Remember when marketing was about coming up with breakthrough ideas to connect with and woo your customers? Do you recall the days when marketing brainstorms generated exciting new campaigns, not a list of tactics for accommodating algorithms?
While digital marketing has made it easier to distribute marketing messages, the effort it takes to manage the various channels and tools can sap your team’s creative energy. Ironically, much of the labor required to engage in digital marketing is repetitive, manual labor that’s heavy on data entry.
The time-consuming activities required to maintain websites, blogs, email newsletters, and social media feeds have given rise to a new squadron of marketing professionals: digital or social marketing coordinators and managers. Yet the faster these folks develop their toolset, the faster the list of tools—and the amount of exertion needed to use them—keeps growing. So just adding a digital marketing specialist to your team won’t necessarily rescue your business from ballooning demands on the organization’s time, budget, and energy.
Because digital marketing is a new field, mastering it requires a new approach, one that exploits “digital” to its full capacity. If you’re wondering how to gain both efficiency and traction with your digital marketing, and recover the creative joy that should be part of the marketing process, it’s time to consider automation.
What is digital marketing automation?
Digital marketing is simply marketing done via the Internet (as opposed to marketing done via print materials, face-to-face interactions, or events.) If we consider marketing as a communication process, digital is the channel through which the communication flows.
Digital marketing automation is the process of removing from digital marketing the need for human intervention. Automation doesn’t change the communication channel; it changes the way information gets loaded into the channel, monitored, and redistributed.
Let’s take the example of a basic form of digital marketing, a blog post. Once that digital asset has been created, you can, of course, share it through various outlets. For starters, you could post it on LinkedIn or include it in an email newsletter. And you could do this just by cutting and pasting from your website to LinkedIn and your email marketing software. At this stage, you are doing digital marketing but in a manual way.
Now let’s say you’d like to expand your reach on social media and share your blog post across various social platforms. You could continue your manual approach pasting the post into Facebook and then trimming it for Twitter and pasting the compressed version there. Or you could choose to automate this redistribution process by using a tool such as Hootsuite or Buffer to share the post across multiple platforms, on a predetermined schedule.
How much time are you or your team spending on manual marketing processes even when you’re reaching out to your audience digitally?
If you automated some of the routine work of digital marketing, how much time could you free up for more creative marketing activities? How many more blog posts a year could you generate, for instance, if you didn’t have to spend a half-hour a week on cutting and pasting?
(Here’s a bit of math to consider: according to a recent study of more than 1,000 bloggers, the average time to produce a blog is about four hours. Saving 30 minutes over 50 weeks would give you 25 hours—easily six blogs a year.)
Why bother to automate your digital marketing?
Yes, automating your marketing involves an upfront investment of time and money, but the learning curve can soon pay off if you do your homework before adopting an automation tool.
The payoff also comes in multiple forms. Automation doesn’t just improve efficiency. It also improves results by giving you insights into your audience you couldn’t otherwise access.
If you’re already using email marketing software, such as MailChimp or MailerLite, then take a quick peek under the hood at some of the more advanced features.
With some quick configuration, you can use your email campaigns to take the pulse of individual recipients. You can easily identify, for instance, who’s opening what, who’s clicking where, and what the most popular time of day is for reading your messages.
With a little more tweaking, you can set up triggers to release targeted content to recipients who have reacted to messaging in certain ways. For example, you could automatically send a sequence of follow-up messages to people who viewed a video introducing a new product.
And that’s just the beginning. You can also use automated tools to perform some of these insight-driven marketing functions:
- Enter leads from social media into a CRM. (Check out LeadsBridge)
- Track responses to social media ads. (Google and Facebook ads come with built-in analytics tools.)
- Use direct messaging to questions customers commonly ask during the sales process. (Hootsuite’s Saved Replies feature and Facebook’s Messenger bots offer two options.)
- Monitor customer reviews by practicing “social listening.” (You can do this via Hootsuite or another app, such as ReviewTrackers or Synthesio.)
- Create high-impact headlines. (Coschedule’s analyzer tool gives you detailed feedback on draft headlines and suggestions for improvement.)
- Generate psychological profiles of prospective customers. (Crystal uses the DISC personality assessment to analyze LinkedIn profiles.)
Data gives you a creative edge
Data is the fuel that drives automated digital marketing. At the most basic level, data sharing between applications minimizes the need for duplicate data entry. At more sophisticated levels, data generates customer insights that enable you to craft personalized messages, identify and nurture leads, and increase your brand equity.
The more data you have about your customers, the better you can entice and delight them. With in-depth intelligence about your market, you can devise innovative ways to grab their attention, earn their trust, and solidify their loyalty. In other words, you can make your marketing more customer-centric, more creative, and more rewarding for everyone involved.