The Floodgates have Opened
It seems that wherever we go, we’re flooded with content from marketing automation platforms looking for us to learn the latest trick or to download the most “complete guide ever”. That’s all well and good, but for most of us, we’re now locked into a platform for the foreseeable future, and need to leverage what we’ve got. With limited resources, growing expectations (and demands), and a more fragmented customer base, how can we leverage the tools we have to accomplish more with less?
Understanding Marketing Automation
According to a 2017 Marketing Automation Trends Survey, a whopping 71 percent of you are leveraging marketing automation to some degree. Another 23 percent intend to start using automation in the near future.
These results are hardly surprising in light of the myriad ways that automation can help you accomplish your marketing goals. Drawing on information taken from CRMs, web analytics, and other systems, marketing automation can help you create more effective campaigns by tailoring and delivering content specifically geared to customers’ needs and wants—when they want it. The end result is that customers spend more time on your website or app, leading to a better brand experience and, ideally, more sales.
An umbrella term for a range of platforms and technologies, SaaS marketing automation tools help you optimize your marketing efforts by automating various redundant tasks. These include solutions for email marketing, analytics, channel management, social marketing and drip campaigns, among other features. The goal is to bring together essential data, marketing communications, and your unique brand identity in order to maximize sales and profits.
As we’ve outlined above, marketing automation can help you in a number of key areas. For example, you might send customers a “win-back” email letting them know they haven’t made a purchase in a while and offering suggestions for items they’d enjoy. Or you could use remarketing to remind customers of previous products that caught their attention. One thing’s for certain: marketing automation isn’t going anywhere soon.
Understanding Machine Learning
Machine learning might sound like something out of the “Terminator” movies, but in a marketing context, this concept is nothing to be feared. Drawing on a combination of coding and statistics, machine learning enables marketers to segment buyers and customize messages and content to appeal to them. This is especially important in the digital age, when marketers have the opportunity to target a wider range of customers than ever before, while also creating more personalized, one-to-one experiences with every single buyer.
With a customer relationship management strategy, one-to-one marketing allows you to effectively create segments of one. Using machine learning, you can gather the real-time data needed to build full pictures of your customers. The end result is more targeted, long-lasting relationships that are beneficial to both parties.
The benefits of machine learning go beyond basic targeting. Along with finding and reaching leads, marketers can use machine learning algorithms to predict what products and services might appeal to individual customers in the future. A Fortune article reveals that Amazon uses this technology to personalize the browsing experience for its giant customer base.
If Amazon’s success isn’t enough to sway you about the effectiveness of this technology, consider the results of a study by the Accenture Institute for High Performance. In a survey of businesses that saw at least $500 million in sales, 76 percent reported greater sales growth as a result of machine learning.
Of course, knowing how to target particular segments of your audience isn’t enough. These days, marketers must also create inspiring content that draws a consumer in across multiple channels.
With U.S. adults consuming a shocking 11 hours of media per day, it’s up to us marketers to find ways of keeping them entertained and informed. Content automation can empower marketers to maximize content distribution while reducing costs and time investments. By using algorithmic content creation for simpler tasks, marketers can devote writers and resources to more sophisticated projects.
Even the most robust marketing team can struggle to create sufficient high-quality content in the digital age. That’s where automatic content generation comes in. Not only does it help businesses build more tailored, effective messaging, but it also enables them to maintain and update that content more often. According to a poll of senior marketers in Europe, 41 percent had already begun to use automated content generation in some form, and another 42 percent had plans to do so in the next year.
As a marketing professional, you might fear that automating content will affect your ability to create personalized messaging for your audience. On the contrary, content automation allows marketers to move away from generic messaging that’s designed to appeal to the largest number of potential buyers.
By taking into account data from profiles, previous purchasing habits and analytics, you can create highly personalized marketing campaigns designed to push leads to convert. For example, you might use content automation to create detailed web descriptions for your products or generate market reports that you distribute to newsletter subscribers.
Developing a Content Strategy
It’s only logical that a debate would exist about the value of quality versus quantity in regard to web-based content marketing strategy. While some marketers believe that business success comes from creating the most respected, relevant content, some others take a high-volume approach, striving to create the most material possible for the lowest budget (we absolutely do not advocate for the latter).
A recent Buzzsumo article compares the strategy of software developer Hubspot with that of Social Media Examiner. Publishing around 400 posts annually, Social Media Examiner boasts an impressive 3,900 shares per post. On the other hand, Hubspot publishes 4,000 posts but enjoys fewer shares – 600 on average.
While Social Media Examiner clearly gets more shares per post, Hubspot’s wealth of content achieved 2.8 million shares total, while Social Media Examiner received just 1.8 million.
Social Media Examiner and Hubspot are both successful companies, and there’s clearly no one right way to create and market content online. However, by assessing your long-term goals, you can take steps to create a strategy that aligns with them. Moreover, marketers can use automation tools and algorithms to achieve more efficient content production moving forward.
Understanding Interactive Content
Sometimes called the fourth wave of content marketing, interactive content refers to surveys, assessments, calculators, infographics, and other marketing tools that allow for greater user engagement. These days, consumers are savvy to the techniques of traditional marketing. In fact, Demand Gen Report’s 2015 Content Preferences survey reveals that 91 percent of consumers prefer highly visual content that is also interactive.
