Tuesday, February 4, 2014

When Marketing Automation ISN'T Useful

Those who know me and have worked with me know that I'm a fan of using marketing automation to schedule some messaging.  Not all messages, but some, especially on Twitter and text messages.  But I'm also a big fan of thinking about the audience and what the message will mean to them.  I ran across a case in point this morning and wanted to share it.  I'm not picking on the business that I'll talk about, I really love them, but this incident shows that they probably scheduled a text message and didn't account for how their database would be affected by it.

I'm in St. Louis, as is this business.  We're having snow today, many schools are closed, and the ones that aren't will most likely be sending students home early because the heaviest of the snow will be coming starting around noon.  The Missouri Department Of Transportation has issued a "stay off the roads" alert so they can get to the snow and keep people safe.  So it's fair to say this isn't the day to be going out unless you really have to.

Even with all that happening, I got this text message at 8:40 this morning.
I've got to believe this was a scheduled message, if for no other reason that any reasonable person would know not to ask their customers to come out during the time the snow is supposed to be falling hard and the state wants everyone off the roads.

So what happened here?  My hope is that the message was scheduled in advance and the person in charge of marketing for this restaurant either wasn't up yet to assess the weather or just forgot that the message was in the queue.  At least I hope that's what happened.

There's an important lesson here.  Taking advantage of marketing automation is usually a good thing, but if you do, you need to be able to stop pre-scheduled messages from going out and be able to do it fast.  In this case, it's because the weather stinks and asking people to come out in a snowstorm might not reflect best on the business. But scheduled messages could need to be stopped for any number of reasons, a news event that might take people's attention and make the business look crass, the death of a famous person, or even a public relations problem for other outlets of the same chain or the parent company.

Sometimes "radio silence" or rescheduling a small promotion is the least helpful to your business, yet safest way to act.  But you've got to know when your messaging is going out and be able to stop it, especially because your reputation, if not your sales, will benefit from an abundance of caution.

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