How to Market Like a Human in the Age of Automation

Does marketing automation make you feel like you’re nothing more than a “contact” or “lead” in a company’s CRM? Well, that’s because you are. Marketing automation works based on signals – inputs and outputs. Until you input enough information for the AI to understand what you want, the output won’t reflect your needs and desires.

As a marketer, how can you empathize with your target audience and how marketing automation makes them feel to create better user experiences?

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation uses software to automate marketing activities such as sending email, posting on social media, moving leads through marketing stages in your CRM, and running ads. Marketing automation helps businesses send the right message to the right audience at the right time and place.

But, sometimes things go awry. Don’t blame the machine, though. It’s doing what we tell it to do.

Marketing Automation: The Good and the Bad

Let’s start with the bad.

Every January, I begin the new year by cleaning out my inbox and unsubscribing to the many lists I’ve joined over the past 12 months. Many of those subscriptions started with a download or a purchase. But, what was once helpful has turned into an onslaught of messaging I now ignore.

It seems that brands are frantically trying to keep themselves front and center during every online interaction. Between the pop-ups, emails, and remarketing ads, it creates content fatigue. I want to tell them, “Calm down. I’ll remember you when I need your products and services.”

Now, the good.

As an inbound marketing agency, we use marketing automation as well. However, our mission is to help our clients make real, human connections with their audience. We use AI to learn about buyers’ interests, needs, and behaviors. Then we use that data and automation to deliver authentic, buyer-centric messaging.

HubSpot explains it best. “Good marketing automation takes into account the evolving needs of your leads, and the behaviors and interactions they have with you across all of your marketing channels. Not just email. Using behavioral inputs from multiple channels such as social media, viewing a pricing page, or consuming a particular piece of content gives marketers the context they need to fully understand a lead’s challenges.”

Below are a few ways to use marketing automation to make authentic human connections.

Use Data to Segment Your Audience

Your marketing automation will only be as good as the data that triggers it. It takes a combination of explicit and implicit data to ensure your marketing automation creates a personal connection. Explicit data is collected from forms and surveys, including name, address, job title, company, and the size of the contact’s team. Implicit data provides information about your contacts’ interests, such as types of content they download, the number of times they open your emails, what product-related content they click on in emails.

Using both types of data is where the magic happens. They both play a vital role in determining your leads’ stage in the buying journey, segmenting your leads, and tailoring your message to match their needs.

Email Automation

One of the advantages of email automation is that it allows us to maintain a consistent flow of email communication with our contacts. A common abuse of email marketing is messaging leads too often or only urging them to make a purchase. Instead, use email marketing to nurture relationships with your audience by communicating regularly with helpful information.

Adobe’s email usage study reveals the four things that people find annoying in work and personal emails.

The four things that people find annoying in work emails:

  • Emailed too often (38%)
  • Marketer’s data about me is wrong (25%)
  • Too wordy/poorly written (24%)
  • Urging me to buy a product I’ve already purchased (21%)

The four things that people find annoying in personal emails:

  • Emailed too often (43%)
  • Urging me to buy a product I’ve already purchased (24%)
  • Marketer’s data about me is wrong (23%)
  • Too wordy/poorly written (23%)

Source: ClickZ: Adobe Email Usage Study 2019

Using segmentation, we can fit the message to our audience’s interests to build trust over time. We can track our audience’s response and collect data on what they engage with to tailor our messaging to meet their interests and needs.

When you send well-written emails that match your contacts’ lead stages, providing the right information at the right time, it adds value and helps them along their buying journey. They will remember you when they’re ready to purchase.

Pop-Up Forms, Sliders, and Hello Bars

Pop-ups and sliders can be distracting and annoying. Can we use them in a more human way? The answer is “yes” IF you follow a few best practices:

  • The content offered in the pop-up or slider is highly relevant to your content and matches the website visitor’s intent.
  • The pop-up enhances user experience.
  • They appear at the right time during the page visit.
  • Use friendly language and remind them of the value of the content you’re offering.

Types of pop-ups that reduce friction in the conversion path are on-click pop-ups (forms that pop up when a specific CTA is clicked) and slide-in boxes (content offers that slide in as visitors scroll the page). These are typically less intrusive than overlay pop-ups since they are triggered by the visitor’s engagement with the page. Use a heatmap tool like HotJar to determine how people engage with your page to determine where on the page is the right place to trigger a pop-up or slider.

For more information on how to use pop-ups effectively, check out this article from HubSpot.

Chatbots with a Human Touch

Chatbots are having their moment in the sun as the AI behind them has become increasingly sophisticated and easily customizable. They are useful in helping your leads get the information they want quickly, including answering frequently asked questions, directing website visitors to downloadable resources, connecting visitors with sales reps, and setting up demos.

It’s helpful to remember that chatbots execute “conversational marketing.” The chatbot is having a conversation with a real person who has questions and expects the chatbot to provide quick answers.

The keys to chatbot success are:

  • Give your bot personality and a name.
  • Use the chatbot to greet website visitors quickly.
  • Once a chat session begins, ask the user their name so the chatbot can personalize the messages.
  • Ask the user qualifying questions.
  • Give the user a selection of options, and direct them to the information they desire in as few messages as possible.

Social Media Automation

The saying “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” comes to mind when recalling the messages I receive immediately upon connecting with someone on Twitter or LinkedIn. This type of marketing automation tends to come off as robotic. If someone pitches their products or services within seconds of connecting, it’s a red flag that they have automated their messaging. They don’t know anything about me or my needs and interests, and they aren’t trying to build a relationship with me.

A better way to use social selling automation is to automate the manual, repetitive tasks such as sending connection requests. Don’t automate conversations meant to build trust and engage your prospects.

Scheduling posts is another facet of social media marketing automation. It’s common to cross-post the same message on different channels, but this isn’t the best approach. The users of various social platforms have different expectations of the content on those channels. It’s best to tailor the message to the audience and how they consume content on that channel.

Content and SEO

Earning top spots in search isn’t accomplished by stuffing keywords into your content. To rank highly in the SERPs, your content needs to match the searcher’s intent better than your competitors’ content. There are technical SEO tactics that help Google understand what your content is about, but those are behind the scenes, in the code of the page.

Good web content flows naturally and is written in a way that both humans and crawlers can understand. As ironic as it sounds, Google’s bots don’t like content that reads like a machine wrote it. Integrating your brand story into your content marketing, social media marketing, and SEO ensures that you tell a consistent message that helps people and search engines understand your products and services and the problems they solve.

How to Market Like a Human

One of the many benefits of marketing automation is that it enables you to communicate with your prospective customers at scale consistently. The key to successful automation is segmentation and personalization, ensuring you share the right message with the right person and the right time. Continually evaluate and test your audience’s engagement with your automated marketing campaigns. When you market like a human, the learning never stops and allows you to reassess your funnel, reevaluate your lead scoring, and refine your brand messaging to connect with your buyers authentically.