Marketing automation: the pros and cons for SMEs

By on November 10th, 2016 in Editorial

But what about when we start moving into the realm of jobs such as marketing, which demands both the performance of repetitive tasks and – in the best instances – at least a modicum of creative thought?

Pros:
Automation in this context is an exciting prospect in that it allows SMEs to operate like larger businesses in a way that is both easily scalable and an efficient use of human resources.

Maintaining and running mailing lists; managing ‘always-on’ social media content; updating websites; these are all labour and time-intensive chores easily executed by computers. Previously, it was extremely difficult for SMEs to achieve the same degree of impact and market penetration as larger competitors without investing an impractical (or even impossible) amount of time, money and resources.

Now, with software that operates almost exclusively in the digital realm and is available for a fixed fee, SMEs are finding they have the tools at their disposal to compete with more sizeable counterparts on a somewhat levelled playing field. And – because marketing automation services often operate on a subscription model and require little more than processing power to perform their functions – clients are able to scale up their services much more easily and for little to no additional cost.

In these respects, marketing and accountancy automation offer SMEs many of the same benefits. It’s also worth noting that all of these benefits (saving time, resources, money; allowing SMEs access to a quality of service traditionally only available to bigger businesses) will – completely coincidentally! – be familiar to clients of our simple and powerful online currency exchange platform.

Cons:
Where it gets tricky is in the execution of any task requiring creativity and social intelligence – i.e. the production of content and content strategies.

At a time when there is a pronounced shift in marketing towards social media that directly engages and interacts with customers, artificial intelligence is nowhere near the level needed to effectively and convincingly replace human creativity and perception.

“The real-time recognition of natural human emotion remains a challenging problem,” say Carl Frey and Michael Osborne in their study The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation? “Even simplified versions of typical social tasks prove difficult for computers, as is the case in which social interaction is reduced to pure text.”

So while the publication of your content – and its promotion across social channels – can benefit greatly from automation, you probably wouldn’t want to give a machine the job of actually writing it (unless oblique and sometimes accidentally profound gibberish is somehow key to your content strategy, in which case go ahead and employ the services of one of these robot authors).

Crucially, what you want to avoid is the feel of automation; marketing is about relating to people, and anything that feels automated will be a major obstacle to connecting with your customers. And – as anyone who has ever owned one can attest – computers still have no idea when they’re being annoying; so, give one too much power over your marketing output and you risk putting your business in the hands of demented spambot.

Conclusion:
There really aren’t any cons (sorry about that misleading headline); there are simply extents to which automating your marketing can be useful and extents to which it can be inadvisable. By automating the tasks which it is possible and practical to automate, you are effectively freeing up time and resources for those tasks which require the strategic and creative intelligence of a human.

Your time is precious and should be protected; your ideas are valuable and what make you unique. Now, the expansion of automation into the digital world is providing invaluable opportunities for SMEs to maximise efficiency and creativity.


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James is freemarket’s Chief Commercial Officer. He has a history of finding new ways to solve age-old financial challenges and was responsible for launching some of the first online money transfer and prepaid card initiatives in Europe.


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