I saw an interesting tweet the other day about Twitter which stated: "If a social media specialist or PR firm says you can automate everything, run the other way." I can't argue that logic - it's a mistake to completely remove the human element from something such as social media which by definition is so very human.
We talk about (marketing) automation quite a bit on this blog, but there's a difference between using automation to optimize your online marketing efforts and suggesting that automation can replace the very element which makes communicating, informing, selling and buying what it is: a human process.
The people within and around your business ecosystem and your "social and customer centric culture" should always be at the core of what you do online. However, using automation to optimize your touch points so that the customer experience is seamless and intuitive is just as important as having that positive social and relevance oriented culture.
Let's make sure that this culture radiates outward to your customers and drives your efforts to add value to them every time they interact with your brand: consistency is key.
Automation is not implementing an "automated receptionist" so that those calling you end up in some kind of phone system limbo with really bad light classical music. An automated phone system is annoying when it does not get you to a real person with the right information fast. It's absolutely horrible when it doesn't get you anywhere at all.
Marketing automation is a means to an end
Marketing automation is when you use it to bridge the gaps and span all the channels today's cross-channel consumer and put the power of choice in their hands regarding when they talk to whom or what. Automation and optimization for the cross-channel consumer isn't about avoiding them! Automation and optimization for the cross-channel consumer is about empowering them with choice!
Marketing automation is NOT an end in and of itself, but a means to an end and that end is the relevant information or service which the customer is looking for and the business goal you are working towards. Automation is not only about scenarios, lead nurturing processes, retention programs etc., it's about the people that get in the social sphere of your company, giving them the keys and letting them drive.
The days of hanging an "Hours of Business" sign on your door are done. People no longer care when you are open for business. The only thing that matters now is when they are open to the sales process.
That may happen during office hours, but it's just as likely to happen at 2 AM in the morning, when they can't sleep and decide now is a good time to consider that purchase a bit more.
They choose the time and they choose the channel which suits them best. When they get to your door, will they find it open or will they just find a sign telling them you aren't ready to do business?
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