Automation: the note (apparently) out of place in Social Media Marketing

Many advanced companies have resources dedicated to monitoring and active use of social media; their work is facilitated by software tools for social listening, able to aggregate, filter and sort conversations based on predefined criteria, so as to facilitate the task of responding (manually) to the most significant posts.

Automazione: la nota (apparentemente) stonata nel Social Media Marketing

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These platforms are essential to be able to know the opinions that people (as well as customers) express about the brand, in a context of complex and multiple interactions – potentially thousands, within the various social media.

A suggestion: before putting aside the idea of automating our presence on social media, let’s try to consider how email marketing techniques have evolved

The support of the tools that facilitate the reading of social networks and allow to summarize the sentiment that characterizes its audience, is certainly a good starting point; however, marketers should do more to stimulate public engagement and foster business growth through social media too.

In this context automation, although it is considered a sort of “out of tune” in that it risks distorting the relationships between people and businesses, can help – especially if we consider the consumption of time and resources that it is necessary to manage in a traditional way the dialogue between the company and those who use social media as a channel of interaction with the brand.

Automation and personalized one-to-one marketing

To generate a higher level of involvement, social media marketers should respond to specific actions through the (more or less large-scale) proposal of ad hoc content. Such actions (from the public) can be considered as a kind of activator: in practice it is necessary to identify activities such as the post of comments on a certain person or company, the use of particular hashtags, or the fact that it is published on social media mean something about certain topics or topics; once these events occur, you need to have specific material to propose to the people who triggered the mechanism.
The digital content that we can send automatically in response to a series of situations that can be highlighted in an equally automatic way, can be movies or text documents, but also discount codes, promotions, points to be earned to get gifts or even tickets for events sports or music ready to buy.

Although the possible advantages of this approach are undoubtedly many, it is precisely the use of automation which is for many a critical element: to respond automatically, in real time and on a large scale to a series of possible events through the ‘sending specific content for each type of user and activity, it is necessary a solution of Social Media Marketing Automation (better if integrated with or already included in a platform for marketing automation). In practice we need software capable of “listening” and intercepting certain situations or actions, and automatically responding to people who have performed them.

A further brake (perhaps the most difficult to remove) to the adoption of automation in the context of interactions through social media, is linked to the fact that those who deal with the image of the company on social networks, often engages to create and grow relationships thanks to their presence within a given virtual community made up of people.

The point is not that we need to replace the human presence with a more or less intelligent mechanism, but simply send as much as possible personalized and contextual stimuli where it makes sense – thanks to the fact that this same mechanism is able to automatically identify the situation in where this proposal may meet an interest or be relevant and relevant.

The parallel with email marketing

To understand what it refers to, the evolution of email marketing techniques is an excellent example – given that this channel was undoubtedly the one that paved the way for personalized one-to-one marketing. On the other hand, today no marketer invests his time in manually sending individual emails; on the contrary, thanks to the information we have available on the audience, we all use automation to communicate effectively and contextualised with our interlocutors.

Safeway (a US retail food company) creates tailor-made emails for its customers based on their preferences and buying habits; this program has proved to be extremely effective, to the point of exceeding the average of its market sector in terms of open messages, read and actively used (clicks made) by the recipients – something that has also contributed to the loyalty of consumers and increase in turnover.

Automation and social media

At this point, someone might argue that automation can be fine for email campaigns, but that social media management software is not yet mature enough – yet we need to distinguish between social interaction through a chat bot (an automatism that uses artificial intelligence tools) and the simple reaction to an event.

In fact, if we consider the mechanisms that allow you to react automatically to the occurrence of a certain condition, the tools for automation of marketing on social media have evolved at least as much as those for email marketing, since they can segment users based on numerous parameters and send them the most suitable contents in real time; in particular, all this is possible thanks to the definition and implementation of a complex system of rules that provide for the assignment of scores according to the activities of the contacts and the relative frequency – regardless of the local language and their geographical distribution.

Indeed, it is possible to integrate email marketing and social media marketing to share content between the two channels and make the communication more consistent and able to engage the audience, as well as to increase conversions.

Among the companies that have successfully adopted social media marketing is Marriott (a well-known hotel chain), which uses this channel for promotional activities – for example by offering points in the framework of special loyalty programs to those who, among its customers, mention the brand.

Be more strategic

As for the perplexities related to automation and the consequent lack of that particular human touch that it inevitably determines, it is worth making some further consideration regarding the evolution of email marketing.

