The word “automation” is often attached to a rather negative stigma. Customers don’t want to be the target of “marketing automation,” and most small businesses would rather die than have their customers know they’re being targeted by computers and algorithms. After all, isn’t the point of content marketing to engage with customers and converse with them?

Yes, it is! And, you can still create meaningful connections and develop a full brand experience with marketing automation tactics. Just because you’re automating some tasks doesn’t mean your brand image has to take a hit. In actuality, marketing automation can boost your brand image. All the while, it’s bringing you valuable business conversions.

Marketing Automation in a Nutshell

For those of you who are wondering what exactly marketing automation is, Eloqua provides a great definition: “Marketing Automation is the art and science of automatically managing the targeting, timing, and content of your outbound marketing messages in response to prospects, inbound actions and online behaviors.”

You might be more familiar with some of the more basic (and free) forms of marketing automation that allow you to schedule posts for your Twitter (HootSuite and TweetDeck). Also, if your blog posts are automatically posted to your Google+ account or LinkedIn page, you’re already using a form of marketing automation.

However, marketing automation goes much further. The software and formulas get increasingly complex (and the process is often outsourced), revealing what types of customers are visiting your site, the route they’re taking through your sales funnel, how much of your content they ingest, etc.

Branding for Business (with marketing automation)

While there are plenty of great resources on marketing automation and why it can be useful for business, today I want to focus on how you can still have a meaningful brand experience while using marketing automation techniques.

Right People at the Right Time

Don’t assume that automation means your brand’s personality is going to dissipate into thin air. On the contrary, automation allows your brand to show itself more effectively. After all, good marketing automation services are going to help you reach the right people at the right time.

Derek Halpern at Social Triggers wrote a terrific blog post that demonstrates the power of combining your brand’s voice with marketing automation techniques. In the blog post, he goes through the suggestions he gave to a local spa. He suggested they curate an email list of customers, send customers friendly and useful information at the appropriate time, and then follow up with special offers, integrating smart gamification techniques. Go read it! It’s full of fascinating advice on automation and branding for business.

Become an Authority

When you provide people appropriate information in a timely manner, you look like you know what you’re doing. (And, if you’re using marketing automation techniques, then you probably do know what you’re doing.)

As I’ve said before, establishing authority is a great way to boost your reputation. Delivering potential leads the information they crave demonstrates that you have a good deal of knowledge and authority in your field. Customers take notice and your brand’s reputation begins to rise in their sight. Plus, as you become a primary source of (timely) information for your potential customers, you put yourself in a position to earn valuable business conversions.

Personalize Your Brand Experience

However, the most critical part of branding for business remains the same: you have to personalize your brand experience. Of course, at base, this means creating unique content. But, in terms of marketing automation, this personalization is largely style-related.

E-mail newsletters are old hat. While they’re still incredibly valuable, you have to tailor this automated experience to make it worthwhile for your audience. This means putting thought into appearance, delivery, social integration, design, etc.

The same is true for any and all parts of your automated experiences. However, I’m picking on e-mail newsletters because the more basic an automated tactic is, the more energy you should apply in “branding” it.

Why? It’s simple. Smart customers see through automation techniques – especially the basic ones. (Seriously interested customers don’t care; they want to buy your product.) But for those who are on the fence, you have to wine and dine them. The wining and dining process requires a little bit of dressing up. And, the more elementary your platform, the more it needs to be dressed up.

Branding for Business: Dressing Up

Here’s an example. Let’s say two companies that sell organic t-shirts send out a weekly e-mail newsletter to potential leads.

a) One company sends out a simple non-HTML email. The email has some company news, new product announcements, and talks about the acquisition of a new manufacturing location.

b) The second company sends out an email that contains the same information, but the news is written from the personal perspective of the CEO. The product announcement comes from the idea team behind the new clothing line, and includes videos of a modeling session. The news about the recently acquired manufacturing location includes Instagram pictures of the building and sketches of the space’s future uses.

Now, which e-mail newsletter delivers the better brand experience? Right, option B. While you don’t have to pack every possible ounce of content marketing into each and every automated experience, the more creativity and thought you can attach to the information you want to deliver, the more effective the delivery of your brand experience is.

Now, Go Brand With Marketing Automation!

If you thought marketing automation would suck the life out of your brand, I hope you’re coming around to seeing things differently. Marketing automation is a wonderful tool, and when done well, it actually takes branding for business to a new level. You shouldn’t feel like your brand is ever being compromised because of your automation strategies. If so, it’s time to take a step back and ask yourself what needs to change.

How does your company craft a brand experience with marketing automation?