Kris Hughes October 5th, 2022

When To Integrate AI-Powered Marketing Automation (And When To Stay Manual)

AI-powered marketing automation is here to stay. AI reduces menial tasks, frees up time for generating new business, and allows companies to further personalized messaging to effectively move users through the funnel - without sacrificing time. To that end, AI-powered marketing automation is growing quickly, with 79% of companies applying this technology to many of their marketing tasks. 

Yet, with all this acknowledged, there’s a misconception that to maximize the efficiency of your business you must implement AI-powered marketing automation in all tasks.

This way of thinking often comes at the expense of manual processes that work just fine. Some manual tasks may be more reasonable or cost-effective for new businesses with small teams - or low-effort manual processes make sense to keep workflows simple and manageable.

This article explores why some processes can stay manual - and why others are best suited to be automated.

The Benefits of AI In Marketing Automation

We know that automating daily tasks, specifically within sales and marketing, improves day-to-day workload. Marketing automation has positively affected lead generation, overhead costs, and conversion increases. 

As per recent studies, 80% of users who strategically implement marketing automation tools saw an increase in lead generation, and 77% of users saw an increase in conversions. 

For example, posting on social media doesn't need to be a manual task anymore - tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, and Later make it easy to schedule posts. 

Yet, designing posts and cultivating a personalized social media strategy is a critical manual task that AI and marketing automation can’t replace. Relevant, targeted messaging is much more likely to encourage users to move through the sales funnel, and AI can’t replace a copywriter skilled in brand voice. But, AI can move the messaging through systematic processes more effectively.

Thoughtfully integrated automation can provide robust data about the actions customers take on your website. AI marketing automation, when done correctly, uses predetermined workflows in conjunction with this data to improve the customer experience. Using data to improve the customer experience could look like a targeted email that follows an abandoned cart or relevant ad content that showcases products or services previously viewed.  

Marketing automation makes it easy to position marketing collateral where it makes the most sense within an individual’s buyer journey. However, of course, it entirely depends on the existing workflows within the system. AI marketing automation will only do what you tell it to do - but it will do it well.

Avoid AI In Marketing Automation for Automation’s Sake

Too often, businesses eliminate effective manual processes in a quest to automate everything for the sake of digital transformation. AI in marketing has changed how we work, and it's understandable to want to be at the forefront of technology.

Automation tools can undoubtedly make some processes more efficient, by adding a level of precision to those tasks more difficult or time-consuming for humans to carry out. Some of these tools help copywriters become more productive. Some create variations of advertising copy from scratch given a few parameters so you have a wealth of choices when building out advertising campaigns. Others help marketers optimize their budgets and make the right spending decisions based on their resources and goals.

Even so, there’s a time and place. Some manual processes can work in tandem with automated ones, which improves efficiency across the board. An excellent example of this is automated copywriting tools like Jasper.ai or Jarvis. These AI-based marketing automation tools can get a copywriter started during those moments when the page is blank and a deadline looms. But, having a real person proof or edit that copy to catch the nuances of voice, tone, and brand language is a necessary manual task. AI is close, but not quite there.

The most important thing is finding a balance right for your situation.

Understanding When Automation Makes Sense, and When It Does Not

Finding the processes that can benefit from automation involves clear strategic thinking and drilling down on every facet of your business, from marketing to hiring to accounting.

Without a doubt, many areas of your business will require some kind of operational process improvement, most easily taken care of by automation, but usually not in its entirety. 

For example, accounting processes will still require a fair degree of manual input, so integrating an automation software that complements both manual and automated processes is essential. 

Here are some clarifying questions to ask yourself when considering marketing automation using AI:

  • Does the task require strategy? Emotion, creativity, higher intelligence, and nuance are all things automation cannot replace. If the task requires any of these but is time-consuming otherwise, try to see if you can automate the lesser portions of the task.
  • Is the task repetitive? If the task is repetitive, such as data entry, this can easily lead to fatigue and feelings of burnout. Automation can help alleviate time spent doing mundane tasks. 
  • Does it free up your schedule? If automation frees up your calendar to complete your other tasks more efficiently, this is one of the prime benefits - use it!
  • Is there a high potential for human error? If the task involves plenty of room for error and automation makes sense, this can save your employees time and stress and save your business money. 

The tradeoff for automating these tasks should always be more time and mental bandwidth to focus on business-critical functions such as sales, customer service, or other jobs that can’t be automated. 

When asking these clarifying questions, keep in mind the potential to scale. If the processes can’t grow as your business grows, it might be better to keep things manual for now. 

Examples of AI in Marketing Automation

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AI for marketing automation has reached the peak of trendiness in recent years. A wide variety of tools have emerged across several marketing niches including copywriting, email marketing, content marketing, website-based chat, marketing analytics, and customer relationship management.

