By Joshua Baez, Marketing Coordinator for Heinz Marketing
We live in the era of the digital age—a time where technology continues to blur the lines between fantasy and reality, and where new innovations shape new behaviors and expectations for what’s to come. From digital media to mobile platforms, from virtual and augmented reality to the ever-changing, ever-expanding gadget marketplace, the world is changing, and as people change, so too do their habits. But the question for most marketers that arises from these constant shifts in the consumer landscape is: “How can I keep up?”
Keeping up is a valid concern, but maybe the question shouldn’t be about keeping pace, but rather about leveraging your resources to stand out. In a landscape filled with newer, shinier technology, it’s all too easy to bite the bullet, adopt the latest tools, and integrate them throughout your marketing campaigns, only to find out there’s a “better, more efficient” tool right around the corner. So instead of spending the time finding the latest tools and learning something entirely new, why not focus your time thinking about how to leverage what you have now and developing novel, innovative strategies to stand out in a sea of disruption and competition?
50 Years of Marketing Automation
One of a marketer’s greatest tools is that of automation. Though this feature might be standard today, go back just 20-some years and you’ll find marketing automation just hitting the scene. Go back even further, and digital marketing and advertising wasn’t even around at all.
“We live in a new media era where old marketing ideas do not work. In the 1960s, there were only five media channels which were limited in creation, distribution, and who consumed it. But now, more people have access to a cell phone than access to fresh water, and by 2020, connected devices will outnumber humans 7 to 1.”
These are some major paradigm shifts that pack an incredible amount of punch. For most marketing companies, especially those who specialize in digital lead generation, demand generation, inbound marketing, content development, and campaigns, it’s hard, scary even, to imagine a time when people didn’t have automated tools to help them work more efficiently—and with the introduction of mobile marketing, that scenario becomes even more unbelievable.
But have we grown too reliant on automation to do our work for us? Have we become conditioned to assume that the best practices are, in fact, best practice? Maybe it’s time to rethink marketing automation, and instead of looking at it through a pair of rose-colored glasses, we should be placing it beneath a microscope to see what really makes it tick.
2 Sides of a Coin
I like to think of marketing automation strategies as a coin—on one side you have the full spectrum of automated features at your disposal, and on the other, you have manual processes. Too often we take for granted the automated side of the coin, and we forget about the manual tasks that we (usually) begrudgingly have to complete as well. But within this manual work, there’s a glimmer of gold. That glimmer is personalization.
We, as marketers, are privy to the idea that “personalization works,” but how much effort do you really put into personalizing your marketing message? Personalizing the copy you write, the messages you produce, the brand and persona you create for yourself and your brand—these are all cogs in the marketing machine, and yet we always spend more time doing and less time thinking about why it is we do what we do.
We are so focused on “getting results now,” that we overlook the power of personalization in our messages. We forget that the people we’re trying to reach are just that—people. These aren’t machines. These aren’t nameless, bodiless ghosts. They’re people. And people respond to people.
Writing Authentic Copy
Also at the Unbounce CTA Conference, I was able to hear a talk by Amy Harrison of HarrisonAmy Copywriting where she posed the question: “Is your copy cheating on you?” What she meant by that was, “like cheating in a relationship, [your copy] is not committed.”
When you have cheating copy, you begin to see it everywhere—on other websites, emails, web banners—and what it says about you is that you’re forgetting to personalize. You’re putting your ideas through a “best practice” machine, and out the other end is copy that is inauthentic, impersonal, and mass produced.
“Be more effective!”
“Discover the keys!”
“Unlock your potential!”
What do these phrases actually mean? What ideas do they convey? The truth is, phrases like these, umbrella terms if you will, are empty, bland, and invisible. They’re the pretty boys in high school—aesthetically pleasing, but vapid when you start digging deeper. Looks will fade, but meanings will persist long afterwards.
Amy has a great formula for solving copywriting umbrella terms, where she dives deeper into what it means to write authentic copy, and she says that “The key [to copywriting] is to give a little glimpse of a specific feature that warrants the ‘Umbrella Term’.” That is, in order to convey authenticity, you need to write specifically, personally, and honestly.
The key to writing authentic copy is to write authentically.
The Balance of Automation and Authenticity
Mathew Sweezey says that “authenticity is heuristic. It’s not just your actions, it’s the experience you create.” Authenticity is learned through life experiences. When people see something, they determine its authenticity through their own history. This is what makes not only writing authentically, but presenting authenticity in today’s era of digital media the difficult task that it is. With a sea of competition, how do you stand out? And how do you stay ahead?
There needs to be a balance struck between automation and authenticity. I mentioned before that instead of fully adopting every new tool you see into your marketing strategy, you should instead try and leverage the tools you have in order to create something new.
We at Heinz Marketing use Socedo, a tool that helps generate social leads and qualify prospects through those social channels. Social media is a turbulent beast that changes tides more times in a day than you could ever hope to track. But using Socedo, we’ve been able to leverage their automated direct message function on Twitter, and do something novel with it.
You’ve likely seen your Twitter inbox filled with clearly automated messages: “Hi [name], thanks for the follow! Please feel free to download this asset to empower your business!”
What’s the point even?
I get at least ten of these kinds of messages a day, and each one looks exactly the same as the last. So why should I 1.) Open your message, 2.) Read your umbrella-coated copy, 3.) Click on whatever link you provide, and 4.) Download whatever asset the link leads to if any? It’s a total crapshoot, and more often than not, messages like these get ignored, and ignored, and then ignored some more.
However, using Socedo, we’ve been able to send more personal, authentic messages to users who follow us. Instead of a generic message with a generic asset, we send personalized messages with content specific to the user based on their keywords in their Twitter feed and profile description. And perhaps the biggest change we’ve done is instead of sending the user to a landing page to fill out a form to download an asset, we instead ask for an email address. And in the last three months (April to June), we’ve seen a 30-45% response rate, with over 1,100 individual responses. That’s more than 1,100 first names, last names, and email addresses.
“Hi Jim, can I send you a copy of our inside sales best practices guide? Thought it might be valuable based on some of your recent tweets. Let me know (including which email address to send it to)!”
That’s one of our messages above. That’s it. There’s no real secret to it. No hidden agenda behind it. It’s a message, but it’s one that’s personalized and authentic. It hits on a need, and offers real value to fulfill that need. Not only that, but it reads like it was written by a human—and the surprising thing is that it was.
Be A (Freaking) Person
Authenticity and personalization don’t need to be the black sheep of your marketing campaign. They don’t need to be these unreachable, unattainable nuggets of gold. There’s no secret sauce, no 11 herbs and spices, no hidden switch that only a master marketer can find. Being authentic is ultimately about being human.
People respond to people. My number one rule in life is to “Be A Freaking Person” (you can tweet me on that @joshthebasil). Be kind, be caring, be honest, be transparent. Act towards others the way you want others to act towards you. Write, work, and carry yourself with meaning and with good intentions. Ultimately, being authentic and personal is more than just a marketing tactic. It’s an entire way of life.
Set a standard, work to uphold it, and remember to always be authentic.