We’ve heard it before and we’ll hear it again. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard friends, family and colleagues talk about the frustration of SPAM. Emails and correspondence that is irrelevant and unrelated to the needs they currently have. It’s begins with insensitive telemarketers and transitions to direct mail and unwanted emails. Gary Vaynerchuk once said: "Marketers ruin everything." And I've found that to be true. The wider the net we cast, the less personal we become. Sometimes we just try too hard. Listen, I understand. We are trying to reach our audience in new and unique ways, with new and unique tools. But how can we reach them in a personal way?
I was traveling the other day and found myself at a restaurant seated next to a couple of gentlemen from the local car dealership. Normally I don’t find myself listening in on the conversations of those around me, but the restaurant was quiet, and I couldn’t help but follow along. It started slow, and as they continued, I gathered that one was the manager and the other was the GM. As they began to discuss the current state of the dealership, the conversation began to take an interesting turn.
The manager was talking about how challenging it was to keep team members from leaving the business. He was expressing frustration that some of the individuals that had left, were now back asking for their jobs back. And as they discussed the nature of their departure and return, the manager began talking about the culture of the business. “It’s not like it was when I was on the sales floor”, he chided. “When I was working the floor we did whatever it took to make the customer feel welcome."
The day was cold, overcast and it had been raining, and as the manager continued, he said, “You know, on a day like today, our team would have been standing at the front door with umbrellas, waiting for customers to arrive. And when they would, we would be out there asking the customers what they wanted before they event stepped out of the car. And if they did, we’d have the umbrella handy to cover them as they walked into the dealership. Now, the sales team simply stands at the front door and hovers, waiting for them to walk up to the door."
And if they did, we’d have the umbrella handy to cover them as they walked into the dealership.
He continued to express his disdain for the current sales team and how they have lost the hunger or drive to meet the needs of the customers who have come to their dealership. “It’s a different group.” he muttered.
I think it’s important for us to do a bit of a reset on the purpose of automation. It has only been a couple of years since automation has really taken off, and already, there are marketers that believe automation can replace the entire function of marketing. They are like the sales team in the story our manager talked about. They have quickly forgotten the art of marketing. They have forsaken the customer and believe that they already know exactly what the customer wants, and will wait for them to “make the right decision”.
Friends, marketing automation will not, and should not, replace your marketing team. It was developed to help you see your marketing environment in a more holistic way. It helps you take into account the location and potential needs of your customer and help you provide information and value to them in a quick and efficient manner.
So let’s get back to our manager. When he was on the sales floor, he was always thinking about the customer. When the rain clouds were out, he was prepared with an umbrella, ready to meet their needs before they even asked. As marketers, we should always consider the needs of the customer based on their environment.
Where are your customers? What is their environment? Is it raining or is it sunny? Who are they with? Is it lunch time, are they hungry? The list goes on and on and on. These questions help us gain a critical view of our customers. When we see them in a way that is not a data point, but a person, seeking value, we will look at them and our marketing in a different light. Here is a great article on developing a value-based model for your business.
Time to Get the Umbrella
As you continue to seek the perfect automation tools to help you share your product or service to your audience, please take a long, hard look at your customer. They are the reason you are in business. Providing value to them goes beyond the sale. As we've discussed, you certainly want to maintain a healthy view of your goals, but if you don’t keep your customer front and center, your automation efforts will feel not feel personal. They will end up feeling like the car sales team that our manager talked about.
So stop staring out the window, get the umbrella, go out in the rain and put your feet into the shoes of your customer. Because when you do, your marketing efforts will feel less automated and will start to feel more personal.