The automation (not just of the email that, let’s remember, was born around the concept of sales funnel, of buyer’s journey and of lead nurturing) has allowed marketers to become more and more strategic in the organization thanks to their contribution to the business growth. In fact, email automation, based on a research by Data & Marketing Association, is used by 82% of B2B and B2C companies; moreover, according to the same source, more than half of the respondents said that investments in the e-mail channel will continue to grow.

In other words, nobody denies the advantages deriving from the automation of email campaigns and nobody has the slightest intention of eliminating this channel from the so-called “marketing mix”.
Similarly, social media automation has the ability to make the contribution of those who deal with marketing communication on social networking platforms increasingly strategic for companies: automation, in fact, not only helps to respond in real time and on a large scale scale to the online activities of the followers of companies, but also allows collecting valuable information on consumers, which improves the processes and strategies of marketing communication and encourages greater involvement and stronger loyalty from potential and actual customers.

Traditional and automated communication

Exactly as for e-mails, also for the automation of interactions through social media, it is not a question of extending the terms of the problem through an “all or nothing” approach: marketers, of course, always have the possibility to communicate in a personal and immediate with the public when this is appropriate, and those who deal specifically with social media marketing, can very well intervene in the virtual community and moderate discussions, express opinions or interact directly with people. The difference between the totally manual approach and the (also) automated approach lies in the ability to invest more time and resources on strategic activities, reserving individual interpersonal communications to instances where this type of relationship makes sense in terms of corporate strategy.

Currently, only 5% of social media marketer work is automated; however, the automation of this channel, which is increasingly strategic, has both the ability to increase the involvement of the public on a large scale, and to offer to those involved in marketing precious indications to optimize and refine their efforts.

More and more companies are introducing automation as an evolution of social media marketing, discovering that this approach offers important advantages in the ability to build relationships with customers and is able to produce a positive impact on the business.

Neuromarketing: the last frontier

For some time we have heard of Neuromarketing (but also of Neuroeconomics); do not worry: it’s not about some new psychiatric ward for marketers or economists (even if both disciplines can bring the respective insiders to have some nerve crises). In reality it is a multidisciplinary approach to different branches of human activities in which neuroscience begins to play a primary role.

Neuromarketing: l'ultima frontiera

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In this blog we have dealt with topics that have to do with the mind: both talking about the relationship between psychology and marketing, both explaining how artificial intelligence can offer many application areas (including marketing) new and powerful tools to perform analysis and forecasts.

Neuromarketing deals with the detailed understanding of the unconscious mechanisms that guide our purchasing decisions, in order to make the promotional activities that companies put in place to increase sales more effective

Now the time has come to go further and enter directly into the mechanisms that, in the brain, support from a chemical and electrical point of view the phenomena that investigate psychologists, or try to understand what are the physiological roots of our own emotions.

It is not about conditioning people with something like subliminal messages, but simply understanding better how a stimulus is elaborated to arouse awareness and drive our more or less conscious decisions.

The mysteries of the mind

With Freud, science began to investigate the mysteries of the mind, discovering that our consciousness is only the tip of the iceberg: beneath our logical processes, in fact, there is a complex analogical activity that involves not only what it is called unconscious, but also the neurophysiology of particular areas of the brain whose evolutionary origins are very old.

Just as in our DNA there are still primitive genes (and essential to life) that we have in common not only with other complex species but also with the most elementary organisms, our brain is composed of 3 macroareas of which the oldest is also the deeper, while the other 2 have so to speak developed around – a bit like the layers of an onion. It is (starting from the innermost) of the encephalic trunk, of the limbic system and of the neocortex, respectively involved in the instinctive, emotional and rational responses; our conscious and voluntary behaviors are managed by the most evolved part of the brain, while the others deal with keeping us alive and avoiding the dangers.

To our ancestors who belonged to the animal world, it did not matter to understand the world or the meaning of life, while it was absolutely essential to find the way to survive, feed and reproduce. The 3 brains theory, in particular, places the development of our mental functions on the developmental plane and states that the brainstem we inherited from the reptiles, the limbic system unites the mammals and is responsible for emotions and collaborative attitudes, while the neocortex ( very extensive in primates, ie us, and especially in anthropomorphic apes) is the place where entities such as intelligence, creativity, solidarity and symbolic representations of reality take shape.

