You’ve Invested in Marketing Automation, But Can Your Small Business Stay Authentic? Jonathan Herrick Marketing automation. Unless you live under a rock, you hear about it a lot. And there’s a valid reason why. It has radically altered the small business marketing landscape of the 21st century. It presents owners and marketers like you and I with many golden opportunities. It can help you market, sell to, and serve your customers much more effectively and efficiently. It can save you two of your most precious resources – time and money. The list of potential marketing automation benefits goes on and on. But, the news isn’t all rosy. Misuse of marketing automation can cause you problems. One of the biggest? It can make you come across as insincere and inauthentic to your prospects and customers. So What’s The Big Deal About Authenticity? Understand this – and I’ll mention it at the risk of sounding cliché, because it’s important: people buy from people they know, like, and trust. You can have the most smoothly automated marketing approach around, but if your audience doesn’t get the feeling they know, like, and trust you, your results and your sales will plummet. Read that first sentence again, and think about this part of it – “…people buy from people…” Hootsuite CEO and founder Ryan Holmes is the face of their brand. Although it is clearly an automated, bulk email, their weekly newsletter comes directly from him and makes the organization seem more human and more relatable. People don’t do business with “brands,” or “organizations.” They do business with people. And people, like it or not, are emotional beings. We make decisions, including buying decisions, largely based on our emotions. And we want an emotional connection with the people we buy from. And what if your audience thinks your marketing is inauthentic or robotic? Well, you can kiss that all-important emotional connection goodbye. Is Automation The Latest Marketing “Shiny Object?” In the modern world of marketing, it seems like a lot of us are caught up in shiny object syndrome. That is, we hear, and believe, the hype about the “latest and greatest” marketing tool and dive in head first. We think this one tool can be the solution to all of our marketing woes. Not so. It’s not true with social media. It’s not true with video. And it’s not true of marketing automation. So don’t treat marketing automation as a shiny object. Don’t let it make you sloppy in your approach to the crucial parts of your marketing success, including and especially, your approach to content and copywriting. A question for you – what good will it do you to harness the power of automation to the hilt to send out your content and copy such as emails, blog posts and social media updates if the messages you send out leave your audience feeling flat and uninspired? Producing and sending great content and copy is one way you can remain authentic while using automation for your benefit. So what kind of copy comes across to your audience as authentic? What kind of copy builds that emotional connection that helps your customers to know, like, and trust you? Copy that focuses on them, not on you. Copy that helps solve a problem they are sick and tired of dealing with and desperately want a solution for. Copy that is conversational and directed to an “audience of one” – it feels to your readers like they are having a one-on-one conversation with you. Here’s a hint – write in an informal tone, and use the word “you” a lot more than you use the words “us”, “we”, or “our.” In your quest to use automation while remaining authentic, here’s one thing to consider – you should never use an automated feature just because it’s available to you. A Big Authenticity Fail! Tell me if this has ever happened to you: you follow someone on Twitter. They immediately follow you back and, even more immediately, send you a generic “thank you” message with a link to their eBook that promises you the world. Were you convinced and persuaded to download it and build a relationship with them? Probably not. You didn’t think of their canned response as being authentic. You thought it was even less authentic if it said, “Hi, Bob. Thanks for following me.” and then shoved one of their promotional resources in your face. That’s a pretty egregious example of using automation while being inauthentic. It’s also important to take a step back and evaluate which outreach opportunities could benefit from the human touch. Let’s say that when a customer buys from you online, your marketing automation software automatically sends them a standard thank you email which ensures that nothing falls through the cracks. Great start, but wouldn’t it be even more impactful if you were able to deliver a personalized email, specifically based on their needs and wants.? Pair that with an offline strategies such as handwritten note, and you will gain instant gratification with your customers and come across as a business that truly cares. It’s not likely that marketing automation will ever be able to fully replace the value of the human touch. And it certainly won’t make up for a lack of authenticity (without your finessing). But that doesn’t mean it’s not important — because it is! Your small business needs it. Automation can and will help you market to your audience more smoothly and sell your product more successfully when done authentically.