I have been reading a lot recently about marketing automation and the rise of the bot in social media, much I think fuelled by Facebook announcing the Messenger chat bot development kit at a recent tech conference. All this got me thinking about the place of using technology in marketing and brand development to automatically communicate with your contacts when they get in touch.
On one level, considering that marketing is all about developing an engagement with your target market, it scares me. But on another, when you consider its role in delivering timely customer service messages, I can see it has a role.
There are times, when people engaging with your brand simply want a quick answer to a simple question:
What are your opening hours?
Or a quick response to a request:
I want to sign up to your newsletter, please send me your e-book.
In these cases, automation is the obvious answer. It allows you to deliver immediate responses 24/7 improving the customer experience and, in most cases, these are circumstances where people expect an automated response and don't particularly need to speak to someone. Furthermore, having to wait for a human to respond to answer a simple and common question can be frustrating. Not good for the brand image.
In other words, the motivation for automating customer anf marketing communication should focus on the benefit to the customer. Good AI (Artificial "Intelligence") will definitely expand the scope and effectiveness of automation in these scenarios.
Where marketing automation is used badly it is usually about cost saving.
A good example of this is email campaign automation, or abandoned shopping cart emails offering discounts after you put stuff in your shopping cart then never check out.
Whilst these can be effective, all too often they try to be too clever and attempt to second guess the reason the user did what they did, leading to inappropriate or ill thought out messages being delivered.
In the case of abandoned cart discounts, users quickly know to expect this and rather than checking out, abandon the cart and then wait for the follow-up email so they can get a discount!
But the marketing automation that scares me is that which uses AI to try to fool you into thinking you are talking to a person when you are not!. This approach says to me that:
"You are not important enough to me for me to put resource into actually talking to you,
but I want to make you think that you are"
Marketing is about engaging with your target market, and building a rapport that adds value to them as a customer, re-enforcing the value that you add as a brand. To do that well, you actually need to talk to your customers.
With the rise of the Social Media Bot, and the focus on metrics (Followers/Likes/social reach etc) I can see a situation where digital marketing becomes dominated by bots talking to each other, sending the metrics through the roof, but where are the the real conversations? They get lost in the noise!
Marketing Automation - It's all about the Stats
Stats should be used to drive marketing, and not the other way round.
This is a phrase I have used a few times recently, and it's when people forget this that they start to use automation in inappropriate ways.
Stats are usually about measuring engagement on a purely quantitative level focusing on the numbers of engagements rather than their quality. Whilst there is no doubt that marketing automation, and bots in particular, can drive the stats and make the numbers "bigger", in practice these engagements have little or no true marketing value.
Every business should be aware of its brand and building your brand is the best way to deliver success in the long term. To this end, it is better to put more effort into fewer, valuable engagements that truly add value to the people who matter (Those who are likely to use your services/buy your products).
Whilst this (focus on the real stuff' approach will inevitably mean that your Twitter/Instagram followers/Facebook likes/web traffic will grow more slowly, the real people who make up those statistics will be people who really add value to your business.
Whilst I am sure Mr Zuckerberg genuinely believes that the promotion of chat bots on his messenger network will add value to its users. Sadly I think they will simply be used by those "marketers" offering more marketing magic wands.