The fact that we find ourselves at the top of the pyramid of sentient creatures does not exclude that our primitive parts still collaborate to determine our behaviors and attitudes – just to make sure we continue to survive, feed and reproduce, possibly avoiding the dangers.

Thanks to neurosciences, today it is possible to measure and process numerous neurophysiological parameters related to the activities of the entire brain (including primitive parts): tools such as neuroimaging, but also the analysis of posture, facial mimicry and the study of our psychosomatic reactions (arterial pressure, heart rate, hormonal activity), help to establish a series of precise causal links between the stimuli and what they produce in our mind. By simplifying, it is as if we are studying the behavior of the dogs by associating to the fact that they shake the tail of an image, a sound, a smell, etc.

What, how and why

Obviously, we neglect to question the infinite implications that this approach entails, given that the complexity of the mind makes it both an incredibly efficient mechanism and a profound mystery, but let us limit ourselves to considering that, variously linked to the mechanisms of all 3 of our brains , the unconscious undoubtedly supports (and in fact dominates) what emerges from consciousness as sensation, need, desire, decision, emotion or feeling.

Given that by definition the consciousness hides all the processes behind it, to access what is behind the scenes we have invented a series of investigative tools, on which the diagnostic and therapeutic mechanisms of psychology are based. However this is not enough: today we are able to “read” directly which areas of the brain are activated and how much; for the first time we can scrutinize the “hardware” mechanisms that support higher level mental activities and this has allowed us to replace many hypotheses with as many objective data.

For some time we have known that when we have a need, this manifests itself to our conscience and implements a series of actions that lead to its satisfaction; however, conscious activities, such as the analysis of different options, the development of strategies and the resulting decisions we make, are only part of the whole work. What is clear to us on the conscious level is only what we need and logic helps us to put into effect the behavior (apparently) more effective from the functional point of view to obtain it, but on how we behave in order to succeed and above all on the because we do so, hidden factors come into play that totally escape our control.

In practice it is possible that we use the reason (and we are completely convinced) to support decisions that have nothing to do with reason and logic, while the way we plan our actions accordingly apparently only follow a design linear while in reality they are driven by very deep tensions and thrusts, often linked to elementary instances.

So it happens that we decide to buy something not because it is beautiful or we need it, but because it satisfies, for example, our need to belong to a common identity – a legacy of the fact that we belong to a profoundly social species.

Neuromarketing

The most skillful sellers, even if only by instinct, have always been able to read between the lines, having the ability to sense the unsaid: they understand your true motivations and use them as strengths to push you to buy – taking care to make sure that the choice you offer is seen as the best possible alternative, the only one able to transform your shopping experience into a happy moment, no ifs, ands or buts (let alone second thoughts).

Someone said that you do not have to sell the steak but the scent and the sound of the sizzling of the meat on the plate. Perfect! It is, once again, to understand how our cognitive tools (even if extraordinarily efficient) are based only on a small part on the conscience and on reason but sink their roots into emotions, sensations, memories, suggestions.
The important thing is to identify this universe of subjective realities that straddles the conscious and the unconscious and recreate it when it is time to evoke a need and to suggest the best (and most rewarding) way to manage and satisfy it.

Psychology helped marketing to discover the veil that hid this world and began to study it with experimental methodologies based on statistical tools; this has allowed companies to develop more powerful marketing messages, with a suggestive and evocative value, able to capture people’s attention and to orient their purchase choices (we are talking above all about products, more or less expensive, that they can define “consumption”). However, today someone still talks about “survival marketing”, meaning that digital tools are used to specifically convey personalized and contextual proposals, leveraging on the expressed (and sometimes implicit) interests of consumers but, obviously, for more active marketing. and proactive, capable of producing certain results, something more is needed.

And here we come to Neuromarketing, or the use of the most advanced theories developed by neuroscience to discover the syntax and vocabulary of a really effective marketing language, as well as its iconography. This approach, in fact, identifies with scientifically objective methodologies the quality and intensity of the neurophysiological response that a human being presents in the face of a stimulus of any kind – it’s a bit like having queued up to the people who undergo these tests , propose to them images, sounds, words linked to a specific need and make a note of when the tail is more frenetic.

Empirically, you can determine with almost mathematical accuracy suggestions that generate greater emotional resonance and then use them appropriately in marketing communication to make it almost unbeatable.

