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The Harte Hanks Blog

Marketing Automation and Creativity: a Yin and Yang Relationship?

reading tabletWe are happy to welcome a guest blogger, Ray Coppinger, Online Marketing Manager EMEA from Marketo.

Automation is a very clinical word, isn’t it? What comes to mind when you hear it? I think of Orwell’s Big Brother and I see “greyness”, conformity and lack of freedom. It’s definitely not a word I would associate with creativity.

So it may seem paradoxical but when I think of marketing automation and creativity, I see a truly symbiotic relationship. Creativity is supported and enabled by marketing automation; while marketing automation requires creativity to reach its full potential. The art of creativity and the scientific approach to marketing embody opposite, but not necessarily opposing, principles. A bit like Yin and Yang; when the two achieve harmony, the outcome is a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the parts.

Let’s explore this idea and see some real examples of how marketing automation and creativity drive better experiences, happier customers and more revenue.

Marketing Automation: A Catalyst for Creativity

Many eulogies have been written for email marketing over the last few years. The infamous line that “email marketing is dead” delivers approximately 170 million search results in Google. Yet, email remains the most effective and profitable way to turn prospects into customers.

Email Marketing is one of the core components of marketing automation – not email marketing in the “batch and blast” way but intelligent, behavior based email marketing that only marketing automation platforms can deliver in a sustainable, scalable way. Consider for a moment, the traditional approach to email marketing – build a database of names, segment into lists (e.g. industry, location), send emails and then repeat. This approach is effective up to a certain point but is constrained by data that won’t evolve and get richer (beyond the email activity). Ultimately, this doesn’t account for how your customers and prospects interact with you.

With marketing automation being able to provide the intersection between demographic and behavioral data, real 1:1 relationships can be created at scale. So, you want to target all individuals over the age of 40 in London, who subscribe to your newsletter and have visited your pricing page in the last week? No problem. You want to thank everyone who subscribed to your blog today and give them a gift-card because you reached 1000 subscribers? Easy. Marketing automation gives marketers a single, complete view of the people in their database. It provides the creative “dots” and all marketers need to do, is join those dots to create intelligent and helpful marketing experiences.

Creativity: The Secret Sauce of Marketing Automation

So, we can see that marketing automation is an incredibly powerful tool for helping marketers to be in the right place, at the right time. But getting there becomes the easy part – engagement has to be the objective. This is where creativity becomes the secret sauce. If we again focus on email marketing, there are an almost infinite number of ways that creativity in the content, design and overall experience (from inbox to landing page) can impact the chances of engagement.

Take the humble subject line as an example; a very significant 64% of emails are opened just because of the subject line. So how creative can you get? Are you educating, asking a question or announcing a sale in your subject line? The impact of this very small part of an email demonstrates perfectly how creative content matters; without it, the value of marketing automation is greatly reduced. And how about the actual content in the email itself? Is your copy “human”? Does it read like a template, which was prepared for a batch and blast email? Or does it sound like someone typed out a note directly for the recipient? Again, all these questions point to the importance of creative content in taking advantage of being in the right place at the right time.

Today’s marketer has an incredibly tough job to capture the attention of their customers or prospects. Everyday, there are more competitors for that attention. So, it has never been more important to ensure that marketers are giving themselves the best chance by communicating at the right time and with content that demands attention and drives engagement.

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