Tuesday 2¢: Tips on Keeping Marketing Human with Less Humans

The machines of marketing are getting a bad rap right now, as the human touch seems to be a distant aspiration when engaging with brands, found only with persistence behind a firewall of robots. In this Tuesday 2 cents I suggest some ways we can change that.

A lot is written about how marketing automation has been detrimental to the consumers experience of marketing, the tools we have allow us to give a quick crank of the handle and for a few cents a hit, any one of us can create a tsunami of “personalized” crap (and it feels like many of us do).  

This automation obsession continues into the customer experience, from the phone tree system that requires us to spend 5 minutes being read various instructions of which button to press, the bloody annoying “do not reply to this address” emails to impersonal automated tweets that respond to a brand mention, assuming you have a problem (as Ted Rubin discusses here).

I confess to have recently experimented with Twitter promote mode and the feedback has not been that great, as my unexpected and irrelevant (for them) tweets appear in the feed of seemingly random folks as the Twitter algorithm seems a bit off.

It’s easy to have a downer on the machine.

However, long gone are the days that being “more human” in mainstream marketing can be supported commercially by employing more humans. The business model is no longer there, we have to embrace our machines, grab them by the keyboard, teach them to do better.

Here are some ideas to make your automated marketing more human:

Minimum Viable Audience

We reach for our machines because we feel a need to scale, there is zero effort difference between hitting the marketing version of “send to all” and being more prescriptive.

We believe that top of funnel engagement rates of 1.5% are perfectly fine, forgetting the 98.5% of the people that we’ve caught in our net that, at best, don’t care.

If we give some thought to who we really think will buy our products and the minimum number of people we need to touch to make this happen our automated messages will be immediately more relevant to this smaller audience, plus we can spend more human time on this smaller audience.

Really focus on segmentation or don’t do it

An extension to the previous point, most of what pisses people off is not the interruption (email, Facebook ad, whatever it is) – it is that the interruption was inappropriate or irrelevant.

So, if you are going to segment, make sure you get this right, base them on great personas, not just capturing the aspirations of the marketing team on a whiteboard. And don’t act until you are really sure and can support it with data, especially if you are making assumptions about where someone is in the buying journey, assuming someone is interested and “warm” to buy when they are not, will piss them off.

Don’t “set and forget”

We’ve all done it, setup a campaign, rule or social media bot only to forget about it until it is trampling all over our online reputation. Stay on top of all the campaigns and stuff you are automating, however small and review them monthly.

Make sure there is a real person to respond

Always, always, always have some way for someone to reply to the email you are sending, or that someone is monitoring the social media account – or whatever it is. Give people a short cut through the automation to connect with a human, you might be surprised by the results (and nowadays, they will be too!).

Just because you can, should you?

Automation is often used because we simply have too many spinning communications plates. So, every new opportunity to engage your audience, new auto-thingamajig, technique, social channel or whatever it is, needs to be evaluated carefully, before you joyfully hitch yourself to the latest bandwagon.

If you open a new channel, how sustainable is it? Can you be consistent and attentive? Will it help your audience over and above the existing communications you provide. For example, if you choose to simply broadcast on one channel, your audience will expect you (a person) to be there, it will become a channel of support.

Subscribe to your own services

Finally, if you expect someone to sign up for your newsletter, opt-in to your communications, follow your social media accounts, make sure that everyone in the team, from CMO down is enlisted. If something does sneak through, or a bot goes rogue, you’ll spot it and you’ll get a feel of what your brand sounds like.

Automation in marketing is here to stay, the C suite is used to the efficiencies it brings and if being more human can’t be done by getting more humans, it has to be done through our skilful use of the machines, to help us scale the human touch, not replace it.

Marketing technology was the theme of the latest issue of Rockstar CMO: The Ghost in the Machine Issue – check it out!