The application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a topic that is being vigorously focused on by a multitude of industries. These range from financial services deploying AI based chatbots, to entertainment services like Netflix™, which use AI to predict and suggest what viewers may want to watch next. For marketers, the question arises: How will the rise of AI affect their industry?
As with all new technologies, AI is a topic that has fallen prey to being massively overhyped. That, however, does not make it any less useful or innovative. In fact, often all the hype that accompanies an exciting technology allows for markets to be tested and for the most practical use cases to emerge.
Leadify’s CEO, Grant Fleming unpacks what AI means in terms of marketing your business and explains why it’s not likely that it will ever replace direct marketing.
1. You must firstly ask yourself, is it the real deal?
It is essential to define what AI means in the direct marketing context and separate that from machine learning. In fact, we are nowhere near true AI; we have some automation and machine learning processes. Thus, those who are punting AI in marketing automation don’t know what they are talking about and are just using buzzwords.
Even as true AI, and quantum computers that could solve humanity’s pressing problems in minutes, are still on the horizon, machine learning holds the more immediate promise to truly impact on marketing.
More particularly, according to a recent report by Forrester, all indications are that one of the more viable benefits of machine learning will be enabling marketers to improve on customer experiences and support. Additionally, in the short term, leveraging machine learning will enhance existing products and services, as well as streamline processes.
2. Rise of machine learning
Such applications are available now. Leadify already integrates machine learning to assist with handling Exclusion criteria. This ensures that contacts that have already been marketed to in a previously defined period are not sent campaigns one after another.
Another important aspect is on our delivery failure prevention strategies, where the system works out the probability that a marketing message will be delivered to a particular contact, or not. If the probability is low, based on certain previous delivery criteria, then the message to that contact is not queued. This saves the wasted marketing cost.
Beyond machine learning helping marketers do their jobs more efficiently, the necessity of the human touch should not be diminished, as there are certain functions that are easy for people to perform but difficult for a machine to replicate. A key example is a marketer’s ability to understand customers from an insights perspective. Furthermore, campaign managers and analysts can readily be at coal face of the campaign, in contact with customers, even as all the automation is done via the platform. In short, the value of human interaction can’t be replaced by a machine.
Related: Direct Marketing: Permission is Key
3. Here to stay, but not to rule
Already we are seeing this with chatbots, in which an artificial intelligence program leads customers up to a certain point when buying insurance for example. When the chatbot reaches the limit of what its algorithms can accommodate, customers are handed off to a real salesperson to complete the transaction.
In other words, it looks like machine learning is intended to handle the grunt work, rather than rendering their makers irrelevant. Additionally, people are generally more comfortable interacting with other people.
But what about the future? Should marketers be leery of AI replacing their current practices? I do not believe so. There is a practical consideration that makes it unlikely AI will overshadow direct marketing anytime soon – cost. The initial implementation of AI will likely not be cheap, at least not from the outset. This then will likely compel organisations to balance cost versus utility when considering whether to use AI for mass market direct marketing automation.
Ultimately, the value of AI/machine learning will ultimately be measured against the bottom line. After all, if AI can improve response rates by 50% but also increases costs by 200%, its worth will quickly come into question.
All this bodes well for how AI, even as it becomes more sophisticated, will likely be employed. As marketer’s servants and assistants, not our overlords.
Actually, Cold Emailing Can Work for Small Businesses
There is a right way and many, many wrong ways to do it.
Cold emailing has existed since the dawn of the internet. The notion of finding business prospects through email has been around for this long because it works. Huge, multimillion-dollar companies owe their success to cold emailing, at least in their beginning phases. It doesn’t matter how big your business is, though, cold emailing is a method proven to increase sales leads and grow your network.
The idea of sending an email to another business can be daunting, especially for small ventures. It can be nerve-racking not knowing if that other business will consider your experience and solutions or just delete your email without a second thought. But, in reality, the only way you can get comfortable with cold emailing is to actually do it. You’ll learn quickly that you won’t care much about the responses you don’t get and more about the ones you do.
Plan it right
You’ve probably noticed your email inbox puts the newest messages at the top, making them the first ones a person sees. Plan to send your emails between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. on a Monday morning. More likely than not, your potential business leads are just arriving to work from a peaceful weekend and have a little more time on their hands to read through a few emails.
Be specific in your subject line
Make sure your subject line is short and specific. Don’t promise things you don’t intend to deliver on. If you’re asking for a minute of their time, make sure all you need is a minute. Within the email, don’t ramble on about a bunch of nonsense. Get to the point, and tell them why you’re emailing.
“When you want to grab the attention of someone important, scrap the entertaining subject lines and focus on utility,” says Adam Grant, Linkedin influencer, in his article 6 Ways to Get Me to Email You Back. In the age of clickbait, when people are busy, they want to know if clicking on your email will be worth it.
Don’t drag it out
Caroline Webb, author of How to Have a Good Day, gave readers her secret to successful cold emailing. She describes the Solution + Problem or Pain + Future + Solution layout. With this method, you tell the person you’re writing to what your solution is for a pain point or problem they might be having within their business. Then you show them what the future could look like with your solution. Remember, it’s all about how you can help them with their business, not how their business will help your own.
Make it personal
The most important thing you can do when it comes to cold emailing is to make the email personal. This is much easier to do when you’re a small business reaching out to other businesses in your own community. Tell them, specifically, why you want to do business with them. Let them know about other projects in town that you’ve been a part of, and if you’ve met them in the past, remind them – don’t assume they remember you.
Try to say the word “you” instead of the word “I” as often as you can. If you make the email too much about you, you’ll drown out the fact that you’re offering a solution to their potential problem.
