Designing for Automation: when ad hoc tactics just won't do. - Marijke Timmers

Designing for Automation: when ad hoc tactics just won’t do.

As Henry Ford famously said “If you ask people what they want, they’ll say a faster horse” and this is so often the case with marketing automation. Most businesses know the end goal however, the strategies and tactics to achieve these goals are often misaligned or absent.

Some rush in and others never get around to making a start. Those that rush in may be able to execute at pace, rapidly transforming their marketing campaigns initially, but can lose steam and revert to a ‘rinse and repeat’ approach over time. Those that find themselves paralysed at the starting line are often overwhelmed by the scale of the project ahead and focus on what they don’t have in place, rather than the quick wins they could implement over time.

There are more than a few key things I’ve discovered by specialising in marketing automation. But generally, if you’re early on in your automation journey, they fall into these three categories:

  1. Simplify: start small and commit to continuous improvement.
  2. Keep the customer at the forefront: use Human Centred Design (HDC) principles to develop your journeys.
  3. Plan: no award-winning strategy or campaign was ever delivered off-the-cuff – commit to an annual roadmap of how you’ll deliver not just your campaigns, but also capability improvements across your teams.

Sounds easy enough. But how does it work in practice?

Ideo's six-stage approach to Human Centred Design (HDC) is a good place to start. Then, you can take a look at who's doing it well. Unicef are are good example. They use HDC for creative problem solving and innovation. Unicef has very kindly provided some useful resources and toolkits to help others affect change in similar ways.

But HCD doesn’t just work in terms of product development and large scale infrastructure projects. While there don’t seem to be as many examples for marketing, it’s easy to see how the same principles can be applied:

  1. Observation: Analytics
  2. Ideation: Creative, Media and Content Strategising
  3. Rapid Prototyping: Testing
  4. User Feedback: Customer Insights
  5. Iteration: Optimising
  6. Implementation: Execution

To understand why HCD is now more important than ever for requires an understanding of how far we’ve come...

Prior to 2000, marketing was all about making people want things – this era was dominated by the product and is epitomised by Coke's "Can't Beat The Real Thing" campaign which put the Coke bottle (product) front and centre.

After the turn of the millennium, we approached marketing from a more people-centric standpoint with a more diversified product offering to appeal to differing customer preferences. Marketing became about making things people want. Coke changed its tagline to "Taste The Feeling", with people the foreground and product in the background or often blurred.

Since 2010, we’ve moved into the Experience Economy which is dominated largely by purpose. It’s about creating experiences people want and it works - for Coke, this was demonstrated by the 'Share A Coke' campaign which connected them to their customers on a personal level never seen before. In Australia, 76,000 virtual Cokes were shared online and 378,000 custom Coke cans were printed across the country.

Delivering unique and personalised experiences like this requires a deep understanding of your target audiences (observation), a creative idea that will engage (ideation), bravery to try new things and test new channels (rapid prototyping, user feedback and iteration), and flawless execution (implementation). Like most things in marketing, it's a process that requires time and space to analyse, and a relentless drive for constant improvement.

This blog was originally published for the Marketing Cube Blog.