Automation is what makes 21st-century life possible. People have fully embraced automated technology, enjoying the luxury of having daily amenities such as programmable thermostats, self-starting coffee makers, ice cube makers, and automatic bill pay.
But many business owners, especially small and mid-sized business owners, fear using automation in marketing because they feel it will make their brand message seem depersonalized, or even worse, inauthentic.
However, this is simply not the case. By embracing automation, businesses can craft compelling messages for all of their customer segments and learn more about their consumers than ever before.
In this article, we will discuss how to marry automation and personalization together to create a seamless, personal email marketing experience for customers. I’ll also share some tips on how to embrace marketing automation.
TIP: Not sure about email automation? Read our explainer: What Is Email Marketing Automation?
Why are some businesses afraid of automation?
Many businesses really cherish the level of service they provide their customers. In fact, creating a great experience for customers is of the highest importance to most companies. Unless your business has no competitors or is happy to always provide the lowest prices in your industry, creating a relationship with your customers is vital for your success.
However, when it comes to automation for marketing efforts (such as automated marketing emails), many fear this will cause the experience to become depersonalized or send the wrong message.
Many businesses also fear losing control over their business as they delegate tasks such as email marketing campaigns to automation. Those who have embraced automation, though, can clearly see how effective it is and how it frees up company time to focus on more important aspects of their business and customers’ needs.
Other entrepreneurs don’t like automation simply because they enjoy being involved in creating customized marketing material and interacting with their clients. For them, this is one of the most fun parts of having a business and it enables them to learn more about their customers in an intimate way. After all, providing a relatable human voice is absolutely essential to connecting with customers.
However, with an automated email marketing campaign, entrepreneurs actually have much more time to focus on the customer segments that really interest them, while also not losing sight of other customers who are less engaged with the brand at the moment.
How can marketing automation and personalization work together?
There are many ways that email marketing automation and personalization can work together, and the results are pretty amazing. However, 61% of marketers are still concerned about the lack of personalization due to automation. How can a business automate part of its customer experience and marketing, while also remaining authentic and personal? How can businesses marry automation and personalization effectively?
One great area to start is at the very beginning of your customer’s journey. New customers that visit your company’s website might be prompted to enter in their email for a chance to receive some complimentary newsletters, a discount on your products, or something else of value to them.
This is one of the reasons why crafting a perfect landing page is essential for any business. If a landing page interests a potential lead, they will enter their details and there might be a few checkboxes for them to select prior to submission. For example, users can select which topics they are interested in, share where they are located, or disclose their gender.
Something as simple as this, which takes the user less than a second, provides you with so much insight regarding which customers are interested in your products. It also puts the onus on the customer to engage with your website and provide information about themself, which means less work for your company and more engagement with a potential lead.
Once a user has visited your website and you have some data on them, you can start sending emails that are customized for them. Yes, your customers from different segments see a different email with a targeted message depending on who they are. Monitoring user interaction with your website is an essential tracking tool for advertisers and can give you great insight into your customer segments.
Once users are receiving email marketing messages or newsletters, the automated email system will keep track of whether email messages from your company are opened, and which links are clicked. This adds even more data to your marketing campaign to provide a personalized experience and “seal the deal” with a potential new customer.
More data means more customers
According to a recent Gartner survey, 81% of companies will be competing mostly on a customer experience basis by 2020. Companies that get their brand message exactly right, and understand their customers’ wants and needs, are the types of companies that will succeed in the future. That is why having data about your customers is so integral to understanding their habits.
Automating marketing campaigns for your business, such as email campaigns, is going to enable you to scale up your email marketing efforts in a way you’ve never seen before. This results in reaching a drastically larger audience and provides you with large amounts of valuable data about all your different customer segments. This ever-evolving customer data is important to analyze because it will help you improve nearly all levels of your company’s operation, so please consider translating this information to your customer relationship management (CRM) software as well.
TIP: If you’re using Constant Contact for your online marketing, you’ll be able to track and view customer data from email, your website, social media, and more all in one place.
It would also be wise to ensure that all the data you gather on your customers is protected with an automated cloud back-up. Automatically backing up all your company’s data is a set it and forget it way of ensuring that all your data remains safe and accessible. It is only by analyzing customer data that your company can take things to the next level in terms of sales, and it would be a huge setback for any company to lose access to data that it takes a long time to acquire and organize.
What can I do to increase personalization by using marketing automation?
There are many examples of automation that can create a more personalized experience for your customers, prospects and users.