Is this manipulation? Maybe. But the truth is that our whole life takes place in the balance between what we can understand (or we believe we can do) and what then – more or less inevitably – we end up doing. Certainly, the ability to highlight these mechanisms can certainly improve the efficiency of marketing communication and advertising, but the hope is that this new approach will help us overcome self-deception and misunderstanding to deliver a truer and less dysfunctional reading of our reality.

 

How to overcome the demand gen problems in ABM

First we clarify what it means ABM: it is the umth acronym and stands for Account-Based Marketing, or marketing focused on a particular customer – which makes sense probably only in the B2B area.

Come superare i problemi di “demand gen” in ambito ABM

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A second clarification, to be done at the beginning, concerns the term “top funnel”, understood as the upper part (or entrance) of the funnel. Here the funnel is the “sales funnel”: a metaphor that indicates how the road that goes from the generation of the demand to the purchase resembles a sort of obligatory path that is going to shrink, since it is necessary in some way to “channel” people interested in the final decision; the upper part of the funnel is the entrance: the point where the entire cycle is fed (given that those who bought it can fit into the funnel).

Demand orchestration is a term that suggests the need to harmonize and integrate the various components that contribute to create a successful marketing strategy.

We know well that the development and execution of a marketing program focused on particular clients (ABM, in fact), involves the coordinated use of several instruments (as for an orchestra). Unfortunately, there is an area from which sometimes out of tune notes come out: it is the upper part of the sales funnel – in which, speaking of ABM, specific methods of demand generation (demand gen) are needed that are appropriately “tuned” to each other. and with the rest of the orchestra.

Another note: by demand gen we mean everything that helps to attract contacts and interest them in our offer and then push them to become customers; this process, in particular, consists of three phases: the generation of leads (lead gen), their maturation (lead nurturing) and the conversion to a purchase decision.

That said, let’s see what the demand orchestration consists of and how it can help B2B marketers successfully implement their ABM strategies.

What is the demand orchestration?

In a nutshell, demand orchestration (in what we call demand gen) is a B2B marketing approach used to efficiently manage and coordinate top funnel activities aimed at acquiring new contacts, in order to integrate them with those typically carried out by Marketing Automation tools in the context of lead nurturing. The specific objective of the demand orchestration is to increase the sales pipeline, on the one hand improving the efficiency of the top funnel tools, on the other by enhancing and making more effective the efforts made at mid and bottom funnel level (the zones intermediate and low respectively of the funnel).

The adoption of this approach is increasingly widespread in B2B, since the channels and lead generation campaigns are managed separately and without a true integration either with the CRM, or with the marketing automation activities. In practice, the Marketing Automation tools of the first generation (those typically adopted by B2B companies) were based on pre-existing contacts lists or acquired from third parties and only more recently began to invest in lead generation activities supported by digital marketing, that is from elements such as online advertising, website monitoring, search engine marketing or social media.

It is exactly the opposite of what happened for e-commerce and B2C companies, where we started from digital marketing and online sales to introduce only later optimized tools for contact maturation (lead nurturing) in the case in which the complexity of the type of offer made it necessary.

Without tools for the orchestration of demand (or more advanced Marketing Automation platforms, which include them natively), marketing organizations are forced to manually manage the various pieces of the complex puzzle consisting of the programs of top funnel – putting together with campaigns, digital channels and contact data, as well as the whole part regarding performance analysis and related reporting, struggling to present to the company management the economic justification of the considerable investments made to generate new leads.

On the other hand, the privacy regulations and in particular the new GDPR introduced in the European Community, have in fact obliged companies to enhance the organic (or spontaneous) acquisition of additional marketing contacts to be included in the database, using each tool to provision to appeal as little as possible to lists provided by third parties. In the ABM field, then, it is a somewhat unavoidable approach: how to get otherwise the contact data of many people potentially interested in the marketing message by looking for them in a large organization like a typical customer of a B2B company?

In short, demand orchestration is a way to centralize the management of data and information sources related to leads, facilitate campaigns for generating new contacts and automate their inclusion in nurturing and qualification activities before they are passed to sales forces – without forgetting the production of reports able to illustrate to what extent the investments made at the top of the sales funnel contribute to the growth of the pipeline and turnover.

The ABM programs suffer due to inefficiencies at the top of the funnel level

Precisely because they are “culturally” inherited from the past, ABM programs start from the fund rather than from the top of the funnel, taking into consideration mainly the contact data already available in the CRM; in practice, we limit ourselves to analyzing this data to identify the people to whom the marketing message should be transmitted, but in this way the possibility of reaching an audience that is not only wider, but also made up of a whole series of people, is totally eliminated. and roles that, little or much, have a certain influence in the purchasing decisions and in the choice of products and suppliers – and the more the target company is large, the more numerous this potential audience is.

