Through the humongous amount of information readily available on the internet and through social media, customers are leveraging their powers to learn more and keep themselves informed. Marketers have recently realized that the traditional sales funnel has become obsolete and the current sales funnel no longer follows a linear route but more of a spiral trip with multiple touch-points that the customer interacts with during the buying journey. The customer is becoming better informed and has more knowledge about your brand than you thought possible.
Marketing Technology (MarTech) has rapidly evolved and has changed the way individuals and businesses collaborate and communicate. MarTech innovations need to keep pace with increasing customer expectations and empower brands to respond to changing trends.
The following trends are on the horizon –
- Mass marketing: Contrary to conventional definition where a business ignores market segment differences to broadcast a single marketing message to a larger audience, in the current scenario, “mass marketing” is marketing of your brand by the masses. It is a phenomenon where your brand image is formed by your audience, and not what you present to them. Today, the conversations of customers are deemed more important in deciding brand image than all the marketing efforts of the brand put together.
- Connected customers: Gartner says that by 2018, each consumer in mature markets will own three to four devices and the installed base of devices will reach 8.3 billion units (wearables, phones, tablets, PCs). Constantly connected customers will more or less dictate marketing strategies and force brands to meet customer needs as and when they arise and on the channel of the customer’s choosing.
- Continuous engagement: To be relevant, brands need to view marketing campaigns not as one-way broadcasts but as a conversation that keeps customers constantly engaged.
Three ways marketing automation keeps pace with these trends
1. Managing brand reputation
As noted earlier, it not you who manages your brand; your audience actually defines it. Social media is a powerful tool in the hands of your audience that helps them share opinions, pass judgment and interact with thousands of others to get information and feedback about your brand. It is the external perception of this audience that is shaping the image of your brand.
When so many factors affecting your brand image are external, how do you manage it? This is where marketing automation tools need to keep pace with changing trends and empower brands to actively monitor the social network and the entire digital sphere where the brand might be mentioned.
Social monitoring tools need to evolve into “social listening” tools. Monitoring brand mentions alone will be of no value. Gathering intent and sentiment will be. Tools will be needed to track sources of conversations and comments and gauge the underlying sentiment. This will give brands the heads-up to respond where they deem fit. Marketing automation tools need to evolve to help businesses shift from brand to reputation management.
Brand marketing is an art of persuasion. Reputation management, however, is all about showcasing your authenticity. Your brand needs to come across as authentic in all respects, be it in adherence of vision and values to transparency of doing business. An evolved marketing automation tool will help brands transmit a single “voice” or message that resonates truly with the brand story.
2. Converting campaigns into conversations
Periodic marketing campaigns will slowly become redundant as they will be insufficient in engaging customers. Constantly connected customers will necessitate continuous conversations between the brand and the audience. Conversations are adaptive and can be regulated in contrast to a marketing campaign that was conceived in a time that is different from when it is deployed.
An issue or an idea that is central to your campaign may become volatile and sensitive; and if the campaign is deployed at such a time, a severe backlash may result, leading to loss in reputation, not to mention precious dollars.
Continuous conversations allow brands to communicate meaningfully with the audience wherein they are not mere receivers but active participants. The feedback received from such an engaged audience is priceless. This also helps a brand in displaying authenticity.
Conversations, unlike campaigns, aren’t even started by brands themselves. They are more to “listen” to your audience than to promote your products and services. As more and more brands engage in conversations through social media and other channels, it will become increasingly difficult to monitor and regulate all the conversation. This is where marketing automation will help brands engage with audiences in the right way.
3. Defining target customers
Before customer experiences can be designed, it is imperative that brands know who their ideal customer is. This is a comprehensive process that involves segmentation of your target audience and the creation of customer “personas.” Personas are created after collecting data from surveys of various internal stakeholders, a cross section of customers and behavioral analytics.
Marketing automation will allow for better customer behavioral analytics to understand your target customers better. Evolved tools will allow brands to create dynamic segments based on customers’ actual behavior, which can then be mapped to their personas.
What I’m getting at is that marketing automation needs to become intelligent and responsive. Machine learning will play a tremendous role in the evolution of next-gen marketing automation tools. Without machine learning, it will be nigh impossible to compile and process the amount of data that will flow to you from multiple sources.
Marketing automation tools need to make sense of all this data and make its essence available for your marketing team. A word of caution, though: All the marketing technology in the world will come to naught if there isn’t a brand story, a strategy and the right system in place to get customers to buy your products and services.
Dipti Parmar is the digital PR strategist & account manager at Preceptist and handles content marketing campaigns at E2M. She helps brands and individuals market themselves, while keeping their online reputation spotless.