We already went over the importance of the well-crafted landing page, with a clear call to action and a request that customers type in their email address to sign up for a newsletter or updates. Aside from a newsletter or company updates, another effective method to boost user engagement on your website is to offer a freebie or a discount on your product or services.
Perhaps the guest needs to provide an email address to activate the offer, and has to select from a dropdown which product/service they intend to use the coupon on. Now your company has some metrics regarding which products/services are preferred by which guests, and your automated email marketing campaign can send personalized messages crafted around that selection.
This helps you enhance your customer segmentation and creates valuable leads, and builds rapport among potential customers by offering them something for free before they even make a purchase.
Another great way to get attention for your brand is to have automated emails depending on the time of year, current events, or even weather conditions. An automated holiday-themed email that is sent around the Fourth of July will get your readers, who are already thinking about what their plans are going to be for that day, interested and feeling connected to your company. It can also contain a positive message, tied to the sentiments of the holiday, that can intensify the connection to you and your audience.
Outdoor gear company REI launched a great social media campaign that can actually read the user’s current weather conditions based on their geographical area, and provide them with ads that match their location. After all, it wouldn’t make much sense to show ads for a snowmobile to someone living in Arizona — that would just be a waste.
This is a great example of speaking to your customers subtly. If said customer in Arizona saw ads from REI for rock climbing equipment or kayaks, it would be more relevant than an ad about snowmobiles. However, the user would not necessarily know that the company had geographical data on them and were incorporating it into their social media campaign.
While personalization is important, there is a careful line that must be drawn to avoid making assumptions about your customer and revealing how much data you have on them. It’s also important not to make assumptions based on a demographic. For example, sending a marketing email to all your female leads between the ages of 25-35 containing discount codes for infant and toddler products makes an assumption that might be totally inaccurate and even annoying or offensive for the recipient.
It is recommended to provide targeted offers and messages to those that sign up on your website based on the data you have, and wait until more is known about the particular customer and their needs before sending an email that is more personalized.
For example, you may feel more comfortable sending a more personalized email to someone who actually downloaded something from your website or commented on one of your webpages, because they have already shown a high level of engagement.
Gathering data on a customer’s name is another great way to make sure your automated marketing emails are read. Your email software can automatically populate your lead’s name into the subject line of the email, which drastically increases the chance of it being read.
Email automation can also ensure that all your emails are sent at the perfect time, depending on the receiver’s time zone. The odds of your email being read, even if it does offer some incredible deals and products, are very low if it arrives in the subscriber’s inbox at 2:00 AM and is already buried under a pile of other similar emails once they have woken up. Sending a marketing email at the right time also has the benefit of potentially popping up as an alert on your recipient’s smartphone.
An automated email campaign is incredibly effective at helping your business increase engagement and generate sales. New email addresses that have just signed up on your website will receive an automated welcome email introducing your company, or that explains how your service works for beginners, or provides a basic overview of what you can offer.
If you have a website that asks customers to set up an account, you can send reminder emails to all those who have incomplete registrations or those who haven’t logged in for a while. This is an example of something you can actually have set up automatically when creating your business website.
Additionally, you should be able to automate numerous functions when building your website, including social media integration, contact management, online payments, and transactional emails to name a few things.
What should I avoid when using automation for personalization?
First of all, be mindful not to clutter your reader’s inbox unnecessarily. Companies who overload their customers with emails end up being blocked or unsubscribed, which is certainly not the goal. That is why, as we mentioned above, getting the timing, location and a little bit of data about your customer is so essential to creating a perfectly crafted email message without having to bombard inboxes with all your various offers.
Try not to make it seem intrusive with your emails. While customers understand and have come to expect that companies have access to their transactional and geographic data, it might be overwhelming for them to see exactly how much you know about them. Likewise, be careful about assumptions based on gender, location, age and occupation.
Everyone understands the importance of creating a personalized experience for customers when they are interacting with your business. However, embracing automation, especially on your company website and in your email marketing campaigns, can enable your company to reach a much wider audience and understand more about your customers than ever before.
By using automation to boost your email marketing efforts, you will not only increase sales but increase the data you have on your existing customers for better, more targeted ad campaigns in the future. This data is extremely valuable for any company that wants to continue improving the customer experience.
There are a wide variety of ways that you can incorporate automation with your marketing efforts and also create a personalized experience for the customer. With a little knowledge and the right approach, automation can make your brand message resonate with more customers than ever before.