Fully automated: Rob Cooke on typewriter repair men, marketers learning new skills and why Mad Men-styled scripts aren’t good enough any longer

StopPress: Can a failure to automate processes be detrimental to a business? Do you have an example or anecdote to demonstrate this?

Rob Cooke: This isn’t a trend driven by the tech magazines, but simply a process of organisations and brands keeping up with the existing wishes and expectations of the consumer. I don’t mean there are customers out there saying, “If only ACME Products had marketing automation my life would be complete”, but what they are saying is they want to the businesses that they are engaging with to communicate with them in a relevant manner, through the channels of greatest value to their customer journey (email, web, phone, in-app). Danger of a company not doing it? Well what’s the cost of a defected customer who went to the competition because they bought something from you in the past, but then never heard from you again. Or if they did a “monthly email campaign”, the communication wasn’t relevant and personalised, so they didn’t feel valued?

SP: Is marketing automation a threat to creativity? Does it limit what creatives can actually do or is there an opportunity for collaboration with tech partners?

RC: If we are talking advertising creatives then I think finally this is the brief that’s been threatened for so long. It’s not about ‘make an ad’, but let’s consider the total customer journey, and how every single touchpoint in that journey all adds together into a seamless single marketing experience. Over time. Tone, language, ‘removal of pain-points’, simplicity, internal and external comms and sales, all working together, to the benefit of the consumer.

SP: Is automation and the demand for personalisation making the job harder (and arguably more tedious) for creatives now that they have to produce different variations of an idea? Do you perhaps see creative teams getting bigger to accommodate this demand?
RC: No. While undoubtedly we are moving from broadcast, to narrow-cast communications, enabled by data, new thinking and new technology like Marketo, the creative challenge hasn’t gone away. The message still has to be relevant and still needs to cut-through and be noticed. Yes, it was perhaps easier in the Mad Men world to just write a script for 30” of TV; “We open on a beach in Fiji…”, but I’d suggest that anyone who thinks that marketing and communications in the new world of digital channels is now tedious, really needs to think about retirement to that beach they once wanted to feature. Not only have you got ability to personalise messages to make them hyper-relevant, you also have ability to know that your creative work has been engaged with. That’s really exciting.

SP: There is a perception that marketing automation software can be very complicated and can require marketers to learn new skills? Is this trepidation warranted?

RC: Yes, there are some new skills to be learnt, but there were [also new skills to be learnt] when Google Adwords first launched in 2000. And who doesn’t have an aspect of paid search as part of their marketing mix these days? But, the Marketo platform itself is very simple. Drag-and-drop interfaces, and simple reporting. We have a simple two day course which is enough for most people to be confident and up and running. The main skills though are the new way of thinking. Not just, will this campaign be noticed, but what happens next? What do we want the customer to do with this message, and with real-time behavioural triggers, how to we guide them on that journey?

SP: What about the risks of automation? Doesn’t it give your errors more scale? 

RC: Like any system it is reliant on the quality of the inputs. Is the information and data accurate? Have we thought through the business logic which we are trying to automate? If the inputs are poor then obviously the outputs won’t be great. Just like any relationship really.

SP: Where should marketing tech sit? In the business, in the agency, in the creative department?

RC: Mostly in the business so that the marketing team and sales teams can co-join to steer an effective customer experience, but they definitely need an eco-system around them to ensure customer success. Needs strategic thinking (consumer insights), needs objective thinking (how can we do things better), needs creativity and needs some muscle.

SP: Have we become too obsessed with numbers? Isn’t this detracting from what marketing is supposed to do at its core?

RC: I suppose that’s the value to marketing automation; consumers are no longer just numbers. No longer just a volumetric of a unknown mass of people doing stuff, but by reacting with personalised communications to the actual activities and behaviours of customers as individuals, you are creating value out of the numbers.

SP: How far is New Zealand behind the rest of the world when it comes to using the full potential of automation technology? How can we catch up?
RC: While the New Zealand marketing community is just starting to understand the power of personalised engagement marketing, triggered by real-time behaviours through a multi-channel customer experience, the consumer is already there. If they’ve shopped with Boden in the UK or stayed with a hotel in the US, or have flown with Air New Zealand, an expectation is already set for what it feels like to be acknowledged, valued and recognised.
The technology isn’t difficult. Global best marketing automation platforms exist today for every member of the New Zealand marketing community. And for most, the investment is less that the current cost of a press DPS ad. If anything is holding back adoption, it is the understanding of and strategically ownership of the full customer experience. But Marketo can help with that. For most of our clients the advice is simply, to just start. Don’t attempt to reinvent the whole company all in on go, but start with a couple of use cases which are most concerning to the organisation, and build out from there. 

SP: Automation in any industry invariably leads to workforce changes. So which jobs currently in existence do you think are under threat? 
RC: I admit that the life of a typewriter repair man is not quite the growth career it once was, but the job didn’t disappear, it just evolved. Yesterday’s Olivetti engineer is now the guy at the Genius Bar at the local Apple store.

It is the same with marketing technology. The old job roles of direct marketing campaign manager, or marketing manager have already evolved to encompass and involve digital channel expertise. New roles such as SEM account manager, which didn’t exist 10 years ago, have emerged. I firmly believe that in the short and very near future, every marketing department will have an internal capability in marketing automation, and those in the marketing community with proven strategic understanding of influencing the customer journey, and operative ability with platforms such as Marketo will carry a premium. I currently have eight organisations in New Zealand who are looking for people who have Marketo Certified Expertise, and that demand isn’t likely to go away, it’s only going to increase.

SP: Any other thoughts on these topics or others?

SC: My observation is that many organisations are wary of where to start on the journey, but that wariness if simply driven by the unknown. But I suggest just diving in and investigating. And there are distinct competitive advantages for those organisations which are the early adopters.

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