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How Food Brands Can Use Marketing Tech to Impact the Bottom-line

Don’t waste time digging in the minutiae — learn how automation software can boost your ROI and give your brand the marketing edge.

As a food marketer, there never seems to be enough hours in the day. Or coffee in the pot. Or ideas on the table. And there definitely aren’t enough hands on deck. We spend so much of our time scrambling from one campaign to the next that managing the minutiae of ongoing initiatives falls by the wayside.

If this sounds like your current work life, don’t worry — you’re not alone. Juggling both the big picture and the small details is a chronic challenge for all marketers. It requires a real balancing act to be able to manage both effectively — a must for tracking conversions and ROI of your efforts.

Fortunately, the nascent Golden Age of Marketing Tech is delivering new tools and resources to help us in this quest. These innovations are all designed for a singular purpose: making our lives as marketers a lot easier.

And it all starts with marketing automation.

What exactly IS Marketing Automation, anyway?

Marketing automation entails using software to replace manual marketing efforts with automated ones. These automations are platforms and technologies that systematize and regulate marketing tactics across digital channels — so you don’t have to.

Marketing automations are most often web-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions which are then integrated into your ecosystem. While they can be used for almost anything, they most commonly manage lots of time-consuming, routine tasks, like distributing emails, publishing content, enabling buyer journey-specific website actions, and improving user experiences with personalized responses.

Through marketing automation, you can free yourself up to spend your energy elsewhere. By using intelligent systems to perform the tedious lead nurturing and relationship management tasks, you can instead focus on your brand’s long-term strategy and performance.

The Benefits of Personalization 

We may be marketers, but we’re also consumers, too. And as consumers, who doesn’t love opening their email to perfectly curated offers for the products that fit us justtt right. Or landing on a webpage to see the exact service we were searching for — or didn’t know we needed.

This content calls us by name. It knows we’re vegan. Or gluten-free. Or obsessed with beef jerky. Sometimes it seems to know us even better than we know ourselves. This tactic is known as personalization, or the process of using data analysis and digital technology to deliver individualized messages and product offerings to current or prospective customers.

According to a recent Google survey, 61% of consumers now expect brands to tailor experiences to their preferences. But offering this kind of custom, individualized experience to each person just isn’t possible with a manual approach and a long list of customers.

That’s where automation comes in. With this technology, you can now offer a whole new world of personalized interactions — the kind that gets noticed.

But there’s more to personalization than just tailoring your efforts to each individual; timing is also critical. By automating operational workflows and layering in data insights, you can deliver the right experience to the right person at the right time. This personalized, on-time approach gives you several advantages:

  • It shows customers that you know them, listen to them and understand them.
  • It can increase customers’ desire to engage and remain connected.
  • It can stimulate purchasing behavior by providing relevant messaging — when it’s most needed.

This can work especially well for food brands. It’s often difficult to convince consumers to try a new product, but personalization offers a winning strategy. Using customer data, you can identify customers who prefer products with a spicy or sweet flavor and target them with emails about products in that same flavor profile. You aren’t just asking them to try a new product — you’re recommending something they might like because you know them. 

Personalization has useful geographic applications as well. If you know a user’s location, you can generate a custom list of locations near them where your product is available. If the weather in a given area calls for snow and chilly conditions in the coming week, you can target customers there with offers for your soup and broth products. Ultimately, almost any data you have can be used to create a seamless, tailored user experience.

Don’t Be Afraid to Start Simple

Don’t get us wrong: fully adopting and employing marketing automation requires some heavy lifting. But the good news is that you can work your way into it at your own pace. Here are three easy ways to begin incorporating automation into your current email marketing workflow:

  1. A welcome email to new subscribers: Acknowledging new users after signup is a great way to show your appreciation with a special offer, details on upcoming sales, or to let them know what they can expect from you going forward.
  2. An onboarding email series: These provide step-by-step instructions to give users the support they need in order to have the best possible experience with your brand. You can invite them back into your ecosystem where they can establish an account, showcase recipes, learn more about your products’ health benefits, connect with your social channels, or interact with your content.
  3. Cart abandonment reminder email: Just because a customer leaves a product in their cart doesn’t necessarily mean he or she doesn’t want it. That’s why “abandoned cart” emails average twice the open rate of a regular email. So rather than miss out on a possible conversion, send a gentle reminder or offer a small discount for completing the purchase.  

Email is a great place to start because it’s easy to employ simple personalization — and the benefits are immediate. And once you’ve got it set up, it’s a real time-saver for you and your team.

Beyond email tactics, more sophisticated marketing automation platforms can also be used to define, segment, schedule and track marketing campaigns, generate, nurture and score leads, sustain consumer relationships, cross-sell and upsell products, and measure marketing performance. It’s becoming more and more common for good reason.

Food Marketing Automation in the Wild

Panera Bread: This healthy dining chain is using its consumer data to deliver the best possible brand experience. Panera’s loyalty mobile app isn’t just about consumer convenience. It also provides the company with a wealth of insight about the 30 million who use it.

Their team then uses this information to tailor its messaging. By offering personalized deals for frequently bought items, Panera strengthens its bond with those customers.

Stonewall Kitchen: A food producer, educator and content curator all rolled into one deliciously tasteful package — Stonewall Kitchen packs an automated punch. Using artificial intelligence software, the company’s website predicts which products shoppers are most likely to buy based on information they’ve previously gathered on those individuals. Then, in real time, the website automatically adjusts to feature those products.

Battling Automation Barriers

Yes, the possibilities of these new automation technologies are exciting. But it doesn’t mean we’re ready to dump manual processes overnight. Integration and implementation require serious front-end investments in both time and learning — investments many teams forget to factor in before starting.

Skimping on proper training or process development in the beginning can cause your team to get off to a rough start. Mistakes and poor planning can cost time and money you don’t have to lose. That’s why taking the time to get it right is so important.

For many marketers, slow adoption is the surest path to success. First, ensure each part of your marketing process is adapted and ready to work with the new software. This includes training for any team members expected to manage the software. Performing this due diligence will reduce errors and help your campaign hit the ground running.

Second, consider your strategy. According to a 2016 survey on marketing automation trends published by Ascend2, the most significant barriers to marketing automation success are the following:

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts here. To succeed at this transition, doing your homework is critical. Sure, you’ll be saving time with this software (and time is money), but if you squander these technologies by focusing on the wrong things, you’ll be no better off than you were before.

The key to success is to first understand your resources, target audiences and goals. What are your priorities? What are the risks? Do you have the right people in place? These are the questions you need to ask and answer before you embark on the marketing automation path.

Dig In

The learning curve for marketing automation may be steep, but the benefits it offers your brand (and your sanity) are undeniable. As customer activation strategies evolve, your marketing communication workflows and marketing automation tools should work together so that your focus remains on your long-term goals.