Always end with a call-to-action, or CTA
Make sure each email ends with a request or a CTA, so that you can ensure you’re building connections with your audience. If you don’t tell people their next steps or what you want them to do, they won’t know you are actually waiting on their response. An effective CTA is exciting, not generic and includes a question or link for them to click, such as asking their opinion and including a link to another blog post.
Don’t be afraid to follow up with another approach if you find that your email has gone unanswered – and unopened.
One final piece of advice. Don’t just put a link in your email asking them to click. If they have no idea who you are, they most likely won’t do it. Make sure you say what you need to say within the email without requiring your potential clients and customers to go through a scavenger hunt of clicks to get there. Even though it’s called cold emailing, by using the right planning and the above tips, you can build those warm, lasting connections with your current and potential audience and set your small business up for future success.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Get The Most Value For Your Direct Marketing Money
Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify offers this advice to entrepreneurs and marketers.
It is a common, global problem in the digital age – how do you convert vast amounts of data into demonstrable business value? Marketers aren’t exempt from this conundrum, and the pressure is always on to justify the worth of running a marketing campaign in real world, practical terms.
So how can you glean the most profitability from a campaign? Start by addressing a core challenge: Separating the important data from the not so important.
More particularly, focus on demographic information that is easily accessible like age, gender, location. Then follow up by looking a bit deeper and adding data such as marital status and income. Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify offers this advice to entrepreneurs and marketers.
1. System essentials
Beyond this, while choosing the right data is key, it’s wise to use the best direct marketing system possible for your marketing needs. For starters, it should report on the data that is most important. It should also offer smart dashboards that displays comprehensive information. And it should accommodate users who want to put analytics and insights together manually.
Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing
Having all three in place – pulling together data, running analytics and translating those into presentable reports – is not just a nice to have. It’s increasingly essential, as direct marketing is fast becoming a saturated space. Figuring out ways to better personalise data, and target and curate the right audience for the right message at the right time has become mission critical.
2. Aid from the machines
The good news is that machine learning is set to take much of the onerous work out of personalising data. But the caveat is that its usage doesn’t exempt you from being involved, as machines still need to be taught what constitutes good data to begin with. You thus need to know and understand how to curate data properly from the outset.
For the foreseeable future, you still need to understand what you are feeding the machine learning algorithms with, and most importantly, testing assumptions. Avoid the tendency to assume that because the results came from a machine, they are correct. Rather, conclusions drawn need to be continually tested, verified and honed where appropriate.
3. Pitfalls and challenges
But, while you may have a basis from which to extract more value from your data, what is preventing you? Among key obstacles that many marketing companies do not realise, is the power of the tools that are available to them, especially those locally produced.
This is to their detriment, as the tools readily available in South Africa boast sophisticated, yet simple, insight dashboards and reporting metrics that could power-up their marketing efforts.
As for a potential opportunity, this too is a topic that is often mentioned in other industries, that of creating greater integration with a variety of tools. In reality, few companies have managed to integrate their digital, social and direct marketing approaches well.
Getting more money out of your data boils down to sorting the wheat from the chaff, having the right system in place, curating data, and finally, using machine learning with an eye towards it being an aid, rather than a replacement for human efforts.
Build A Better Database And Boost Your Audience
Put frankly, if you have not crafted your message so that you are engaging with your audience, with their permission, you will be out of the direct marketing game.
For businesses across the board, one way to get better returns is by improving efficiencies. For marketers in particular, the million rand question is how to build better databases and grow their audience.
Grant Fleming, CEO of Leadify, says that building up an audience around particular marketing messages or strategies rather than pushing out any and all content to anyone, is essential. The latter may have been a trend that TV advertising praised, but it is ineffective as well as wasteful, when applied to direct marketing campaigns.
Marketers also must pay attention to their ‘list hygiene’ i.e. ensure irrelevant messages aren’t being sent to the wrong demographic. Do this by avoiding over-marketing, a factor which may be missed by those operating with a ‘more is better’ mindset. This can derail efforts, as even if people are partially interested in the marketing message, they will reach an unsubscribe point more quickly if marketers press them too often.
Dealing with information deluge
Front of mind for marketers should be that people are being besieged by information more than ever. Additionally, email and SMS channels are especially hotly contested marketing spaces, full of marketing promotions.
Clearly, any marketers who want to increase their opt-ins need to get their message and audience right from the outset, while ensuring that they send carefully crafted campaigns at the right time.
Segmentation needs to become more sophisticated too and is among top marketing trends for 2018. Doing so helps marketers treat their audience differently and adds a level of personalisation to their campaigns.
The Smart Insights report even suggests greater personalisation will result in an increase in conversions, by keeping marketers relevant and in touch with lists’ changing needs and preferences.
Strategies for success
Analytics can play a significant role here.
More granular detail can be built up over time such as what day of the week, and time of the day messages should be sent to particular segmented audiences for the optimal response.
Spread marketing messages out for a while too, and then hone in on specific days of the week, and times of the day, according to the audience being targeted. It’s considerably more effective to target the right audience at the right time than continuously sending general messages all day.
Related: POPI Proof Your Direct Marketing
The importance of A/B testing to help hone the message to your audience also cannot be underestimated. By testing two or more variants, and listening to the feedback received, marketers have a basis from which to optimise their campaigns.
As for databases, is bigger still better? Yes, but only as a starting point for the data to be further segmented and refined, empowering marketers to more accurately define their audiences.
All this may sound like a great deal of work, but the benefit of doing so isn’t just to build an audience. It will also help marketers deal with the increased pressure from the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) act to ensure they aren’t spamming their audience.
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