As small business owners, most of us are one-person bands. We don't have the luxury of having unlimited time and resources. We simply can't do everything ourselves manually or we'll get burnt out pretty quickly. Automation makes it easier for us to reach out to and manage a larger number of prospects and clients at the same time. And I'm all for simplifying and automating time-consuming business processes.
Example: You offer a free resource on your website. A visitor enters their email address to sign up. An email lands in their inbox with a link to download the free resource. A week later they automatically receive a follow-up email, asking them if they have questions about the free resource.
You can see how automating this process can save a lot of time. You set up the automation once and let it run itself, instead of having to manually send out download links and follow-up emails to every person.
Don't forget the human being
The problem is, often we get so caught up in automating our business processes that we forget there are real human beings at the receiving end. And I'll be the first to admit that I am guilty of this myself!
At its core, marketing is about building relationships. Building great relationships requires trust. When we treat others as a click, a conversion, an email address with a lead score, it's difficult to build that trust.
We can sense when we're being treated as objects. And we can sense when someone cares. We can tell when someone genuinely wants to help, with no hidden agenda or deliberate manipulation.
If you can remember that you're dealing with flesh-and-blood human beings, and make an effort to show your human side rather than appearing like a robot, your marketing will be much more effective and efficient.
Here are 8 ways you can add a human touch to your automation:
1. Grow your own tribe
Do not be tempted to buy a list. It may sound easy to pay for 10,000 email addresses so you immediately have a large list. But they are not people who have shown a genuine interest in your services. Not to mention that data protection and privacy laws will mean that you're likely to be committing an offence!
2. Be relatable
Automation is run by software, but ultimately it is driven by YOU. In your communications and marketing messages, create an experience so that you customers can relate to you as a live person, not as a faceless organisation or an automated system. Let your customers get a glimpse of your world and find out what makes you human.
3. Be considerate
Automation means that you can now target those who haven't clicked on the "Buy Now" button and, if you want, send them an email every day until they either buy or unsubscribe. After all, you can argue that someone who doesn't buy from you is a waste of space on your list. But, are you being considerate to your potential customers? An easy way decide is to think about how you would like to be treated yourself as a customer.
4. Use Segmentation
One of the most powerful features in automation is the ability to segment your audience. If you broadcast the same message to everybody, it will likely to relevant to some but not others. Segmentation allows you to create content according to the experience and expectations of the different segments of your audience. It has the power of creating marketing messages that are more relevant and less disruptive.
5. Tell stories
Story-telling is central to our human existence. Ever since the first cave painting, it has been one of our most fundamental methods of communication. Our brains are hard-wired to understand and retain stories. When we listen to a story, we try to find commonalities and it's those commonalities that help us build human connections.
6. Show off your staff
Showing the real people behind your company helps to build trust with your customers. Nobody wants to do business with a faceless entity. If you can get your staff to tell engaging stories related to your company or services, even better!
7. Provide value more than you ask for a sale
If every communication you send out is a promotion, you are simply treating your customers as walking wallets. Don't do that! Show that you care by delivering valuable content regularly without asking for a sale.
8. Don't automate everything
There will be times when automation is not the best solution. Be flexible. It's okay to pick up the phone sometimes.