This article was originally published on MarTech Advisors on February 4th, 2019.
By 2017, 67 percent of marketing leaders were already using some sort of marketing automation platform, according to Salesforce. That’s good news for those who believe that cold calls and handwritten notes have gone the way of the dinosaur. Many, however, are still on the other side of that extreme, believing technology is useless compared to a personalized touch.
Welcome to the 2019 edition of CDP Buyers’ Guide. As customer data platforms are becoming increasingly necessary for enterprise marketers, it is also becoming more complex to choose the best fit CDP platform amongst the pool of new and old vendors.
Both sides of the battle are right and wrong. Building relationships should always be the main goal, but if you aren’t using the litany of sales automation tools available to reach that goal, then you’re cutting yourself off at the knees.
The most successful sales and marketing teams find the balance between inbox-clogging automated messages and old-fashioned, personalized communications. They meet in the middle, automating what’s necessary for optimal efficiency without sacrificing the human element of personalization.
Automation vs. Personalization
According to Salesforce, the number of sales teams that adopt AI will likely grow by 139 percent by the year 2020. It’s undeniable that marketing automation is here to stay. Yet top-performing teams focus that investment on improving the customer experience more than anything else.
In fact, in the same report, 51 percent of sales leaders say they’re focused on building deeper relationships to retain customers. Likewise, 79 percent of B2B buyers called interacting with a trusted advisor critical. Relationships are still the backbone of good business. Automated platforms are just the brace that supports them.
The problem is that we want AI to be the solution to everything and it simply isn’t. For integrated AI systems to work that well, they need even more data than the massive troves marketers already draw from. They would need security measures to block malicious access, which is extremely complicated for technology that’s designed to evolve.
Despite these shortcomings, companies still oversteer with their application of automated marketing techniques. Our inboxes have all been inundated with LinkedIn and other corporate messages — obvious displays of quantity over quality. However, we’ve also seen automation used simply for task efficiency, which is when the technology’s value truly shines.
Merging AI and a Personal Touch
It isn’t realistic to leave your entire marketing and sales strategies up to AI software and expect it to churn out the results of a high-performance team. Instead, use these three tips to figure out the best way to personalize your consumer experience, then use automated technology to scale up the results:
1. Focus on persona-based marketing
Data drives AI platforms, and it should drive your marketing philosophy as well. Use it to segment your audience beyond just titles and industries. Instead of one message for CEOs, for example, create one for CEOs of 10- to 50-person companies and another for those leading organizations with more than 5,000 employees.
Once you’ve personalized communications for each segment, automate whatever else exists outside of relationship-building. For example, every message should be personal, but there’s no reason that logistics tasks have to be. Use an email automation platform to send the targeted messages to the appropriate recipients.
2. Use small personalization hacks
Mixing automation and personalization frees up time for team members to focus only on the things that require a personal touch. Those tasks can be completed more efficiently by adding small personalization hacks to automated processes. For example, adding variable tags to prospects’ names makes them feel like you sent the message specifically to them.
Expand those hacks beyond emails to include requests for calls or social media connections. For example, if someone downloads content from your website, have a team member follow up immediately. In a classic sales study, waiting more than 10 minutes to follow up decreased the odds of securing a lead by as much as 400 percent.
3. Keep your hands on the wheel
There are several different ways to almost automate personalization, but it’s important not to give too much over to AI in the process. Sprinkle personalized touches throughout automated workflows, such as by tasking salespeople to reach out personally after a connection request is sent. This makes a fully automated action feel much more personal to the consumer.
Sales automation is trendy, and it’s easy to get caught up in it as a fad. Avoid that by testing new ideas and building on systems that work for you rather than designing all new processes around the use of AI. Just because some tech giants flex their muscles with completely automated tasks doesn’t mean that it’s right for your business, too.
The battle between automation and personalization can go on indefinitely, but the teams that use AI successfully know it shouldn’t be a battle at all. Automation will continue to guide new tech solutions, but only people can build relationships with other people. Use one to optimize your ability to do the other and see that the argument has always been pointless.