In practice, this focus on the bottom funnel only increases the complexity of the (inevitable) lead generation activities of top funnels, which rely on different data sources, channels, tactics, processes and systems; as a result, these two areas risk being totally disconnected, unless you manually reconcile them. To better understand the problem, let’s go over the typical phases of the launch of an ABM program.

First of all, the available data are put together, starting from those contained in the CRM – but we also refer to everything that is present in the database of the Marketing Automation system or to what we have managed to recover through digital marketing. The purpose is to identify the most suitable contacts but, in fact, we are faced with the need to integrate heterogeneous and quantitatively significant information (especially if we include elements such as visits to the company website or what comes from social media); we also need to put together entities such as interest in a particular product and conversion rates, any content downloaded or participation in particular events and the amount of economic transactions made in a given period – all while trying to give a score to each element to obtain a ranking from which to extract names and roles to which to direct the campaign.

The next phase consists in starting from the list of contacts thus obtained to finally pass to the action, segmenting it further and then choosing a series of specific channels and messages to be addressed to each type of interlocutors (one account is to speak with a technician, another is to involve a finance manager or an analyst in the purchasing department) – all taking into account the specific needs of the individual client company we are addressing.

When communication, more or less articulated and automated, has reached the pre-established objective, it is necessary to evaluate how the audience has accepted it and how it has reacted to the stimuli proposed; this will mess up the cards again, will highlight new elements and, finally, will lead to the definition of the (definitive) list of people with whom to continue the dialogue through proper nurturing activities – which generates further information to be included in the database (information which, however, must be validated and standardized, especially if the initiatives included in the campaign include the organization of events and someone extends the invitation to colleagues).

Trying to summarize: the ABM requires extreme precision in the definition of the target and in the collection and management of contact information, on pain of the risk of contacting the wrong interlocutor and nullifying part of the efforts made. Moreover, if the “pin” of the whole initiative are the CRM and the Marketing Automation system (which deals in practice only with the lead nurturing), all the additional data collected on the leads risk becoming a chaotic set to be managed – just because on the one hand they must be used without any doubt, while on the other hand one can not risk “polluting” the primary sources of information with partial, inaccurate or incoherent elements.

How does the orchestration of the application manage to support ABM?

The tools for request orchestration, integrated with, or natively included in the marketing automation platforms, have the purpose of coordinating the various activities of the top funnel in order to eliminate manual interventions as much as possible, guaranteeing the quality of the data and giving marketers the ability to focus on nurturing and lead qualification – so as to offer sales forces better opportunities both for new contracts and for cross selling or up-selling of additional products.

Orchestrating the demand (or extending automation beyond the lead nurturing by pushing it to integrate all the digital channels necessary for collecting, managing and connecting with contacts) means in practice centralizing all data and communication systems marketing – from CRM and other information sources in the company to the web and to social media, including mobile platforms.

If the CRM (and all the other company databases) is right to remain the exclusive preserve of those who use it for their work, the marketing must still have an expanded visibility of all users who in one way or another, come into contact with the brand – both online and offline. Not only that: the data managed by marketing, by their heterogeneous nature, must be able to be standardized, validated and managed in a totally automatic way, so as to be a reliable resource on which to capitalize to organize all kinds of activities: from generating new leads (contacts interested) to their selection and segmentation, from training (nurturing) to the qualification and then to the sale, to the subsequent follow-up – taking into account that all this is even more strategic if the target is a large organization and what is being put in the field they are initiatives of ABM, an area in which identifying the right interlocutor is fundamental (as well as very difficult).

The automation and integration of processes and the centralization of data within ABM (but not only), offer a number of advantages such as:

saving time and resources
greater return on investment
more efficient tools to support marketing and sales
better data quality
pipeline increase
greater precision in the identification of the reference audience
the ability to analyze the performance of each activity in detail

Put simply, the demand orchestration (or however we want to call it), both in terms of software resources and processes, allows to manage the leads efficiently regardless of the channel (internal or external) from which they come for the duration of their entire life cycle (and in compliance with regulations). This allows not only to acquire more valid contacts and to establish an effective relationship with each brand, but especially in B2B and ABM, it is the only way to explore large organizations in search of the best interlocutors to support the pipeline and to increase turnover.