then request a refund for the difference between the full-price and bereavement fair within 90 days. The passenger did what the chatbot suggested.

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Air Canada refused to give a refund, citing its policy that explicitly states it will not provide refunds for travel after the flight is booked.

When the passenger sued, Air Canada’s refusal to pay got more interesting. It argued it should not be responsible because the chatbot was a “separate legal entity” and, therefore, Air Canada shouldn’t be responsible for its actions.

I remember a similar defense in childhood: “I’m not responsible. My friends made me do it.” To which my mom would respond, “Well, if they told you to jump off a bridge, would you?”

My favorite part of the case was when a member of the tribunal said what my mom would have said, “Air Canada does not explain why it believes …. why its webpage titled ‘bereavement travel’ was inherently more trustworthy than its chatbot.”

The BIG mistake in human thinking about AI

That is the interesting thing as you deal with this AI challenge of the moment. Companies mistake AI as a strategy to deploy rather than an innovation to a strategy that should be deployed. AI is not the answer for your content strategy. AI is simply a way to help an existing strategy be better.

Generative AI is only as good as the content — the data and the training — fed to it.  Generative AI is a fantastic recognizer of patterns and understanding of the probable next word choice. But it’s not doing any critical thinking. It cannot discern what is real and what is fiction.

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Think for a moment about your website as a learning model, a brain of sorts. How well could it accurately answer questions about the current state of your company? Think about all the help documents, manuals, and educational and training content. If you put all of that — and only that — into an artificial brain, only then could you trust the answers.

Your chatbot likely would deliver some great results and some bad answers. Air Canada’s case involved a minuscule challenge. But imagine when it’s not a small mistake. And what about the impact of unintended content? Imagine if the AI tool picked up that stray folder in your customer help repository — the one with all the snarky answers and idiotic responses? Or what if it finds the archive that details everything wrong with your product or safety? AI might not know you don’t want it to use that content.

ChatGPT, Gemini, and others present brand challenges, too

Publicly available generative AI solutions may create the biggest challenges.

I tested the problematic potential. I asked ChatGPT to give me the pricing for two of the best-known CRM systems. (I’ll let you guess which two.) I asked it to compare the pricing and features of the two similar packages and tell me which one might be more appropriate.

First, it told me it couldn’t provide pricing for either of them but included the pricing page for each in a footnote. I pressed the citation and asked it to compare the two named packages. For one of them, it proceeded to give me a price 30% too high, failing to note it was now discounted. And it still couldn’t provide the price for the other, saying the company did not disclose pricing but again footnoted the pricing page where the cost is clearly shown.

In another test, I asked ChatGPT, “What’s so great about the digital asset management (DAM) solution from [name of tech company]?” I know this company doesn’t offer a DAM system, but ChatGPT didn’t.

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It returned with an answer explaining this company’s DAM solution was a wonderful, single source of truth for digital assets and a great system. It didn’t tell me it paraphrased the answer from content on the company’s webpage that highlighted its ability to integrate into a third-party provider’s DAM system.

Now, these differences are small. I get it. I also should be clear that I got good answers for some of my harder questions in my brief testing. But that’s what’s so insidious. If users expected answers that were always a little wrong, they would check their veracity. But when the answers seem right and impressive, even though they are completely wrong or unintentionally accurate, users trust the whole system.

That’s the lesson from Air Canada and the subsequent challenges coming down the road.

AI is a tool, not a strategy

Remember, AI is not your content strategy. You still need to audit it. Just as you’ve done for over 20 years, you must ensure the entirety of your digital properties reflect the current values, integrity, accuracy, and trust you want to instill.

AI will not do this for you. It cannot know the value of those things unless you give it the value of those things. Think of AI as a way to innovate your human-centered content strategy. It can express your human story in different and possibly faster ways to all your stakeholders.

But only you can know if it’s your story. You have to create it, value it, and manage it, and then perhaps AI can help you tell it well. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Only 6% of global marketers apply customer insights to product and brand

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Only 6% of global marketers apply customer insights to product and brand

While many brands talk about focusing on the customer, few do it. Less than a quarter (24%) of global brands are mapping customer behavior and sentiment, according to Braze’s 2024 Customer Engagement Review. What’s worse, only 6% apply customer insights to their product and brand approach.

