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Marketing Automation: Creepy? Or Just Good Customer Service?

Written by Shayna McGroggan | on August 2, 2018 at 8:20 AM


You’re shopping online. You put something in your cart, leave the website, and then a few minutes later, you get an email that says, “Oops, looks like you left something behind.” Have you ever had this experience? Turns out, it’s not Big Brother spying on you – it’s just marketing automation at work. An abandoned cart campaign is a perfect example of how marketing automation can be used to create a great user experience.

Tell me more, you say? Well, first, you probably have an account with the company, so that’s how they have your email address. Through the web tracking their marketing automation software provides, they use cookies (not the chocolate chip type) that track what pages you visited and when you added something to your cart. When you abandoned the purchasing process, you prompted a marketing automation rule they had created that said, “If a customer puts an item in the cart and a certain amount of time passes without the transaction being completed, then send them this email reminding them to buy,” further prompting the system to send you an email.

Like the Wizard of Oz, marketing automation isn’t a mysterious or creepy force, but just a marketer pulling some metaphorical levers and gears behind a curtain. When revealed, it’s actually quite a useful way to give members a more personalized, tailored, helpful experience. And it’s left traditional email marketing tactics in the dust.

Marketing automation is great news for both the marketer and the consumer.

The goal of marketing automation software is engagement, which is accomplished by sending more relevant content. This is key to providing an excellent member experience.

Marketing automation allows you to send your members content that is highly relevant to them and their situations. For example, in the opening example, the company was able to send you an email about a specific item you had in your cart, which is much more likely to nudge you to complete the transaction than a general batch-and-blast email that promotes savings or special pricing this weekend. They’re reminding you of your interest in the transaction and making it top of mind.

Additionally, the company now knows you are highly interested in something they were offering and can send you more tailored messaging based on what you viewed on their website.

For marketers in the association space, marketing automation is essential to providing members with a great member experience and encouraging them to stay engaged or renew their membership. You receive data that helps you understand their audience better. You can provide your audience with more relevant content, both attracting new members and engaging current members, all of which boosts overall ROI.

This situation is ideal for those being marketed to. They’re now receiving content that’s relevant to them instead of emails they’re more likely to view as spam or just boring. They may also view your organization more highly because you really understand their interests and needs. They’ll feel more invested and connected to your organization.

How exactly does marketing automation make this happen? The next section gets into the nuts and bolts.

How marketing automation uses data to create a great member experience

Marketing automation makes other elements of your marketing efforts cohesive by uniting member information, their web activities, and emails. How exactly does that work?

Web tracking helps you understand your members’ interests.

Data from all your members’ digital activities feeds into your marketing automation system through web tracking. Web tracking is a tool provided by marketing automation that helps you understand who is visiting your website, and the actions they took on your website (like putting an item into the cart). Cookies are data packets that log specific individual’s web activities. This knowledge is what allows you to suggest personalized content for your audience.

Automation rules help you make the member’s journey more personal.

The marketer sets up automation rules to manage the data collected by web tracking. Automation rules are “if-then” statements like you saw earlier in the abandoned cart example. Once the automation rule picks up the completion of an “if” statement, it acts on the “then” statement, triggering an email to the appropriate member. Someone isn’t sitting at their computer checking out what’s in your cart and personally sending you a note about it, it’s an automated rule that picked up on an abandoned cart.

Ultimately, the company wants you to have a better experience with their store, so they’ll work to infuse personalization into these automated campaigns. They want the email to act like a salesperson at their store telling you “those shoes look great on you.”

Automated campaigns help you engage your members.

Where does marketing automation go from here? Marketers can run all sorts of campaigns and set up automated rules, such as new member “welcome” emails, “we haven’t seen you in a while” engagement emails, or even “interested in learning more about our association?” emails to prospective members when they interact with your website or download a resource. These are all valuable ways to attract new members and engage current subscribers, with the goal of sending more relevant content to increase ROI.

As a side note, great content is the ingredient marketing automation really relies on. Without content that engages your subscribers, automation rules are only triggering emails they may still ignore. So it’s important that well-written, relevant and engaging emails be part of any marketing automation strategy.

Lead-scoring helps you understand where to focus your efforts.

Marketing automation’s lead-scoring capabilities make it so that you don’t have to review hundreds of reports on your members’ digital activity and manually determine who is ready for personal outreach or another campaign. Lead-scoring is when your software keeps track of member’s web activities and ranks them based on your pre-determined settings. For example, you could mark that members who indicate they are an executive should be ranked more highly than those who are not. Your software would then use that rule to sort leads and rank them. You can now set up automated rules indicating that highly-scored leads should receive a certain campaign.

This tool can help you prioritize your marketing efforts in a remarkable way, because your members are now coming to you pre-sorted. It also helps you, again, provide more relevant content to your members because you know where they’re coming from.

The Takeaway: You should feel awesome about marketing automation, not creeped out

Marketing automation is key to providing a great member experience in today’s digital world. Marketing automation far surpasses the capabilities of email marketing alone because of how it connects marketers to the data and empowers marketers to reach their audiences with more relevant content, engaging and retaining them and getting them more connected. Email marketing is helpful to deliver information to your audience and give you an understanding of your email metrics, but it’s not able to put all the pieces together in a way that allows marketers to provide great interactive experiences like marketing automation can.

Understanding how marketing automation software works helps you realize it’s not creepy at all. It’s not that a company knows everything about you, it’s that they’re using software in a smart way to understand your habits and suggest more things you’d like.

Marketing automation increases your ability to connect with your audience and give them more opportunities to get involved, which is what members want, too. The goal is to improve service, not intrude on people’s lives.

Have you read the 2018 State of Marketing Automation: Association Benchmark Report yet? Download your copy below. 


Topics: Associations, Member Experience, Customer Support, Marketing Automation

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