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Jennifer Scheer

Principal at Shout Studio

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Automation and Tools are Fantastic for Marketing, But Only If...

May 21, 2018

Automation and tools enable us to create better programs, accomplish more with fewer resources and effort, and deliver more data to optimize results.

Technology is transforming every corner of our work and lives today, and marketing is no exception. Automation and tools enable us to create better programs, accomplish more with fewer resources and effort, and deliver more data to optimize results. But it’s not as easy as pushing a button and letting the system churn away (if only!). To get the most from the technology you’ve invested in, you need to understand what it can and can’t do for you.

Automation and tools are fantastic for marketing, but only if…

…you set yourself up for success from the start.

Technology should address specific requirements and challenges. So the first step is to identify what you need, then you can apply tools and automate processes to tackle them. As the old adage says, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. But I assume you have specific goals you need to achieve and KPIs you need to track—make sure they are what drive every deployment and configuration decision.

…you don’t confuse skills and tools.

The tool is just an enabler. Smart strategies, relevant messaging, and compelling delivery always come first, and they require creativity and innovation. Tools will help you execute, but they can’t make a bad plan/program/content good. As they say, garbage in, garbage out.

…you understand that automation just automates.

Similarly, automation is just a way to perform tasks without human intervention. Automating a process only makes it faster; it doesn’t necessarily make it better. Make sure that what you are automating is, in fact, an effective process and that taking people out of the equation won’t have any unintended consequences.

…you test, test, test.

Speaking of unintended consequences, verify every part of every system and process. Make sure that the output—whether it’s customer-facing content or internal approval routing or a lead score, or whatever—makes sense. For example, we’ve all gotten that email that makes you go “Huh?” that was clearly part of a lead nurture campaign gone awry. Setup and configuration can be complex, so spend time confirming everything behaves properly.

…you use data wisely.

A lot of tools can overwhelm you with data, and not all of it is useful. Reacting to the information that’s presented to you by default could potentially lead you down a rat hole of optimizing for things that aren’t relevant. Instead, figure out what you need based on your goals and KPIs, and configure your dashboards and reports accordingly. And then, of course, use that data to continuously improve.

…you don’t fall for the “set and forget” myth.

Everything evolves: your business, goals, messaging, team, and more. Your systems will have to evolve accordingly. Review your tools and processes on a regular basis so they don’t fall behind, operating on outdated parameters, and start to work against you.

Technology makes you go further faster, but you still need to steer the ship.

Tools and automation can make a marketer’s job easier. But like so much in life, the more care you put into it, the more value you’ll get out of it. Let the technology do what it’s good at—you’re still responsible for everything else.

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