“At the end of the day, a lot of companies operate based on their structure and not how the consumer interacts with them,” Mariam Asmar, VP of strategic consulting, told MarTech. “And while some companies have done a great job of reorienting that, with roles like the chief customer officer, there are many more that still don’t. Cross-channel doesn’t exist because there are still all these silos. But the customer doesn’t care about your silos. The customer doesn’t see silos. They see a brand.”

Half of all marketers report either depending on multiple, siloed point solutions to cobble together a multi-channel experience manually (33%); or primarily relying on single-channel solutions (17%).  Only 30% have access to a single customer engagement platform capable of creating personalized, seamless experiences across channels. This is a huge problem when it comes to cross-channel, personalization.

The persistence of silos

The persistence of data silos despite decades of explanation about the problems they cause, surprised Asmar the most.

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Screenshot 2024 02 27 140015
Source: Braze 2024 Global Customer Engagement Review

“Why are we still talking about this?” she said to MarTech. “One of the themes I see in the report is we’re still getting caught up on some of the same stumbling blocks as before.”

She said silos are indicative of teams working on different goals and “the only way that gets unsolved is if a leader comes in and aligns people towards some of those goals.”

These silos also hinder the use of AI, something 99% of respondents said they were already doing. The top uses of AI by marketers are:

  • Generating creative ideas (48%).
  • Automating repetitive tasks (47%).
  • Optimizing strategies in real-time (47%).
  • Enhancing data analysis (47%).
  • Powering predictive analytics (45%).
  • Personalizing campaigns (44%). 

Despite the high usage numbers, less than half of marketers have any interest in exploring AI’s potential to enhance customer engagement. Asmar believes there are two main reasons for this. First is that many people like the systems they know and understand. The other reason is a lack of training on the part of companies.

Dig deeper: 5 ways CRMs are leveraging AI to automate marketing today

“I think about when I was in advertising and everybody switched to social media,” she told MarTech. “Companies acted like ‘Well, all the marketers will just figure out social media.’ You can’t do that because whenever you’re teaching somebody how to do something new there’s always a level of training them up, even though they’re apps that we use every day, as people using them as a business and how they apply, how we get impact from them.”

The good news is that brands are setting the stage for the data agility they need.

  • 50% export performance feedback to business intelligence platforms to generate advanced analytics.
  • 48% sync performance with insights generated by other platforms in the business.

Also worth noting: Marketers say these are the four main obstacles to creativity and strategy:  

  • Emphasis on KPIs inherently inhibits a focus on creativity (42%).
  • Too much time spent on business-as-usual execution and tasks (42%).
  • Lack of technology to execute creative ideas, (41%).
  • Hard to demonstrate ROI impact of creativity (40%).
Screenshot 2024 02 27 135952Screenshot 2024 02 27 135952

Methodology

The 2024 Global Customer Engagement Review (registration required) is based on insights from 1,900 VP+ marketing decision-makers across 14 countries in three global regions: The Americas (Brazil, Mexico, and the US), APAC (Australia, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea), and EMEA (France, Germany, Spain, the UAE, and the UK).

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Crafting Effortless Sales Through ‘Wow’ Moments in Experience Marketing

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Crafting Effortless Sales Through 'Wow' Moments in Experience Marketing

Crafting Effortless Sales Through Wow Moments in Experience Marketing

In an era where consumers are bombarded with endless choices and digital noise, standing out as a brand is more challenging than ever. Enter experience marketing – a strategy that transcends traditional advertising by focusing on creating immersive, memorable interactions. This innovative approach leverages the elements of surprise, delight, and reciprocity to forge strong emotional connections with customers, making the sale of your core product feel effortless. But how can businesses implement this strategy effectively? This guide delves into the art of crafting ‘wow’ moments that captivate audiences and transform customer engagement.

The Basics of Experience Marketing

Experience marketing is an evolved form of marketing that focuses on creating meaningful interactions with customers, aiming to elicit strong emotional responses that lead to brand loyalty and advocacy. Unlike conventional marketing, which often prioritizes product promotion, experience marketing centers on the customer’s holistic journey with the brand, creating a narrative that resonates on a personal level.

In today’s competitive market, experience marketing is not just beneficial; it’s essential. It differentiates your brand in a crowded marketplace, elevating your offerings beyond mere commodities to become integral parts of your customers’ lives. Through memorable experiences, you not only attract attention but also foster a community of loyal customers who are more likely to return and recommend your brand to others.

