Why email marketing isn’t at the heart of marketing automation

Why email marketing isn’t at the heart of marketing automation
An experienced digital marketer who has owned and run agencies for almost 15 years, Adam is the head of cross-channel marketing automation specialist Force24. Combining his love for cutting-edge tech with a passion for lead nurturing best practice, Adam has developed a platform that is built by marketers, for marketers. An outspoken advocate of the ‘less is more’ approach, Adam is a regular commentator on industry topics including intelligent multichannel marketing, holistic eCRM strategies, optimising customer journeys, personalisation, digital marketing and retargeting.

This may seem like an odd comment for an email marketing advocate to make; in fact, readers of my previous blog posts might wonder what I’m on about. After all, I’ve drafted post after post about segmentation best practice, the reactivation of dead leads and how to achieve true personalisation, and time after time I’ve hailed email as one of the incredible tools that can make the holy grail of ROI a reality.

But the important distinction is this.

Email marketing is, admittedly, an important channel that brands can use in an attempt to nurture relationships with prospects and customers. I’ve seen first-hand the benefits that effective email marketing can reap, which is why I love it. But it is just one single route.

What about direct mail? What about SMS marketing? Paid search? The role of the telephone? The carefully-timed importance of face-to-face interaction?

For many brands, these wider channels have an unequivocal role to play too. But their use shouldn’t be down to a marketer’s personal preference or the capabilities of a restrictive ‘plug and play’ marketing tool. Decisions should be made according to what works best for the brand concerned and, better still, what works for each individual contact.

Because this is what really lies at the heart of marketing automation – the ability to personalise. And I’m not just talking about personalising email content. I’m talking about personalising entire journeys, down to which channel is used, when, to push what message and for which individual.

It doesn’t matter if the database contains 100 or 100,000 people – marketing automation should make this personalisation possible.

It shouldn’t even matter if this data is cold – algorithms within savvy automation software should draw on machine learning to guide best practice.

In fact, email doesn’t need to feature at all. For one company, for example, savvy marketing automation could power a campaign that fuels brochure downloads. But data analysis may reveal that paid search ads are most likely to prompt that goal conversion, and the best ‘next step’ is a gentle telesales call from the company’s contact centre. If this is the case, email may not raise its head. But in another data segment, for the same brand, email could be the number one sales generator! So much depends on the scenario at hand.

The water has been muddied partly because some SaaS email marketing providers call themselves a marketing automation platform. Now, there can be no disputing the fact that they are removing many of the manual tasks associated with email communications. But, that doesn’t mean they’ve got all marketing bases covered.

Truemarketing automation powers relevant communications via a variety of channels. It sometimes makes decisions that a human can’t compute (unless they have a data science degree or weeks of analysis time on their hands); and it presents opportunities to interact that sometimes an email alone cannot achieve. 

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