Automating your marketing efforts? Keep diversity in mind to exceed expectations.

By Brian Silverman   |   June 6, 2018

A colleague and I were discussing marketing automation solutions and I commented that without careful implementation automation can make a company’s marketing efforts seem too much like Netflix. Netflix is great at delivering movies and bingeable TV, but it’s not a model that works for everything. Without care, market automation can aim marketing messages too narrowly—they’ll only hit those already inclined toward a given offering. How? If advertisements or tailored search results only reach the most likely prospects, that means missing out on a broader market, and the chance to expand awareness and potential. (It also means advertisers aren’t getting as much bang for the buck as they might think.)

In the digital age, where time is money and is measured by the speed of the click, marketing automation solutions from companies like Marketo, Hubspot, and IBM can deliver value. With a focus on automating the placement of ads and recommendations based on a prospect’s behavior searching the web, or chatting on social media, the focus can primarily be on putting ads in front of prospects for offerings they already know they are interested in with limited variety. Similar to the way Netflix recommends new shows for me to watch, based on my previous viewing history.

But if the only people seeing ads for a particular product or service are already interested, it will limit market expansion, leadership, and share gains for the company doing the advertising.

Let’s use the same real-world example I shared with my friend. I am in the market for a new car. I have been searching for a sedan, as their sales are down and I assume that is where the best value will be found. A few searches and clicks, and —no surprise—suddenly Facebook, web searches and even emails are sending me ads for cars, and offers for cars. (Infiniti comes to the top of the list.) So, the automated ads approach is working as intended, so far as it goes. But guess what? I haven’t seen any ads for motorcycles or even bicycles, trucks, or even new rent-and-go car options. Which means missed opportunities for advertisers, and for me.

It also made me wonder about diversity in several senses, and the impact of these automated approaches and their recommendations. Part of the challenge? The people who program and implement the market automation software can’t help creating software that reflects their own biases and preferences.

Diversity has been on my mind a great deal as of late, as I watch IT leaders such as Sandy Carter promote the value of diversity and empowerment of women in IT across WIT and TedEx talks. There is also a great David Letterman interview with Tina Fey on NetFlix, focusing on how diversity around the comedic writing table improved the comedy writing at Saturday Night Live. In whatever discipline we work in— marketing , programming or even joke writing—the more diverse the community contributing to the offering the more complete and valued that offering will be.

The same should be true for marketing automation. Marketeers implementing marketing automation solutions need to keep as close of an eye on diversity for the digital sphere and automation as we should for print and media advertising. The algorithms and intelligence of these systems is only as good as the people that are training them, and their recommendations are only as diverse as those as well. Who knows? I may even take to the idea of riding a tricycle to work every day.

Brian Silverman

About the Author

Brian Silverman is a senior marketing strategist at DeLaune and Associates. His career spans more than 25 years of success and leadership with IBM. IBM partners, and companies in sales, marketing, and product management.

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