More satisfying and relevant to buyers than other forms of marketing, interactive content also offers benefits to the company in question. Using people’s responses to quizzes and surveys, marketers can easily build more personalized drip campaigns.
Using AI to Create More Personalized and Interactive Content
As a marketing professional, you might wonder if AI will result in fewer human jobs in your industry. While AI can do a great deal for the modern marketer, one thing it can’t do is replace the need for writers and editors – at least not yet. Just because AI can synthesize data and help businesses create targeted content, doesn’t mean it can replicate human creativity, intuition, and empathy. However, AI can take over some of the routine tasks like research, giving marketers more time to pursue new and innovative methods of reaching customers.
That said, there are plenty of ways that marketers can use AI to achieve their goals. Businesses can use artificial intelligence to optimize content for search engines, reviewing a large number of pages to assess SEO compliance. You can check readability to make sure it matches the needs of your customer base, and even use chatbots—computer programs that conduct conversations with web users—to improve your customer service.
And customers are on board with AI – at least to a point. According to a survey commissioned by Adweek, 74 percent of consumers reported having positive experience with AI in retail shops, and 57 percent had gladly used chatbots online. Still, 65 percent would not support robots replacing human clerks.
Automating Content Distribution
It’s not enough to automate the way you’re creating content. In 2017, marketers must also find ways to automate their content distribution. Here are three ways you can get started.
1. Make the Most of Mobile
Despite the proliferation of smart phones in our society, retail conversation rates for smartphones remain lower than those on desktops. So, business owners still have a ways to go when it comes to optimizing mobile.
Mobile marketing automation is the process of using software to handle mobile marketing tasks, such as segmenting an audience, messaging customers and prospects in real time, and performing A/B testing. Sellers can use mobile marketing automation to send push notifications, communicate with users through in-app messages, and find other ways to improve mobile phone users’ interactions with their brands.
According to VentureBeat, marketers that used MMA noticed significant improvements in the areas of customer ratings, acquisition costs, and overall conversions.
2. Use Social Media
If you’re a veteran of online marketing, you probably already know how important social media is as a component of your overall campaign. As of 2016, 60 million businesses have Facebook pages, so creating a social presence for your business isn’t enough. Savvy companies take steps to ensure their social channels contain interesting, intelligent, relevant content that speaks to audiences while reflecting their unique brands.
As a busy business owner (marketer), you might not have time to post daily content to all the relevant social media sites. Fortunately, automation can help ensure that your social media presence doesn’t suffer just because your calendar is packed. Tools like Hootsuite and HubSpot let you schedule posts in advance and receive notifications about comments and brand mentions. Other automation software help companies send emails to people who sign up through social media pages and vary the wording of content when reposting.
Additionally, many businesses are using bots to automate their social media presences. Facebook announced bots for its messenger platform in April of 2016. The bots will handle an array of customer service tasks and sales functions. This service is particularly valuable for companies with millennial customers, 53 percent of people between 18 and 34 would rather use electronic media for support than call a business on the phone. According to a 2016 report by Gartner, companies can expect mobile searches by virtual assistants to increase from 20 percent to 50 percent by the end of this year.
As a business owner, you might fear that utilizing automation could cause your social media posts to feel less personal. After all, your customers don’t want to feel like they’re talking to a computer rather than a human being. However, the truth is that automation enables social media marketers to post more relevant content more frequently by taking certain tasks off their plates. As the quality and quantity of your posts increase, customers will begin to see you as a valuable authority in your field.
3. Connect to Customers with Email
In a world of AI and chatbots, email might sound decidedly old-fashioned. However, the truth is that email marketing is very much alive. In fact, a study by McKinsey reveals that email marketing is three times as likely as social media marketing to lead to conversions. Moreover, the value of sales made from email is 17 percent higher. The key is to move past typical email marketing strategies rooted in repetition and brand awareness to find new ways of connecting with customers.
Automation can help companies create more targeted emails and send them to the ideal audience segments. Additionally, you can schedule messages in advance and send them out at particular times of the day and week, when your desired audiences are most likely to respond. From emails to welcome new subscribers to messages to collect feedback on a new product, the possibilities with email automation are virtually endless.
Despite the proven effectiveness of email marketing, many companies are still reluctant to use it in conjunction with their other strategies. Not only do marketers struggle to create powerful content, but they also worry about boring or even annoying their client base. A leader in email marketing, MESH helps businesses design unique, targeted messaging. Download our free e-book to learn about the various elements of email marketing, from designing a strategy to guarding against spam.
Getting Started on Creating an Effective Marketing Automation Strategy
Staying abreast of the latest digital marketing automation tools and trends is only half the battle. As a business owner, you must also take the time to develop a specific strategy for overcoming barriers and achieving a solid ROI. In fact, 52 percent of marketing professionals said that lack of strategy was the most serious barrier to marketing success. Invest the time in your campaign today to ensure you get the desired end result tomorrow.
Interested in developing an AI driven content marketing strategy? Contact us today.