Automation Is Everything But the Machine

In creating algorithmic driven segmentation and automated content and nurture paths companies still need humans at the helm.

No better example can be seen than the recent outing of a young lady’s pregnancy by a direct mailing driven by algorithms. The issue may have been avoided if someone had looked at the algorithm and considered the potential invasion of privacy, or had at least segmented the list by age groups.

Clearly data is a huge driver behind automation. To make big data manageable, companies need to create governance a high priority issue. Data standards need to be implemented so data is easily handled, processed in the correct fields, and in turn, empowers the company to better serve prospects and customers with great, precision-oriented information.

Most importantly, strategists need to run marketing automation as opposed to automation dictating paths. They need to decide when someone is going to receive an email. Or a custom landing page. Just because someone can do something doesn’t mean they should.

The key to great automation is to take a strategic business approach , ensuring your corporate personality and value proposition rings through in automation, people behind the brand serving its customers with great tools. Great automation maintains the personality of a brand.

Consider how Nordstrom manages to keep its incredible high quality customer centric personality through the decades. You better believe Nordstrom uses database marketing to send you its timely emails and direct mail. Yet you never get the sense that Nordstom is pushing it, always maintaining its high touch personality. The tools serve the brand rather than shaping it.

When brands move to adapt automation they would be wise to remember the holy grail, a great customer experience that is seamless. It is so well tailored that customers see interactions with the company is timely, useful, and prescient.

To get there companies need to do more than implement powerful software. They need to understand and implement better business processes, integrating teams, training to work technology across business functions, and a commitment to adapt to rapidly evolving media. Most importantly, they should treat automation as a means to end, a way to communicate and deliver their very human commitment to their customers.

What do you think about marketing automation?

This post ran originally on the Vocus blog. Image: -sel (Creative Commons)

Why Your Marketing Stinks and How to Fix It

Trees in the Park
Image by Lune Rambler

The following is a guest post by Erica Mills. She created a low cost tool called the Marketing Tree that forces you through a strategy process. I thought it was pretty cool, and asked her to blog about it.

Please welcome her. Bonus miles, the three best comments will get a Marketing Tree process mailed to them.

Since we don’t really know each other, it’s probably rude of me to say that your marketing stinks. Fair enough.

The thing is, I’ve taught thousands of organizations and businesses how to do effective marketing and here’s what I can say: your marketing might not stink, but you’ve probably got some Extreme Marketing Mayhem going on.

Why the mayhem? Because if you’re like most people, you head straight for the latest, greatest shiny objects and skip over all that boring planning and strategy stuff.
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Getting Ready for the Long Write

Books to be returned...
Image by hashmil

Writing two unpublished novels, two business books, and a graduate thesis teaches you a thing or two about long writing projects. Long form writing can be grueling in nature, lasting six months or even a year. When beginning such a project, it helps to have a writing program, very similar in nature to a training program that an athlete dedicates him/herself to prepare for a marathon or a long season.

Here are some methods that helped with these five projects:

Use a Blueprint

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Image by emanueleED
Many authors use the table of contents as their blueprint. Some business writers like larger arcs — themes like the Fifth Estate — that guide their overall effort. This is analogous to a plot for a novel, but has less suspense and development to it. Nevertheless the arc may be the overarching lesson that you want people to learn.

Parts help break a book into major components. For example, a communications book may focus on strategy and then tactics. Chapters support the larger parts. These parts may have their own arcs and goals, depending on the subject matter. Welcome to the Fifth Estate had two parts, the first focused on theory and cultural readiness, while the second focused on the actual work of social media. Others simply adhere to a chapter and subsection structure.

Whatever you do, a blueprint helps guide you. You don’t have to write in a linear fashion, but having the blueprint lets you see all the areas you need to address.

Discipline

You must be disciplined and write everyday. Every damn day. When your friends give you grief for not hanging out on Twitter or going out more often, you must have the discipline to say no.

Starting tomorrow never works. That is for people who want to be authors. People who actually accomplish books write everyday. Books and other long forms of writing are accomplished paragraph by paragraph, page by page, section by section, chapter by chapter.

There will be times where one page will be brutal with each phrase coming at an absolutely painful pace. Other times you will see pages fly with the minutes. You never know which pages matter more until the editing process. Take each page as they come, but never stop writing.

Accept Crap

write down my name ...
Image by Josef Stuefer

There are parts of your work that suck. And you know they suck as soon as the words leave your fingers. You try to fix it, but you can’t. Each time you rewrite the section, it sucks. This is when you must accept crap.

That weak section fits into a picture, and you may not understand the context of the section until you complete the larger chapter. So move on. Finish the chapter, and get some distance between you and the painful section. Then go back and read it in the context of the larger chapter. Editing becomes much easier when you can pull away from the weeds for a bit.

Having an editor to bounce difficult sections off of helps. However, most writers don’t have this luxury, particularly unpublished authors or those working with small presses. If it is in your nature, join a local writing club to get support for such moments.

Take Breaks

Any process that requires this amount of isolation can unleash your demons: “It’s not perfect (it’s terrible!)”; “what if they hate it?”; “I can’t make it to the end”; “the whole concept is off”; etc. That’s when it is important to get out.

A consistent work-out schedule is very therapeutic in conjunction with the daily write. It forces you out of the house and around other people, and gets the endorphins going, clearing your mind… Until the next write.

Also, it might be good to write about anything else besides the book one day a week. Write a blog post or some other text. This keeps you in the habit of writing everyday, but gives your mind an opportunity to relax and chew on something lighter.

Fight Through the Wall

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Image by Reid

Inevitably there comes a time in the long write — roughly 2/3 of the way through — where you feel absolutely beaten. You can’t go on. But you have to.

This is the most brutal part of the writing process. It is what long distance runners call “hitting the wall.”

You will hit the wall, and you need to power through it. It is a fight with each sentence requiring serious effort, but once you get through that chapter (wherever it is in the process), you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The project becomes easier as you close.

Good Luck!

Other authors have different processes for dealing with the long write. Be sure to ask them how they did it, too.

And remember, no matter how many snarky social media remarks you get about books and bloggers and blah blah blah, writing a book or a major report is a significant accomplishment. Good luck on your project!