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Can You Automate Your Digital Marketing?

It’s a question we’re increasingly covering with clients as they get to grips with the speed of diversification of online marketing channels.

This is often expressed in a number of ways with questions like:

  • How do you cope with the sheer range of online channels?
  • How can you value time, and use it more wisely?
  • What is the tipping point when time invested is greater than return?

The truth is that it is impossible to ‘productise’ because every client is different. At the same time there is much you can do to automate your Digital Marketing. Here we cover some of the main challenges.

Cost vs. Benefit

If your time is of great value, then more automation is needed. If you have a marketing team with juniors in it, then it may be cheaper for you not to automate.

Equally, if you have a small email list or following, the sheer time cost of writing a blog post, or emailshot, or designing something completely from scratch is greater than ┬áthe value – so, ironically, for smaller businesses, automation makes more sense.

The greatest mistake when it comes to automation is thinking that it will be cheaper. It is about efficiency, not necessarily cost saving. Particularly when you create bespoke software, the development cost often is dwarfed by the ongoing support and improvement fees.

Example: a CMS site will need more maintenance and software support. So, if you are going to edit pages frequently, choose a CMS. If your website is mainly going to just stay the same, then just get a ‘flat’ website.

Let’s Play ‘Spot the Bot’!

The other problem with going too far with automation is that readers and customers are not stupid. They are very able to spot automation when it’s done thoughtlessly.

This is particularly true in social media marketing, but also is true of email marketing.

If you set up automations, then work it through up front and make sure that your voice doesn’t become hollow and mechanical. People don’t buy from bots, they’re a wind up.

Example: Automated re-tweets of other accounts: if there’s no quality control, then you end up just creating noise and losing followers. When a direct conversation we’re having on Twitter gets re-tweeted by someone totally outside of it, without interest or comment, then that’s a red card.

When Automation Breaks Down

The other area you need to be careful on is using automation. There are some great services out there to help the online marketer like IFTTT and Hootsuite, which we use for some of our clients. However… However… think before you act!

If you just push the exact same messages through each channel, you’re not giving any of them enough respect. Hashtags don’t work in LinkedIn or Facebook, so they just look out of place.

Not only that, but if you’ve ever tried to engage someone who automatically links accounts, then you often find that there’s no response – because they aren’t actually engaged in that medium. If some replies to a post in Facebook, particularly from a brand or business, then there has to be engagement in that medium.

Example: If you send new blog posts to your Facebook and Twitter feeds you have two potential problems.
Firstly, most people return to their posts to make changes and proof, but if the link is live then the first few visitors may seen unfinished or unproofed content.
Secondly, the title of your post is often the most dull, again the bot will be spotted, so you won’t get the click throughs expected if you just send a title and link.

So, What is Online Marketing Automation?

Used well, it’s your best friend. It can make your marketing slicker, more effective and engaging. It can reach customers at the point of interest (for example after ‘cart abandonment’) and can help you distribute quality content in a very effective way.

Used badly, it’s a nightmare. It makes you seem disinterested, spammy, ill-informed and one-dimensional. It turns people off to your brand and services.

Ultimately, there is no substitute for using your brains (or ours, for that matter). Automation is great, but you need to use it wisely and work out, in every medium, how far you can take it before you need to add a trained eye or some thought into making it perform for you.

For some businesses, it’s 90% automation, for others it’s 10%. Let us help you get that balance right.

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