maxkabakov - Fotolia
Too much automation, contrary to the singsong marketing of software platform vendors, might not always be for the best.
The recent surge in CRM platform functionality and the advent of analytics and AI automating CRM and marketing processes are making this a serious consideration. By using marketing automation with CRM, marketing teams can adopt data-driven approaches to campaign planning and execution; foster lead detection, nurturing and conversion; and support both using data-rich social media activity. Smart workflow and analytics-driven automation can take some of the manual labor out of these processes, freeing up resources for face-to-face interactions.
But this also means a great deal of the decision-making is being left to the machines. It's not easy to surrender decision-making power, and it's harder still to surrender it to software.
Decisions handed off
The list of processes that sales and marketing tools automate is long, which is a good thing when it comes to efficiency and conserving resources. It's less appealing when tallying up the number of decisions that leave human hands. Here's a sampling of what those might be:
- Monitoring leads in progress. When marketing automation with CRM takes over lead management, many points in the process that were traditionally handled personally are handed over to analytics, including intuitive steps such as customer retention and choosing the best actions for conversion.
- Campaign resources. This dynamic aspect of marketing campaigns often needs tweaking based on real-time customer and sales metrics. This includes the as-needed generation of landing pages with selectively crafted messages, as well as ad hoc, spontaneously targeted emails. Can these fluctuating choices be left to algorithms?
- Inbound marketing. It's often not necessary to go to the customer, as they are often searching out your business on the web. Inbound marketing turns the traditional process upside down, using lead detection by interception rather than pursuit. This process requires you to enable data analytics tools to find and exploit the interception points and determine the timing of engagement.
- Account-based marketing. Some campaigns include marketing to targeted individuals within selected companies. Marketing automation takes over the location, identification and management of those targeted individuals -- perhaps the deepest intrusion into a traditionally person-to-person marketing process.
- Using social media data for market segmentation. It's commonplace to perform market segmentation upfront, identifying the optimum concentration of resources. However, marketing automation can take over the breakdown of those optimum segments and even decide where the breakdowns occur.
The biggest human task with both campaign management and lead management is top-down oversight. The processes are crucial, but the objectives they serve are more important. If you're turning control over to marketing automation with CRM, you must still monitor the software's progress just as you would monitor people doing the same jobs.
It's even more important to exercise oversight over automation because automated processes won't question their own performance. People can doubt their own results and ask for help; machines can't unless they are specifically designed to do so -- and most automation packages aren't. That means paralleling all of the processes mentioned above with ongoing reviews to ensure performance matches expectations. Treat automated processes as if they were the team of people they're replacing. In fact, put those people in charge of oversight.
Then, go a step further: Oversight of automated sales and marketing shouldn't just be the purview of sales and marketing; it makes sense to involve outside parties in that oversight, including people who have a strong sense of how the efficiencies and challenges of automated processes might affect the enterprise beyond sales and marketing. Someone from accounting, finance, IT or R&D might prove helpful. Feedback from these people can enhance confidence that things are working well and help with the detection of problems and mistakes.
When to step in
Even with all of this, neither the implementation nor the performance of marketing automation software will ever be perfect. It will require perpetual adjustment, just as human teams do. And there will be times when intervention is needed.
When objectives for a campaign are disrupted by sudden market changes, for instance, or when lead management falters due to unrealistic expectations, it's time to step in. It's essential at such times not to disconnect from marketing automation with CRM entirely, but to turn to analytics for a postmortem in order to redirect efforts. A campaign may need to be scaled down and lead nurturing may require new policies.
This is an even bigger reason to use diligent oversight of marketing automation: When the overall objectives aren't being achieved, an automated process won't know how to improvise. The software to do that hasn't been invented yet.