2014 Marketing Trends: Automation Gets Personal

A series on 2014 marketing trends by Howard Greenstein. For the full story, download our free Marketing in 2014 Guide.

Marketing automation lets marketing departments automate specific, repetitive tasks. This can be anything from sending a promotional email based on a customer’s view of a product page while logged into your system, to automatic social media responses based on keyword analysis.

Jason Falls of CafePress

Jason Falls of CafePress

We asked Jason Falls of CafePress to explain the outlook for automation in 2014.

“What marketing automation does,” he told us, “probably more than anything else, is allow you to scale personal communications.”

“Obviously there’s a little contradiction there. When you’re automating you’re not really communicating on a one- to-one, personal level. But since you’re able to set up a system to send the right messages to the right audience at the right time, in the right sequence, your communications are more relevant to them.

“If you can hit the relevancy bullseye with communications (right message, right time, etc.), you greatly increase the chance that the communication is going to be successful, whether it is asking them to buy some- thing, asking them for feedback, informing them of a new product launch. Whatever your goal, that relevancy bullseye is critical.”

Not every customer likes getting email on Tuesday, or shopping at 3 p.m. Falls notes that you can use data and the customer’s behavior to target the correct message at the right time, and be more relevant.

“That’s a critical component,” he says. “Especially for medium and small businesses who are strapped for resources and staffing.

A good marketing automation system can make a one-person marketing team look like 15 or 20 people.”

Automation can be a challenge to implement. Getting started requires taking hours to figure out the touch points, the order of messages and the triggers. Falls described a business he knows that took 100 person-hours over a few weeks to do this. However, they ultimately grew their business from a trickle of revenue to a million-dollar business in just under a year.

 Key Trend: Automation Gets Personal 

“There is no easy button in marketing,” says Falls. “Automation still takes management, optimization and tuning. It takes nurturing customers along a lifespan so you’re adding customers to your automation. The first six months to a year could be setting it up and getting them far enough down the funnel that it makes you feel like you’re getting something done every day.”

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If a competitor feels you’re not paying attention to the human element, they may be able to swoop in and take your customers just by listening. “Someone will figure out that we’ve pushed the easy button, setting and forgetting it,” says Falls. “Just by talking to customers, they’ll do better. Everyone would rather spend time purchasing from some- one you can talk to.”

Falls suggests that whatever you budget for marketing automation, budget at least 50 percent of that amount for customer care and real-time interaction. Pick a specific channel, whether it’s the phone, Twitter, forums, Facebook or live chat, and be there for your customers 24/7 or during regular hours.

“At CafePress, you can call customer service 24/7,” he says. “You may be on hold for a few minutes, but you’ll talk with someone.”

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