Principles of Experience Marketing

At the heart of experience marketing lie several key principles:

  • Emotional Connection: Crafting campaigns that touch on human emotions, from joy to surprise, creating memorable moments that customers are eager to share.
  • Customer-Centricity: Putting the customer’s needs and desires at the forefront of every marketing strategy, ensuring that each interaction adds value and enhances their experience with the brand.
  • Immersive Experiences: Utilizing technology and storytelling to create immersive experiences that captivate customers, making your brand a living part of their world.
  • Engagement Across Touchpoints: Ensuring consistent, engaging experiences across all customer touchpoints, from digital platforms to physical stores.

Understanding Your Audience

Before diving into the intricacies of crafting ‘wow’ moments, it’s crucial to understand who you’re creating these moments for. Identifying your audience’s pain points and desires is the first step in tailoring experiences that truly resonate.

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This involves deep market research, customer interviews, and leveraging data analytics to paint a comprehensive picture of your target demographic. By understanding the journey your customers are on, you can design touchpoints that not only meet but exceed their expectations.

  • Identifying Pain Points and Desires: Use surveys, social media listening, and customer feedback to gather insights. What frustrates your customers about your industry? What do they wish for more than anything else? These insights will guide your efforts to create experiences that truly resonate.
  • Mapping the Customer Journey: Visualize every step a customer takes from discovering your brand to making a purchase and beyond. This map will highlight critical touchpoints where you can introduce ‘wow’ moments that transform the customer experience.

Developing Your Experience Marketing Strategy

With a clear understanding of your audience, it’s time to build the framework of your experience marketing strategy. This involves setting clear objectives, identifying key customer touchpoints, and conceptualizing the experiences you want to create.

  • Setting Objectives: Define what you aim to achieve with your experience marketing efforts. Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, boosting sales, or improving customer retention, having clear goals will shape your approach and help measure success.
  • Strategic Touchpoint Identification: List all the potential touchpoints where customers interact with your brand, from social media to in-store experiences. Consider every stage of the customer journey and look for opportunities to enhance these interactions.

Enhancing Customer Experiences with Surprise, Delight, and Reciprocity

This section is where the magic happens. By integrating the elements of surprise, delight, and reciprocity, you can elevate ordinary customer interactions into unforgettable experiences.

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  • Incorporating Surprise and Delight: Go beyond what’s expected. This could be as simple as a personalized thank-you note with each purchase or as elaborate as a surprise gift for loyal customers. The key is to create moments that feel special and unexpected.
  • Applying the Principle of Reciprocity: When customers receive something of value, they’re naturally inclined to give something back. This can be leveraged by offering helpful resources, exceptional service, or customer appreciation events. Such gestures encourage loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.
  • Examples and Case Studies: Highlight real-world examples of brands that have successfully implemented these strategies. Analyze what they did, why it worked, and how it impacted their relationship with customers.

Best Practices for Experience Marketing

To ensure your experience marketing strategy is as effective as possible, it’s important to adhere to some best practices.

  • Personalization at Scale: Leverage data and technology to personalize experiences without losing efficiency. Tailored experiences make customers feel valued and understood.
  • Using Technology to Enhance Experiences: From augmented reality (AR) to mobile apps, technology offers myriad ways to create immersive experiences that surprise and engage customers.
  • Measuring Success: Utilize analytics tools to track the success of your experience marketing initiatives. Key performance indicators (KPIs) could include engagement rates, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction scores.

Section 5: Overcoming Common Challenges

Even the best-laid plans can encounter obstacles. This section addresses common challenges in experience marketing and how to overcome them.

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  • Budget Constraints: Learn how to create impactful experiences without breaking the bank. It’s about creativity, not just expenditure.
  • Maintaining Consistency: Ensuring a consistent brand experience across all touchpoints can be daunting. Develop a comprehensive brand guideline and train your team accordingly.
  • Staying Ahead of Trends: The digital landscape is ever-changing. Stay informed about the latest trends in experience marketing and be ready to adapt your strategy as necessary.

The Path to Effortless Sales

By creating memorable experiences that resonate on a personal level, you make the path to purchase not just easy but natural. When customers feel connected to your brand, appreciated, and valued, making a sale becomes a byproduct of your relationship with them. Experience marketing, when done right, transforms transactions into interactions, customers into advocates, and products into passions.

Now is the time to reassess your marketing strategy. Are you just selling a product, or are you providing an unforgettable experience? Dive into the world of experience marketing and start creating those ‘wow’ moments that will not only distinguish your brand but also make sales feel effortless.


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