marketing project management

Finding And Restoring Purpose Around Automation

I’ve heard marketers with a lot of experience say that automating marketing is ultimately impossible. Even as more and better tools keep the conversation alive, there are too many instances where poor coordination, gaps in institutional knowledge, hasty last-minute decision-making, burdensome tools, or lack of cooperation have undone the success.  There is a healthy bit of pessimism about this topic.

I have always believed that the purpose of even having a conversation about automation is to shift our focus away from the petty, and closer to the profound. Regardless of what process you want to automate, and whether you’re able to do it completely or not, the purpose is to give you more time to be more mindful, meditative, contemplative, and clear about what you are communicating and to whom. This is true whether you are a graphic designer, a writer, a marketer at any level, or a non-marketer (such as a principal or business owner) who contributes to the success of each bid.

When you automate the following You gain control over
proposal development strategy, message,
creation of your collateral and qualifications packages branding, differentiation, quality, project information
your email campaigns timing and consistency, customer experience, segmentation, personalization
your mass mailings contact information
the management of your images filing, naming, uniformity, accessibility, useability
your social media postings Timing, engagement
updating of your website content quality, currency, image, recognition

When you automate a process that includes more than one of these, you gain control over even more!

What We Talk About When We Talk About Automation

Lately, “marketing automation” has come to mean email marketing and marketing campaign platforms. These have greater utility for B2C companies with huge databases of users, visitors, and customers. This narrow application area hijacks the much broader conversation that marketers in the A/E/C and professional services industries struggle to have independent of the tool vendors, whose huge marketing budgets “educate” even as they entice us to trust their particular solution as the best fit.

In our world, the conversation comes back to the familiar gripes and groans (and gotchas) about Deltek Vision and Cosential. Even ACT! and FileMaker are still referenced! Image management tools such as Bridge, LightRoom, and OpenAsset compete with desktop operating systems, SharePoint, and Knowledge Architecture to hold onto that piece of organizational data. It’s tough to even have the conversation without referencing the vendors and products that complexify our lives in the name of a simplified user experience.

Getting Systematized, And Getting Started

There will always be the challenge of finding the organizational will, and identifying who will actually do the detail work of automation, and to what end? With what information? With how much direct supervision? With how much autonomy?

Marketers who are already stretched – and stressed – beyond their usual responsibilities and capabilities invariably become task masters, and platoon sergeants in command of undisciplined volunteers. The temptation to “just do it yourself” to get it done, better, faster, and to completion can lead to failure. When you’re used to running a series of short sprints, you are not accustomed to running a marathon. An autoation project similarly requires endurance, patience, and teamwork.

What Will Automation Buy Me More Of?

Since automation is mainly about efficiency, you may ask, “How much time does process automation buy me?” An automation project may be difficult to justify on the basis of time alone. If you spend fifteen hours to automate, that is an unrealized gain of fifteen hours; the frequency of projected instances where you realize those savings may extend weeks or months into the future. This is why time should not be the only factor that influences your choice. Peace, clarity, mental focus, and flow are other factors that are admittedly harder to measure directly. These may be more precious and more scarce.

Justifying the time you anticipate spending up front may be difficult. Design-product Systems can help you identify the efficiencies you can gain (time, money, stress levels) or the more qualitative improvements, such as increased output, clearer communication, fewer errors, stronger and more positive impressions.

Our Marketing Systems and Project Management services can help you realize these benefits by keeping the purpose alive in your hope for marketing automation. Check out our services pages, and see how we can help you.