Blend automation with real people to avoid becoming a marketing dinosaur

Marketing automation might sound like it will turn marketers into robots and strip all creative thinking from their minds, but it is becoming much more prevalent, and to some, critical.

Lucy Handley

Holiday firm Thomson has used it to increase the number of leads being passed from marketing teams to the sales department by 23 per cent, with marketing operations and analytics director Kim Yeatman saying that marketers must ‘completely change their mind set’ to keep up.

Meanwhile, Holidaylettings.co.uk claims to have boosted conversions by 77 per cent year on year using automation software.

This week’s Data Strategy cover story, out on Thursday (29 May), looks at how technology is fundamentally challenging a marketer’s set of skills, with research suggesting that those who don’t get automation will ‘become an endangered species’ by 2020. Eighty per cent of high performing companies use it, according to research by SiriusDecisions,

Understandably, concerns remain. Sending automated emails to people based on their behaviour online can seem impersonal, especially if they come from a ‘do not reply’ address, and for small brands that rely on service and personality using the technology can be a big step. So the answer should be a mixture of both. Indeed, only 48 per cent who have used automation considering using it again, finds a study by VentureBeat and RazorSocial.

Specialist recruitment consultancy Carrot Pharma Recruitment is trialling HootSuite to get insight and social leads. But marketing manager Jo Dionysou says at first she was sceptical about using software for communications.

“When we first put our brand on social media, everything needed to be genuine and organic to build relationships, so we were against using the software,” she says.

But realising the growth and power of LinkedIn and Google+, content can be difficult to distribute across platforms manually, she adds.

Software can also give brands more control over who comes to events, for example. Thomson runs events for several of its brands and has used software to make sure only the people invited were able to register, to stop attendees passing invitations to colleagues.

Record label IGA, whose artists include Lady Gaga, Eminem and U2, uses automation to manage social content on bands’ websites. But it uses an all-important blend of technology and human intervention, moderating content from fans to make sure only the best get highlighted.

The best marketers know how to blend the art and science of marketing and should be using automation as a boon to their creativity, not a replacement, to make sure their brands are relevant in 2014 and beyond.

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