One of the greatest advances from the computer age is the ability to quickly automate repetitive processes. This has given businesses the ability to quickly scale their businesses, turning e-commerce sites into titans that loom over the brick and mortar competition.
Automating basic operations like billing and shipping is an easy win for most brands. These processes are common across industries and have already been optimized by experts. So, there’s less risk in automating them.
Marketing doesn’t translate smoothly across industries or even across companies within the same industry. You can’t just leave this up to the experts, you need to get involved in the creative process and perfect your marketing by hand. When you perform many rounds small experiments before scaling on a mass level, you can be confident that automation will drive real results.
In this post, we’ll look at: common ways to automate your digital marketing, how to map your customer journeys, and how to optimize your marketing processes for automation.
Top Methods for Automating Your Digital Marketing
Digital marketing automation can leverage machine learning, artificial intelligence, and algorithms to amplify your efforts. Some ways these technologies can automate your digital marketing include:
- Prospect tracking: Social media and your website give you access to a large amount of prospects. Which ones should you focus your time on? Prospect tracking tools like Base automatically assign a lead score to each prospect and provide methods for creating meaningful engagement.
- Dynamic content: Most companies have databases full of client information that can be used to segment them. Marketing automation can automatically divide these contacts by segment and email content specific to them. Some tools even let you dynamically adjust web content based on user segment, giving visitors a more targeted experience.
- Nurture campaigns: Automating your lead nurturing campaigns can help prospects convert later in the buyer’s journey, so that you don’t lose leads that aren’t ready to buy right away. These campaigns can span multiple weeks and would be nearly impossible to execute without automation.
These are just a few of the many digital marketing automation options. When used correctly, these can increase the ROI of your marketing efforts. However, there are also risks that you need to know about before automating your marketing.
- Automating marketing allows you to be consistent in how you handle each visitor, lead, and customer, which results in more accurate metrics and reliable insights.
The Dangers of Automation
The problem isn’t that automation is ineffective; it’s that automation is effective at intensifying whatever you’re already doing.
A good customer experience will be amplified by your automation efforts and bring good results. By the same token, digital marketing automation will expose more customers to a bad customer experience and damage your reputation.
This can cause higher levels of customer churn since the automated experience doesn’t live up to their expectations. Increased churn will create a need for more sales, but it will be difficult to fill your lead funnel given the poor experience. The result is that you’ll end up investing way more in your marketing and get a lower ROI.
Automation will scale whatever your current experience is, but it won’t fix the problems with it. That’s why the first step to automation is refining your customer journey so that scaling it will have a positive impact on your marketing.
A 2016 case study of Strongwell Corporation illustrates this point well. It details how the company shifted from a manual email database and newsletter to an automated solution. During this switch, they didn’t maintain the same marketing approach. Instead they had to identify how to better qualify their leads and then connect these to the right sales director for the lead’s region.
If Strongwell had stuck with producing a quarterly newsletter blast, the automation would have provided little value. Instead the value came from coupling the email automation with more effective lead nurturing and drip campaigns.
- Scaling a poor customer experience through automation will increase customer churn and marketing costs.
Building perfect automation with a perfect customer journey
The goal of a customer journey is understanding what customers think and feel at each stage of interacting with your brand. Customer journey maps provides insights on the potential problems with your current experience, so that you can optimize it.
Map Your Customer Journey
The first step in mapping a customer journey is selecting the business goal you want to achieve. In this case, your business goal might be to optimize customer satisfaction with your onboarding process.
Next review these key elements to create your customer journey narrative:
- Point of view: Who is the persona in your story, what are they trying to achieve, and what will make them happy? These are questions you need to answer to understand the customer journey.
- Scenario: Choose the scenario that you want to map. In this case, the scenario could be onboarding a new customer.
- Emotions: Review any qualitative research that you’ve already done on this scenario. If no such research exists, then reach out to a few clients who’ve recently gone through onboarding to understand how they felt about the process.
- Touchpoints: Your customer journey map should include all of the touchpoints (times when the customer interacts with your company). This may bring to light problems with your customer journey, for example a delay in giving the customer access to your solution could make them view your solution negatively.
- Insights: During the mapping process you’ll gain insights on your customer journey that will help you perform more focused research in the future. Make sure to document these insights on the journey map.
After completing these basic elements, you’ll have a fully mapped customer journey for this part of your service. For more complete instructions on this process, read the Nielsen Norman Group guidelines.
Testing and Optimizing Your Customer Journeys
Your next goal is to improve your customer journey so that you’re ready to automate your digital marketing. The insights that you’ve gathered during the mapping process should provide clear improvements that can immediately be implemented. Things like broken links and processes will be obvious, and quick, fixes.
Other improvement may not be as clear. For example, a high shopping cart abandon rate could be caused by multiple issues. Looking at industry statistics is one way to identify potential issues and try to fix them. Research shows that 37% of consumers say that having to create an account will make them abandon the process, while 28% say that a long complicated process is the cause. With these statistics in hand, you can test using social logins and eliminate steps from your checkout process to see if it improves your shopping cart abandon rates.
As you continue tweaking the checkout process, you can compare your shopping cart abandon rate with the industry average of roughly 69%. Once you hit this number or better, it means that section of your customer journey is optimized enough for automation.
Once you’ve made these improvements to your customer journey, then go through the mapping process again. Have the improvements eliminated the largest problems with your customer journey? Have other improvements become apparent?
Following this process of mapping, testing, and optimizing every part of your customer journey will ensure that it’s solid and ready to scale.
- Customer journey mapping will quickly show you the gaps and problems so that you can fix your customer experience before automating it.
Be Smart about Automation
Automation is an excellent tool for amplifying your marketing efforts and saving time. At the same time, automation is dangerous if used to scale poorly designed processes. Before you automate, get involved in each layer of your sales and marketing strategy. Ensure that each touchpoint is optimized and performs at the industry average or better. Once this groundwork is laid, then you can use automation to accelerate growth and build a more consistent customer experience.