We all know the wonders of marketing automation—the ability to rapidly draw in new email lists, reach thousands more consumers at the click of a button, easily segment your efforts based on preconceived interests, and much more. But automation isn’t everything. Creativity should still reign and needs to remain a priority in marketing plans.
Here are 10 pitfalls to avoid as marketing automation becomes an ever-more-useful way to communicate your brand’s message.
1. Annoying potential consumers: Damaging your brand through the overuse of widespread email automation is a real and present danger when the human element is removed. It has become common practice to segment email lists by various methods, including sector or job title, but if this is done without care, without knowing precisely which groups are primed to receive the messages you are sending, your brilliant email campaign may end up floundering in your ideal future consumer’s “blocked” folder.
2. Coming across as a computer, rather than a person: Imagine coming home from a networking event feeling that you made a great connection with a potential client or colleague, only to receive what is clearly an automated email from the person. Failure to engage personally, in favor of sending an automated “great to meet you!” message can lead to the prospect thinking: “He doesn’t remember me. Why bother trying to remind him?” In fact, a study conducted by RichRelevance has found that average consumer email click-through rates are 2.5 times higher using personalization compared with nonpersonalized emails and that as a result, revenue can jump 5.7 times higher for a company. In short, email personalization has tremendous ROI.
3. Paying too much for automation software and underusing it: The best marketing software programs come with a high pricetag and often include unnecessary features needed to engage with consumers. Before you leap into a monthly agreement with one of these so-called revolutionary programs, do your research and decide how many of these features you really need and how many you expect to fully exploit.
4. Efficiently executing a weak marketing plan: Automation does just that—it speeds up, or automates, tasks that the system is programmed to do. But what happens when the people setting up automations haven’t thoroughly considered all the angles? You wind up with a very high-speed, state-of-the-art mistake. And what’s the best way to avoid this fate? By starting with a good old human creative team, and after deep conceptualizing and planning, setting up a few well-considered automations.
5. Relying on quantity over quality: Starting with numbers (look, we’ve grown our email campaign list by 20,000!) and ending with throwing together just any content to share with your massive list may seem smart at first, but it only leads back to the spam folder desert. Just because automation means you can send five emails a week doesn’t mean you should.
6. Forgetting to tell your brand’s larger story of your marketing efforts: It’s one thing to set your creative team on developing a killer multifaceted campaign, but consistently engaging your existing and potential consumers with high-level creative that ladders up to a larger brand goal is a smarter game altogether. Automation can spread your messages faster and can track campaign results with unparalleled accuracy and efficiency. But don’t let these facts distract you from the need to have creative people on your team digging in to create stellar new work for your software to help you tell your story.
7. Learning to automate and then moving on: Marketing automation software is constantly evolving. In order to make the most of it, your team must keep apprised of the best practices for the particular system you are using. Unlike traditional marketing, where changes happen gradually, automation software may shift in an instant—and without regularly studying the upgrades, your "cutting edge" automation plan can easily become outpaced by competitors.
8. Even worse, only a fraction are learning to automate: What do we mean? Maybe everyone on your team needs to understand the inner workings of your automation program, but right now only a few people do, causing an uneven knowledge base. In cases like this, the cost of using automation software may be too high and leads to wasted time, as the upper-level skill-holders end up having to re-do work.
9. Forgetting to protect your greatest asset, existing consumers: All the excitement surrounding new software and its ability to reach countless potential consumers can lead you to neglect the crucial relationships you have already built through hand-to-hand interactions and personal marketing plans. Don’t make this mistake. To quote the Stephen Stills’ classic, “love the one you’re with.”
10. Developing marketing tunnel vision: Yes, automation can process data far better than human beings possibly can, but it can also keep us from viewing the bigger picture. In order to successfully produce fresh, surprising, smart marketing campaigns, it’s necessary for the creative team to also keep their eyes and ears open to subtle cultural shifts—and to develop content with a finger on the pulse.
Data needs creativity in an interdependent way; they are both necessary for marketing to be effective. Creativity is the lifeblood of effective brand engagement. Start with humans, verify with data.