I do not hide my disdain for marketing automation. It might sound like a tongue-in-cheek statement for a technology marketer, but I think the loss of real human interaction could skew the field — and the American consumer agrees with me.
As technology and automation have created the field of marketing technology at an accelerated pace, 59% of US consumers believe businesses have lost touch with the human element of customer experience, and 82% want more , and no less, of human interaction in the future, according to PwC.
Despite market demand for more authenticity, marketing automation continues to grow unabated (i.e., it has reached $4.06 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow by nearly 10% over the next seven years). From my perspective, this trend might show how some marketers might feel in a position with no other alternative, but I think there is a solution that combines the low cost of technology with human authenticity: virtual assistants.
Virtual assistants, often referred to as VAs, can provide unique benefits to your marketing team at a fraction of the cost of a full-time marketing hire. Finding talented VAs can be difficult, as it is with any hiring decision, but a good VA will provide tremendous benefits beyond software.
Why consider hiring a VA?
From my perspective, there are a number of reasons why you might find a VA particularly useful in your marketing endeavor. I’ve outlined some of these areas below, along with some suggestions on how you can ensure your AV succeeds:
1. SEO administrative tasks: Evergreen marketing processes are paramount to a VA and valuable to your business. Take the example of administrative SEO tasks. Any SEO consultant will tell you that unlinked brand mentions are a gold mine and aren’t too difficult to secure, but it involves one thing that marketers lack: time.
Arming your VA with a basic outreach model and process documentation enables the personalization that comes with a human behind the email while securing your company’s valuable follow-up backlinks from articles that are predisposed to link to you.
2. Qualification of the prospect: In my world of B2B software development marketing, qualified marketing leads are the measure by which I live and die. Our company, like most in our field, attracts a class of potential customers that we will call “motivated early stage entrepreneurs”. These professionals have incredible ideas and want to bring those ideas to life, with the caveat that they often don’t have the money. Even with the cheapest developers, $2,000 doesn’t go far with software.
As a marketing manager, I don’t want our sales team spending valuable on-call hours with these unqualified leads. Hiring a VA with Qualifying Messaging is a low-cost way to ensure your sales team spends their time effectively with qualified and vetted leads, improving both their ROI and ROI of your marketing efforts. More importantly, by providing this human interaction through a VA, motivated early entrepreneurs feel heard and respected with a human response. Remember that they may not have the money now, but they might in the future.
3. Data Recovery: Have you ever received one of those automated emails trying to sell you a list of “key decision makers in your industry”? Have you ever purchased one of these listings? I did, and needless to say, they weren’t helpful (think old data, wrong email addresses, and incorrect titles). The motivation is correct; outbound is a reality for many marketers.
But I’ll let you in on a secret: I believe a VA can help you find better, more accurate data for a fraction of the cost of buying a list. Provide ideal client parameters and arm your VA with verification tools, and you’ll be presented with a list of top verified emails for your outbound campaigns. Who said the outward journey had to be difficult?
Where to find AVs?
The VA you hire may live anywhere – the United Kingdom, Portugal, the Philippines, etc. In my experience, even in countries where the native language is not English, you can usually find a quality employee who can speak English fluently. With solid documentation of your marketing processes, a VA from another country can still deliver solid results time and time again. An added benefit, if you work with other locations overseas, is that your VAs can also speak the language of those markets, which is worth considering.
I’ve found that freelance websites, such as Upwork, are the best for finding quality VA talent. A key point to note is that if you’re doing a long-term hire to augment your marketing team, incorporate a rigorous testing process. Since you’re unlikely to meet your VA face-to-face, you want to be 100% confident that they’ll be able to perform the marketing tasks you assign them to your satisfaction.
Ultimately, I believe a VA could be a perfect addition to your marketing team. Since tasks are a fraction less time-sensitive than sales, the time zone difference is not a major factor (and can be mitigated by VAs working night shifts, which is daytime for the continental US ). In my opinion, avoiding a blind embrace of technology positions your business to really capitalize on what consumers crave more than anything: authenticity and genuine human interaction.