How to Automate your digital campaigns— A small introduction

So you are a digital marketer who likes to personalize your campaigns? That’s great, since so many do not (see my post with such examples here). But you are also a digital guerrilla right? Which means that you don’t have an army of interns and junior associates to run repetitive, complex campaigns for you. Especially when they the campaigns can run in hundreds.

I mean, even if a particular email campaign has to be run every Tuesday, you will need to remember it in some to-do list. And if there are a few dozens of these campaigns? And what if it gets more complex — a campaign that involves email, text and website behaviour? The variables and the choices starts to go up exponentially.

So what do you do?

Automation — that’s what you need to do.

Btw, in case you need a basic introduction to the concept of personalization, read the first two posts I wrote on this — The first part on “Why personalization works” and the second part on “Getting started with basic personalization

So, what is automation? Even if you are not related to technology professionally, you must have heard this somewhere right? How the world is getting automated, how everything will get automated within a few years etc etc?

Put plainly, automation is the process by which tasks are completed by algorithms rather than by humans.

We just need to tell a program what to do when to do it, and when to stop. And if you want, put in conditions and loops (IF, AND, OR conditions — remember your basic logic classes in school?). And sit back and let the program do everything for you.

Algorithms can do heavy lifting much more efficiently and faster than possible by any army of humans. Mainly because they don’t get bored (or ask for a raise!).

And when automation is used for marketing (conveniently called marketing automation), it leaves you, the lone digital guerrilla to do what you do best — think of the best strategy to get that ROI (read my post on whether you are a digital guerrilla).

What does this have to do with personalization, the oldest trick in the digital marketer’s handbook?

Lots, actually.

If you remember, personalization consists of the following

  • By Name (the easiest)
  • By Interest
  • By Relevance (the hardest and the most interesting!)

What automation does is that it allows you to scale up take all of the three. And combine multiple communication channels while you are at it.

And importantly, automation makes doing the Relevance bit of personalization almost as easy as the personalization by Name. Almost!

Since this is an introductory post about automation, will not get into details in this post about the multiple ways in which you can automate your campaigns. A good starting article for this is here. And rest trust Google to give you more use cases than you can handle :)

Lets take an example of how marketing automation can give you superpowers.

Lets start with a campaign that is very simple and see how automation can make your life so much easier.

Say that you are a hotel chain and you want to create a very simple engagement campaigns for your database based on their birthdays where you throw in an offer.

Here is what you would normally do using the basic personalization techniques (outlined in my earlier post)

  • Segment your data using birthdays, using a simple sort function in an excel
  • Create emails which will have dynamic fields for the names, offers etc
  • Now when it comes to sending of the mail, everyday, pick up the database, check who has birthdays on that day and send the email as a normal mass campaign.

But,here is what you would do if you are running the same via an automated campaign

  • Data is uploaded on the email software location
  • Create email with dynamic field for name and the offer
  • Configure the automated software — basically tell the software this — Everyday at 9 AM, look into the above data, whoever has the birthday today, send the email with the offer. Automatically
  • Run the program and go have a beer!

Thats it!

Now, the above is equivalent to a kindergarten automation. But see what it does for you

  • You can scale up a campaign at a click of a button with more efficiency. Doing it the first way guarantees slippages including human error
  • Ability to run many more campaigns at one time since you are basically putting in the strategy and monitoring progress
  • Your database gets personalized mails and offers and feel more positive towards you. And you are just being smart about it :)
  • The time it frees up — time you can use to do something more useful than be a human automaton (pun!)

The beauty of marketing automation like this is that you can scale this up from the basic campaigns like above to making complex algorithms like the one below

Courtesy Isaac Wyatt, Martech on Slideshare

Quickly scaling it up

All automation campaigns are a combination of IF,OR, AND logic.

And used in combination, kind of using logic like Lego, you can basically create anything you want. A sample use case below

  • Sending a feedback survey link to the database with a link to the online survey. Ratings are asked for between 0–10, 0 being lowest and 10 being highest
  • If survey is filled, a Thank you mail is sent immediately with an offer coupon
  • If survey is not filled within 24 hours, a follow-up mail is sent
  • If survey is opened but not completed, a text message is sent with offers of help in filling the response
  • Once the survey is filled, responses are categorized by the algorithm to ensure that each rating is handled differently
  • The lowest rating are straightaway marked to the CEO and an automated reply is sent back (personalized of course!). 0 Ratings are handled personally
  • The middle ratings are sent to the customer care center to be taken care of
  • The high ratings are sent a thank you mail and a follow up mail is scheduled to be triggered exactly one month later with a personalized offer

I can go on, but you get the drift. Like I said, a Lego

Now imagine doing this the conventional way! You would rather not, I assume:)

How to get started on automation?

Over the last few months specially, automation softwares have sprung up everywhere. Even conventional email marketing softwares have embraced this very quickly — MailChimp, Act-on, you name it. Hubspot had it for a while.

All you need is to signup for one of the plans. Most actually bundle it as a part of their regular plans. Its becoming hygiene very quickly!

And actually doing it is pretty simple as well. As you can probably guess, you dont have to touch a line of code. All of the softwares have pretty slick GUI which basically makes it a drag and drop.

However, as a fellow digital guerrilla, my suggestion is that make your plan on a piece of paper (yes, really!) without the distraction of all options available when you fire up your automation platform. Know what you need and then start creating the structure. It will be faster and you will not create unnecessary logic steps

To sum up

Marketing automation takes your personalization strategy to the next level. It allows to create cool, immersive campaigns while removing the tedium of actually running each step manually!

If you have dabbled in any sort of data analytics, you can imagine the power that automation can give you to segment and target a complex database, especially when you connect to multiple data sources via APIs etc.

But even at a basic level, automation can let you personalize your campaigns to a degree that was possible only with very expensive softwares earlier. An example being UNICA by IBM.

What do you need to spend today? If you are doing emails anyway through a recognized email distribution software, you will probably not be paying anything more.

So there you go. Superpower technology that helps you keep your customers happy and contributes to your bottomline at a cost which is zero!

This is an acceptable price for a digital guerrilla! :)

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Entrepreneur @ Weaddo. Writing at intersection of Technology, Culture, History.

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