The creators of these tools have different end goals. Some tools are intended to augment manual practices and make those practices more efficient and effective. The founders of other tools argue that what they have built will completely revolutionize that particular subset of marketing to the point that automation will become the gold standard, and manual processes will be completely eliminated.

The latter seems much more likely than the former, given all of the nuances required in the marketing industry, that at this point in our history, only humans can understand and apply to their daily work.

AI and the Copywriting Industry

The copywriting industry - of the niches mentioned above - seems the ripest for disruption, and is an industry where artificial intelligence automated marketing may see a substantial disruption. There’s an open debate, however, that these AI copywriting tools can ever replace human copywriters in the way the founders of the companies promoting them claim will happen in coming years.

Over the last few years, emerging copywriting AI tools such as Jarvis or Jasper.ai have shaken up how copywriters and business owners approach copywriting and marketing.

In one camp, business owners who see the value of content marketing yet don’t have that way with words or who may speak English as a second language might eventually heavily rely on these AI copywriting tools. 

In the other camp, seasoned, expert copywriters may feel threatened by the supposed prowess of a computer that can, allegedly, ‘write faster than a human.’

Marketing for these tools varies. Depending on the target audience, the organic and paid messaging can switch from positioning copy AI tools as a helpful tool for existing copywriters to automate their processes and write faster (and therefore scale their business) to non-copywriter business owners that want copy written faster than the human brain can produce.

However, copy AI tools lack the fundamental connection to the human spirit; AI lacks the necessary motivation, drive, and consciousness to drive the nuance in tone, style, and voice that makes a good copy so enjoyable to read. Therefore, there has to be some degree of manual review.

Copy AI tools have a long way to go before they can replace human writers. However, these tools can be perfect for short-form copy in a pinch or are a great starting point for copywriters (who want to take the time to become familiar with them) who need a little nudge to bring a piece of copy to life.

A copywriter that uses copy AI tools to streamline the creative process and reduce steps is a perfect example of combining manual processing with automation. 

Questions to Consider as You Think About Adopting Artificial Intelligence Automated Marketing

The most important thing you can do as you consider adopting artificial intelligence automated marketing is to ask yourself some tough questions about why you see it as an option.

Here are some potential scenarios:

  • The work your marketing team is doing needs to be augmented (maybe because you have a small team or limited resources)
  • Your team is making consistently making mistakes that are easily avoidable through automation (usually due to manual data input)
  • Manual work that’s being done by an entry-level employee could be replaced by an AI marketing tool
  • You’re looking for a better return on investment for your marketing spend (the fixed costs of salary for your team members aren’t being replaced by closed business, for example)
  • Your marketing is too blanketed, and not personalized enough, and you want to lean on tools driven by AI to improve that personalization
  • You need to make more decisions, faster

In each of these scenarios, the work of your human team members is being amplified but not replaced by marketing automation. And for now, that’s the best-case scenario to maintain the chemistry you have built on your teams and the trust your marketing employees have in their futures with you.

Some Things to Consider About Marketing Automation, In General

There’s little doubt left that AI and marketing automation is the future of content creation, but even with that being the case, these tools shouldn’t totally dominate your content strategy.

AI holds the most power in helping lean marketing organizations publish more content, more often. When you lean in on the power of AI to help you replicate and spin out content, it’s much easier to put a high volume of your work out into the world. 

Some AI content marketing tools can also help you better understand the types of content your community prefers to interact with, and help you craft content along those lines, accordingly. 

Artificial intelligence is the backbone of automation, but as a content marketer - or generalized marketer - your expectation shouldn’t be for the work that your human team does to be replaced by marketing automation and artificial intelligence, but rather, amplified by it.

Human Work is Amplified But Not Replaced By Marketing Automation 

Remember, marketing automation using AI does not replace marketing. It makes it easier, to be sure, but relying solely on automation takes away the strategy and humanity that has made the most iconic campaigns so successful. 

Marketing teams within early-stage companies would do well to place their focus on developing a robust marketing plan - and how to execute it - and then focus on automation. 

For newbie marketing teams, staying abreast of ever-changing marketing and SEO best practices through industry-leading blogs, listening to podcasts, and following seasoned marketers online can be invaluable when fleshing out a new marketing campaign or strategy. 

Marketing automation is the natural next step after the company sees growth and all team players are well-versed in the marketing strategy.

Kris Hughes

Kris Hughes is the Founder of brand strategy, ghostwriting and fractional marketing agency Zanate Ventures, based in Austin, Texas. Kris has over a decade of experience in content strategy, digital publishing, editorial management and SaaS content marketing.

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