Your company needs a website. And a blog. And social media accounts—lots of them. And email newsletters, whitepapers, and infographics. And video, lots of video. And don’t forget emerging forms of content: motion graphics, interactive content, even augmented and virtual reality.
And if you’re a brand marketer, you’re in luck: all these content strategy campaigns are set squarely on your plate.
You can see where this is headed—the growth of digital marketing, in terms of the volume it requires and the ever-increasing number of forms it takes, places a huge workload on marketing departments. Even for a large enterprise organization, the demands can quickly overwhelm staff.
At the same time, these marketing efforts are crucial to a company’s success, both in the short term and over the long run. Adding staff isn’t always a practical consideration, and even if it were, it would only serve as a partial solution to a growing problem. As marketing demands grow, the need for simplification becomes more pressing.
That’s where marketing automation comes in. While all these tasks and processes can be done manually—and they often are, especially for smaller organizations—it doesn’t have to be that way. Marketing automation tools can take over some of the more tedious aspects of content marketing management, reducing daily demands on marketers while also optimizing those marketing efforts.
It can be unsettling for marketers who are used to taking care of everything themselves, and especially so for anyone with a penchant for micro-managing. But make no mistake: When used properly, marketing automation technology can be a major source of stress relief.
Time savings isn’t the only advantage of automating your marketing. In fact, automation can improve the entire sales process—from the quality of your leads to the information you learn about those leads, and even the efforts that go into motivating a conversion.
In fact, marketing automation can accelerate the entire sales process by nurturing leads and qualifying them. According to Business 2 Community, this automation can increase qualified leads by 451 percent, helping brands advance consumers down the sales funnel. Automation can trigger instant responses to leads based on their behaviors, all of which the software can track and interpret. Meanwhile, the fast lead-qualification process means less energy will be wasted on leads that don’t amount to anything.
Other aspects of automation, such as lead scoring and data acquisition, allow marketers to prioritize their efforts and resources based on what they know about consumers. Automation software can observe a user’s behavior on a website, or their interactions with an email newsletter, and choose the best responses based on what the data suggests. The same goes for interactions via social media or through display ads and other digital content: consumer behaviors are tracked and measured, and automated responses are applied accordingly.
As emerging forms of content come to rise, automation is serving as an opportunity to deploy more intelligent solutions. Consider chatbots: powered by artificial intelligence, and built with machine learning capabilities to get smarter over time, chatbots can provide basic online customer service to consumers without ever soliciting the help of a human.
Chatbots are fully automated, requiring minimal maintenance and upkeep by marketing and IT departments. While chatbots won’t be able to respond to every customer inquiry, they can typically resolve a high percentage of issues and cut down drastically on demands placed on customer service personnel.
Brands are also finding that chatbots facilitate more responsive customer service, which improves the overall customer experience. Take American Express, for instance, which just recently built a Facebook Messenger bot that can track its members’ transactions and uses their behaviors to identify and deliver content that might be relevant for them. “Buy a plane ticket, and the bot will send you the receipt, along with restaurant recommendations and a tip to take advantage of AmEx’s complimentary airport lounge,” wrote Lauren Johnson in an article for Adweek. It’s automation at its finest.
The decision of what to automate isn’t as clear-cut as you might think; after all, there are a lot of aspects of content marketing that can benefit from some form of marketing automation. But organizations may have financial constraints to work with, and/or marketing strategies may not be comprehensive enough to take advantage of everything a piece of automation software has to offer.
There’s also the challenge of deciding what to automate, and what to handle yourself. For example, social media automation can be tricky because authenticity is so critical to interactions. Past attempts at publishing AI social media accounts have gone far from smoothly (most notably Microsoft’s Tay, which was corrupted after less than a day on Twitter). Chatbots are more practical when deployed with limitations, such as in a customer service format, but they can also be expensive to set up—especially for brands lacking the communication volume to truly benefit.
That said, some aspects of your content strategy are virtual no-brainers to automate. First and foremost is email, which is rife with data-rich insights that a good automation software can leverage right away. And smaller email tasks, such as notifying consumers when a new blog post has been published, are easily handled without the need for human oversight.
Similarly, a B2C brand might want to invest in personalized offers and custom content that is automatically sent to consumers based on their past behaviors. Calls to action at the end of website content can siphon consumers into an automated sales funnel. Brands should make priority lists that identify the most valuable ways automation could improve operations and marketing ROI, then work on ways to implement their strategies.
Any attempt at automation requires a software service provider, and it’s important to choose wisely in this regard. Brands need to first identify their highest-priority automation efforts, and then seek out solutions that can address all these needs.
There are a lot of options to choose from—a fact that’s both good and bad. On one hand, it means options abound; on the other, this makes the task of due diligence all the more important. Some options are specific to a marketing medium: MailChimp is an established industry leader, but focuses on email automation. Contrast that with mainstays such as HubSpot and Marketo, which have positioned themselves as comprehensive marketing solutions that provide suites of automation options, according to Entrepreneur.
Other deciding factors could depend on where your organization is with its own marketing. For example, some automation services are designed for brands that already know who their target audiences are, while some automation platforms pride themselves on discovering those audiences and targeting them accordingly. Marketers will need to make honest assessments of their successes and failures, strengths and weaknesses, when seeking out the right fit with an automation solution.
But no matter where you’re at, or what you need to support your content strategy, the odds are good there’s a software solution just for you. And once you find that perfect fit, you won’t believe you ever lived without it.