Marketing automation tools are widely touted as incredible time-savers, particularly for time-strapped small-business owners. After all, with all the tasks your busy days require, who has time to monitor Facebook or Twitter all day long?
But if the idea of automating your customer communications seems impersonal, maybe it would help to think of it as a way to solidify your brand identity. According to You Mon Tsang, CEO of OutMarket, a marketing automation software and services provider, there are three key ways automation benefits a business's brand identity:
1. It increases the timeliness of your messaging. “Automation can trigger a brand’s message, promotion or information at a specific time that's convenient for a user,” Tsang says. One example is emailing a promotional offer to a prospect after they've abandoned an online shopping cart.
2. It enables more precise targeting and segmentation. “Emails can be customized by demographic or activity,” Tsang explains. “If a potential customer lives in New York City and follows us on Twitter, we can email her a message about a New York City event and give her an incentive to tweet.”
3. It facilitates testing and creativity. “Without marketing automation tools, testing is harder, so brands are more likely to play it safe,” Tsang says. “If they can test different messages to see how they resonate, then creativity soars. This allows a brand to more freely flex their personality.”
Roadblocks to Brand Identity
Michael Freeman, head of growth and demand generation at Highfive, a company that's aiming to reshape enterprise communications, has extensive knowledge about numerous marketing automation platforms. “The biggest limiting factor to injecting personality into your communications isn't marketing automation," Freeman says. "Far from it. Marketing automation can help enforce and ensure consistency in that brand personality.”
Freeman points to two factors that limit companies’ ability to define and solidify their brand identities:
1. Disagreement about the brand’s identity or a failure to integrate the brand identity into the company culture from the get-go. “The best brand personalities are authentic because they're ingrained in the actual culture of the company and the people that work there,” Freeman says.
2. A misaligned sense of what a brand personality should be. “This is usually tied to traditional ideas of business formality and protocol,” Freeman explains. “So you end up with long and boring communications full of fancy jargon and impersonal business-speak that say ‘buy from us’ instead of having a meaningful conversation with your customers and prospects.”
Freeman sees marketing automation tools as a way to maintain consistency and authenticity in company communications. This is especially beneficial if you have multiple team members handling your marketing communications, social media, public relations and other communication activities, which can easily lead to a disjointed, inconsistent identity.
“Marketing automation gives companies the chance to incorporate their shared values and identities into their communications with prospects and customers,” Freeman explains. “You're not trying to be all things to all people. You're trying to portray yourselves and your organization consistently and in a way that authentically represents why you exist and why you aim to make your customers happy.”
Marketing Automation Done Right
Taking advantage of the many benefits of marketing automation—while making sure you’re solidifying your brand personality and maintaining consistent messaging—is all about the steps you take before you put these platforms to use. Freeman outlines the seven key steps to configuring marketing automation tools in a way that will complement, not lessen, the impact of your brand identity:
- Define your brand personality, including the characteristics, traits and values you want to convey to your audience.
- Write drafts of your primary automated messages.
- Test your messaging using your marketing automation platform. Most tools have built-in testing options that simulate an actual message using real target-audience data. This allows you to see your messaging exactly as your prospects would see it.
- Ask yourself and a test group of team members (or friends and family, if you’re a solopreneur), if the message would provide value to you as a customer. Is it something you’d want to read?
- If the answer is no, go back to the drawing board.
- If the answer is yes, put it to use, but measure it. If you’re sending out emails, for instance, you can measure metrics like open rates and clicks. This data enables you to further refine your messaging over time so that it resonates with your intended audience.
- Review periodically. Your company’s overall mission and vision might remain the same, but some of your values and characteristics may evolve over time. That’s why it’s critical to reevaluate your messaging quarterly or every six months to ensure that your communications still accurately reflect your brand.
Automated tools may seem intimidating and instill the fear that you’ll lose your brand’s voice and personality in the mix. But if you take the time to really define your brand’s personality and inject it into your messaging, marketing automation can help you strengthen your brand identity and maintain the consistency of your messages, even as your company grows.
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