4 Ways Marketing Automation and Personalization Can Work Together

We accept automation in our personal lives. So why are we so afraid of using it to optimize our companies?

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Automation makes 21st century life possible. Siri and Alexa help us schedule our days, adjust our thermostats, lock our doors and turn off our lights. Our cars park themselves and remind us when another vehicle is in a blind spot. We accept automation in our personal lives, so why are we so afraid of using it to optimize our companies? In a word: control. Entrepreneurs don’t want to let go of the reins. They want to curate the customer experience themselves.The truth, though, is that automation doesn’t make a business less personable. In fact, paired with the human touch, it can provide a personalized experience from the first interaction. Here’s how to do it.

1. Segment leads using freebies

Not all leads are created equal. While it makes business sense to “bucket” leads according to their expected value and place in the pipeline, it doesn’t always deliver the best customer experience. What does a user-first segmentation strategy look like? Ontraport, a CRM and marketing-automation software provider, suggests using free content and services. Not only is it typically cheaper than buying pre-sorted lead lists, but it also encourages prospects to reciprocate by signing up for your service.

In psychology and UX design, this is known as the reciprocity principle: People are far more likely to do something nice for someone when they were treated kindly by that person previously.

Related: How to Use ‘the Law of Reciprocity’ to Build Better Business Relationships

The only limits to what might work as value offerings are your budget and imagination. Quizzes, surveys, whitepapers, first-purchase discounts, free trials, free products and invitations to exclusive events are all good options. Plug coupons and discount offers into your email-automation system to scale delivery.

2. Go beyond the name

How many “personalized” emails have you received that contain one-size-fits-all copy beyond the salutation? Check your inbox; it’s probably a lot. But there are dozens of ways to get creative with email personalization. Adidas colors and customizes emails by the recipient’s gender. Nissan sends out customized maintenance reminders. Spotify shares what it calls “time capsules,” or nostalgic reminders of songs the listener once played.

Not all of those apply to leads, of course, but think about all the information you collect: age, gender, location, occupation and more. Even if it’s just a heads-up about commute conditions, use those attributes to tailor your outreach. 

3. Get the timing right

Sometimes, the simplest automations are the most valuable. These work particularly well for companies that have multiple product or service lines. Outdoor gear company REI, for example, uses dynamic content optimization to adjust its social media ads according to the viewer’s current weather conditions. If it’s snowing outside, REI may show ads for its ski and snowboarding equipment. On a sunny summer day, the viewer may see ads for boots or kayaks.

Think, too, about holidays. Simply showing some pumpkins and fall colors can attract attention around Halloween. Tweaking the ad for the viewer’s birthday might be an even better approach. 

Related: Automation Is Becoming a Business Imperative: Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

4. Prioritize your homepage

More than half of marketers say that, after email campaigns, a website’s homepage provides the best opportunity for automated personalization. Optimizely’s homepage is the perfect example. Visitors associated with Target, Microsoft and the travel industry — as well as night owls — all see something different when they visit the company’s site. Optimizely found that persona-specific homepages boosted conversions by 113 percent.

Remember, many leads’s first interaction with your brand is through your website. What do they see? Is it something that speaks to their specific needs, or is it a catch-all page that doesn’t truly speak to anyone’s needs?

The best automation tactics don’t take away your control as an entrepreneur; they put you in control. Think of it this way: You can’t possibly create a custom experience for every lead on your company’s radar. Even if you had the budget to hire a hundred marketers, you probably still wouldn’t be able to do so. Automation technology can, and frankly, you’d be crazy not to take advantage of it.