A Marketer’s Guide On What NOT To Automate by

Automation is a big win for businesses. We can all think of several things we’d rather do than labouring over repetitive tasks a computer could complete. Coffee breaks, beach runs, learning opportunities, whatever’s your cup of tea! Automation means your business can continue to nurture and convert visitors to leads to opportunities, no matter what time of day.

The problem, however, with getting your buddy The Internet to do something is that sometimes things go wrong. Very, very wrong. When you’re weighing up whether automation is the answer, think twice in these situations. You could be saving yourself time and money in the short term, but hurting your business in the long term…

 

Automation May Not Be The Answer When You Haven’t Considered Your Buyer Personas

The most obvious reason for the what or the why to automate depends on who your ideal customers are. Who are they? Where do they spend their time? How do they engage with technology? What are their motives? The success of your marketing efforts hinges on the clarity and truthfulness of your buyer personas.

Perhaps your target market are retirees, the kind who’ve just discovered Skype so that they can call their grandkids. There’s little point automating identical posts across several social platforms, when the likelihood is they’re on Facebook alone or predominantly emailers.

Automation technology is awesome, however it’s potential for time wasting is no less than any other platform. When the efforts are misplaced, you’re missing out on opportunity and losing money.

If you haven’t refreshed and reevaluated your buyer personas in 6 + months, then hold your horses! Invest time and people power into fully outlining your ideal customers, before you even approach another computer. No new automated email workflows, no scheduled social messages, nothing. Just good old fashioned, Sherlock Holmes-ian investigations underway.

The takeaway: Say yes to automation that helps your buyer persona backed marketing campaigns. Say no to automation for ‘the sake of it.’

 

When Automated, Canned Responses Show People You Don’t Care

People like to feel special – that’s a fact. Unfortunately, canned responses can often run the risk of providing the opposite impression. Instead of “You’re special”, you could be saying “we couldn’t be bothered sending you a unique message or reply”. Whether it be responding to positive feedback online to placating an angry customer, avoid automated responses altogether.

Twitter is one of the biggest disaster zones when it comes to automation blunders. If you’ve spent any amount of time on Twitter, you’ve probably received a little something like this in your DM inbox:

Thanks for following! You can also follow us on Facebook (URL), Instagram (URL) and Youtube (URL).

Even when you claim not to use automation, if it looks spammy people will get annoyed. These kinds of messages prove problematic for several reasons:

  • They go heavy on the sales pitch before establishing any connection
  • Without any prior meaningful connection, these messages ooze fake sincerity, and no one likes a faker
  • The aim is clearly self promotion, rather than meaningful engagement and opening doors to collaboration

Of course these messages are just as bad as any customer service that replies to every complaint with:

We’re sorry to hear you’re experiencing issues. Please pass on your details, so a customer service representative can help you further.

The takeaway: Say no to automated responses, pretty much of any kind. This is especially important for customer service online.

 

When You’re Talking Blanket Approach

Automation – it makes so many things easy peasy. Instead of emailing just one person with a perfectly tailored message, you can email a list of over 2000 people. Instead of just posting a social message to one platform at a time, you can cross promote within seconds. At this point, every marketer in the room is probably sighing with relief. It’s time to forget doing the same thing over and over again! Automation is a life saver!

The only problem with this idyllic scene? Too often the blanket approach is to go to.

These days, personalisation is key for a successful marketing approach. Instead of sending the same email to all 2000 email subscribers, segment your audience and send them tailored versions of the same email.

In particular, different social platforms have different etiquette on everything from hashtagging to image dimensions. While it’s okay to put a paragraph of hashtags on instagram, people will get grumpy about this on Twitter. While it’s acceptable for you to post brekkie snaps on Instagram, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone else doing that on Linkedin.

The takeaway: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Say yes to automation that caters for different personas, platforms and purposes.

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When It’s Opening The Door To A Whole Lot Of Awkward

In the case of poor customer service, caused by spammy automated messages, businesses may heavily damage their reputations. However, automation often just causes awkward situations.

For example, Hootsuite Blog Specialist Evan LePage tested out automated comments on Instagram. While on one hand, the experiment was able to quickly increase his audience, it also opened the door to a whole lot of awkward. The algorithm did not differentiate between commenting “cute” on images of little kids or posting “Damn!” on a teen’s selfie.

In another incident, OREO automated retweets of posts that contained a specific hashtag  as part of a large campaign. However, problems occurred when OREO retweeted accounts with explicit handles. Whoops.

The takeaway: Say no to automation for the sake it. Sometimes investing more time will save you the damage control later.

 

When Converting Opportunities To Customers

As much as marketers are able to group potential customers into personas, there’s only so much generalisation we can make. When it comes to the final, decision-making stages, everyone comes to the table with different needs, concerns and doubts.

An automated series of emails or messages in those crucial final stages run the risk of putting people off. They’ll wonder why you’re sending them helpful content about CONCERN A, when they’re really concerned about CONCERNS B and C.

The takeaway: Say no to automation in the final stages of the buyer process. Say yes to automation post purchase to delight new customers.

 

Over to you

What are your experiences of automation wins and disasters? Realistically, automation is only a tool and doesn’t guarantee any degree of success. If the process is already broken, if efforts are misaligned with business goals and buyer personas, if automation is setup without a clear purpose, then something needs to change. The time savers may actually turn out to be time wasters, because, at the end of the day, only humans can be humans.

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BernaDec15About the author: Bernadette is a Community Manager at fast-growing digital marketing agency You & Co. She loves all things writing, social media and inbound marketing. You’ll probably find her tweeting puns about tea and coffee, while drinking a cup of Earl Grey. Find Bernadette on Twitter!

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