A cursory glance at the history of science and technology will reveal that progress and innovation are often measured by the degree of automation present in the production process. For example, the steam engine is a means of automating the production of kinetic energy necessary to power various kinds of machines – machines which themselves are also systems for automating activities such as weaving, digging, or sawing, etc.
In the 21st century, the machines we use also encompass those in the digital realm – a computer program is nothing other than an abstract machine that can automatically perform certain tasks. And with the transition of marketing to the digital realm, an opportunity arose to utilize software automation for promotional purposes.
With that being said, marketing automation is not the cure-all some have been proclaiming it to be. Rather, it is an approach to marketing with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In the rest of this article, we will dive into some of these pros and cons, in an attempt to provide a more balanced view of this trend, so you can decide whether your business stands to gain from it or not.
By definition, automation is way of improving productivity by means of executing certain actions an arbitrary number of times, without the need for direct supervision. In terms of digital marketing, this means that activities such as sending out emails, collecting and classifying data, or responding to customer queries can be performed ad infinitum, until the desired marketing goals are reached. And the best part is, marketing automation software doesn’t care whether you send out a thousand emails, or a hundred thousand. Automation also saves a lot of time for people working in marketing, allowing them to concentrate on more creative aspects of the job.
Against: Propagation of Errors
Automation is highly dependent on the initial setup of the process. And if you fail to configure things properly at the outset, problems will start start to propagate at a rapid pace. For example, if you mistakenly include a link to a malicious website in the email template you plan on using for sending out automated emails, you can potentially jeopardize your entire customer base. And it is extremely hard to regain customer loyalty and trust after such a fiasco. Automation is great at producing effects at a large scale, but you have to be extra sure that these effects will be beneficial to your bottom line.
For: Amenable To Data Analysis
As the majority of experienced software developers can attest, marketing automation is nothing but an algorithmic treatment of data. Your automation software takes data as input, for example a list of contacts and advertising copy, and then transforms it into output objects such as emails or ads which are served to potential customers according to certain parameters. Your input data can then be correlated with the output in order to discover patterns, i.e. how effective a given copy is at converting a particular kind of customer, and this can be accomplished without needing to use third-party data gathering and analysis services.
Against: Generic Output
In order for automation to work as intended, the kind of work you want to automate has to be amenable to abstraction. In other words, the process you wish to automate has to be generic. This goes against the reigning marketing paradigm, which stresses the importance of providing a personalized experience for each potential customer. You can either send a generic message to a lot of people, or send a customized one to each, but not both at the same, at least at the current stage of development. And since a lot of companies tend to use the same kind of automation software, customers are already starting to get accustomed to recognizing automated messages, and filter them out.
On the upside, while automation is not conducive for creativity, it can do wonders for consistency. This makes it especially suited for achieving branding related goals. Automation software is therefore especially useful for managing social media marketing campaigns. You can distribute a consistent brand image across multiple channels and platforms, all according to a strict content calendar. This kind of approach will portray your company as one that is serious in its commitment to providing a satisfactory customer experience. And if you ever decide to rebrand, automation can enable you to enact the transition on a large scale without any extra effort involved.
Against: Workplace Restructuring
The introduction of automation into the workplace has frequently been disruptive. After all, automation enables business owners to replace parts of their staff with machines, digital or otherwise, a change which workers whose jobs are getting replaced will not take lightly. Even those who are not affected by automation directly will experience its effects, for example by losing colleagues they’ve worked with for years. This can have a cascading effect on workplace morale, as each employee starts worrying that they might get replaced by an automated tool in the future. Historically speaking, the workplace tends to adapt to the introduction of automation-based technologies, but the transition period can be quite turbulent, and potentially jeopardize the whole business operation.
Like any other technological innovation, marketing automation is not inherently beneficial, nor detrimental. It is simply a tool that can be used haphazardly, or with skill and care, and the results you get will be determined by which of these two approaches you adopt.