Guest post by Godwin Adoga.
Automation has been a big win for small and large businesses alike. Any one of us can think of many things we’d rather do instead of laboring over repetitive tasks that a computer could easily take care of. You could have spare time for lunch breaks, hangout runs and whatever you love doing once your tasks are handled by a machine.
Automating means your business can continue to convert and nurture visitors to leads, and leads to opportunities, at any hour of the day.
However, the problem with getting bots to do something is that sometimes they handle things the wrong way. And it can get very, very messy.
When you’re weighing your options to know whether if automation is the solution, think clearly and objectively. You might be saving yourself time and cash in the short term while hurting your brand in the long run.
1. When you have not considered your customer’s needs, automation may be a disaster
The biggest motivation for why or what to automate depends on who your ideal customer is. Who are they? Where do they spend their time online? What are they looking for? How do they engage with new technology? The success of any marketing effort hinges on the accuracy and clarity of your buyer personas.
It doesn’t matter if your target market is comprised primarily of retirees who’ve just discovered Skype and now use it to call their grandchildren. There’s little sense in posting identical updates across social networks when the likelihood is your prospects are only on Facebook or use email predominantly. Even if your potential customers use more than one network, it’s bad form to post exactly the same content on each platform.
Social media automation technology is great. However, it has a potential for time wasting; no less than any other system. When efforts are misplaced, you’re missing out on promising opportunities and losing valuable leads.
If you haven’t reevaluated and reassessed your buyer behavior in more than six months, it may be best to slow down a bit. Invest time and labor into fully understanding your ideal customers and how they interact, before you even evaluate any software. Do not initiate a new series of scheduled messages or new automated emails just yet.
Lesson: Say yes to automation that backs your marketing campaigns in line with your buyer personas. Say no to automation done for “the sake of automation.”
2. When machine-automated responses give the impression that you don’t care
We all like to feel special. Unfortunately, automated responses can provide the wrong impression. With automation, you (or your bot) could end up saying “you’re just like everyone else and we don’t need to address you with a unique message” instead of “You’re special.”
Everyone has is different perception of a response. Whether you’re responding to a positive feedback or placating an angry customer; it’s best to avoid automated responses.
In terms of blunders, Twitter is a major automation disaster zone. If you’ve spent any time on Twitter, you’ve probably received a little direct message (DM) that goes like:
“Hey, thank you for following! Don’t forget to get yourself a copy of our latest eBook. Also check our videos on YouTube for more information.” Ugh. Auto DM? Auto unfollow.
Even when you don’t use automation, people will get turned off by spammy DMs. These canned messages are problematic for the following reasons:
- They jump right into a sales pitch without trying to establishing any personal connection.
- Due to the absence of any prior connection, these messages ring of fake sincerity—and no one likes a scam.
- Rather than engagement, the aim is clearly self-promotional. This shuts doors to meaningful collaboration.
Look at it this way. Imagine if a customer service agent replies to each and every complaint with:
“We are sorry to hear that you are experiencing problems. Please send us your details, so that a customer service representative can sort it out.”
How crazy is that?
Lesson: Say no to the usage of automated responses when you have to deal with people’s feelings. This is especially important for customer service departments.
3. When you’re taking a blanket “one size fits all” approach
Automation makes a lot of things very easy. You can bulk email a list of over 2,000 contacts, instead of emailing one person with a personalized and perfectly tailored message. You can promote one text across your network within seconds, instead of just posting one social message on one platform. You begin thinking, “It’s time to machine-up and stop doing the same things over and over again.”
Marketers save time and enjoy the illusion of accomplishment.
However, this practice is over-used and ineffective. A personalized approach is key to successful marketing. Instead of sending that lifeless email to all 2,000 subscribers, compartmentalize your audience and send them edited versions of the same email based on their preferences, interests, and stage of their decision cycle.
Social networking has a unique etiquette and practices, from hashtagging to image sizes to vocabulary. While it is normal to have paragraphs of hashtags on instagram; it’s going to look funny on Twitter. While it’s acceptable for you to take selfies and videos of yourself on Snapchat, it would be very difficult to find anyone uploading such media on Linkedin.
Lesson: You can, but it doesn’t mean that you should. Automation is excellent when it caters to different platforms, personalities and purposes.
4. When it leads to awkward customer service
The reputation of businesses can be heavily damaged by poor customer service, which can be caused by repeated automated spammy messages. Automation often creates awkward situations.
Here is an example from Evan LePage, a Hootsuite Blog Specialist. He tested out a series of automated comments on the Instagram platform. While the experiment was able to instantly increase his audience; it also created a visibly awkward atmosphere. The algorithm did not know the difference between commenting “so cute” on images of little children and posting “Hell no” on an adults picture.
Also, as part of a large campaign, OREO automated retweets for tweets that contained a targeted hashtag. However, the campaign encountered problems when accounts with explicit and adult handles were retweeted. Ouch!
Lesson: Sometimes spending time to craft your campaign will save you the stress of damage control. Say no to automation if you’re dealing with too many variables.
5. When you’re trying to convert visitors to customers
Even though marketers can categorize potential customers into preference-based groups, there’s still a huge flaw in applying section generalisation. When it comes to the final decision making process; every costumer’s needs, doubts and concerns may be different and unique.
An automated or canned series of messages in this crucial final decision stage runs the risk of turning the visitor away. All they need to do is click the “back” button and they’re gone.
They will wonder why you are sending them a response with solution for problem A, when all they have been searching for a solution to B and C.
Lesson: Say no to machine-like responses in the final stage of a user or buyer opt-in process. You can lightly automate after purchase to delight your new customers.
In reality, automation is just a tool and it cannot guarantee success in marketing. If your strategy is foundationally faulty, if your campaign goals are poorly aligned with your business objectives and buyer behavior, if you set up automation without a distinct purpose; then the time saver could eventually become a time waster. In the end, only humans can be, and think like, humans.
Let’s have your opinion
Do you have any great or disastrous experiences with automation you’d like to share?
Godwin Adoga is a marketer, business writer and art culture enthusiast. He has a lot of interest for growing small and medium scale enterprise. He writes at http://hiphophead.com.ng and you can reach him on Twitter @og_adoga.