In the eyes of most marketing stakeholders, the key to effective automation technology is simple: Any app, portal, system, or solution should make a marketers’ jobs easier… period. Yet underneath that essential truism is a more complex, evolving relationship between a platform, its users, and its purpose – a relationship that every technology provider should invest in consistently improving.
As technology has increasingly infiltrated almost every aspect of business and life, the role that software is expected to play – and the manner in which it’s supposed to fill that role – has changed. With hundreds of apps and systems in the market, it’s no longer enough for a given solution be useful, or to fill its intended marketing purpose effectively.
Rather, to earn any market share amid the crowded (and growing) marketing technology landscape, a solution needs to deliver value in both user experience and business results – two areas that are more intertwined than many executives and managers realize.
User Experience: It’s About ‘Grace & Refinement’
“Software design” and “UI/UX” (user interface/user experience) are now commonly used terms across the B2B ecosystem – and for good reason. Nowadays, software needs to be more than functional; it needs to be attractive and pleasant to use.
That’s because every business-software user is also a consumer, plugged in every day to the world’s most commonly used devices, apps, and platforms: iPhones, Facebook, Google, and more. Consumers expect the same high-quality user experience across all of the tools and portals they access, for purposes both personal and professional – and when they don’t receive a quality experience from an automation solution, they seek out an alternative one.
In a popular post on Medium, the team at Slack discussed the rise of user experience as the reason it’s so important for them to build a “beautiful, elegant, and considerate” piece of software:
“Every bit of grace, refinement, and thoughtfulness on our part will pull people along,” they wrote. “Every petty irritation will stop them and give the impression that it is not worth it.”
Business Outcomes: It’s About ‘Playing Offense’
But design- and experience-related concepts aren’t the only important ones in the world of automation technology. Apps and systems can no longer lean on the inherent value they provide to end users simply because they migrate existing efforts online (or “to the cloud”), thus making those processes easier (or “more seamless”) and less expensive (or “more efficient”).
Rather, B2B technology tools and services increasingly need to be true solutions – they must solve problems, create opportunities, or improve the effectiveness of existing processes.
While there’s still a place for automation for automation’s sake, more and more B2B companies are seeking measurable, attributable business results from the systems they utilize. New Relic CEO Lew Cirne has described it like corporate sports – akin to a system’s role on defense or offense:
“Playing defense with software is thinking about software as a cost reduction tool to automate existing processes. It has been used for that for decades, making payroll a little faster and a little more predictable; that’s great defense for software,” Cirne told ZDNet.com. “Playing offense with software is going to the top line for your whole company.”
Effective Automation: It’s About Marrying Sophistication with Results
To expand on Cirne’s metaphor, most businesses today are “going to the top line.” Across almost every industry, B2B companies want to grow their margins, earn more revenue, and otherwise boost performance. They have the defense covered, but they want to score more points offensively
Automation platforms have to help companies do that in innovative, unexpected ways – ideally by solving business problems that their target buyers don’t even realize they’re facing (or that the business has never been capable of addressing in a cost-efficient way).
But even that isn’t enough, because experience is such a vital part of the relationship between the user and the tool. If an automation platform isn’t pleasant to use – if it’s not “beautiful, elegant and considerate” – it will never get the chance to deliver real value.
As a result, the ultimate truism of automation may no longer be about making a marketer’s job easier, after all. Perhaps, it’s really about making a marketer’s job – and the company’s revenue performance – better.