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Why Marketing Automation Sucks

Posted by craig on 10, May, 2013

GearsOver the past decade, marketers have increasingly added a new skill to their tool belts: Marketing Automation. Marketing Automation is basically an evolution of direct mail & phone but applied to the web. Given enough data about a prospect or customer, the marketing team can do “targeted” campaigns to further engage and convert them into customers who pay for their service. Sophisticated marketers will build drip campaigns that increasingly give them more data about their audience so they can infer the next offer to send them. For example, if a prospect opened the email and clicked through but didn’t convert, then send them the same offer a few days later with slightly different messaging. This leads to marketers being “successful” with low single digit conversion rates…essentially dismissing the 95+% of prospects who are annoyed by the endless barrage of emails and ads.

If you are in a business selling consumer goods or a commodity business offering, then Marketing Automation is the most important and powerful thing you can invest in. After all, your product is probably well understood, so your goal is to be in the right place when the prospect is making the decision to buy. If your product is a disruptive or innovative offering where you have to educate your audience, relying on marketing automation alone can tank your business. In these organizations, the job of a marketer is not to go for the quick conversion. Their job is to educate people on the pain that their product solves and why it is better than the alternatives. After all, if you are the one doing the teaching, you have a 65% chance of being selected when the prospect is ready to make a decision. Marketers need to educate the internal team first, from the executives to the engineers. They need to especially educate the customer facing folks: sales, account management, client on-boarding, support, etc. And most importantly, they need to educate the market.

Savvy marketers are probably saying “Marketing Automation is how we educate the market. How else are we supposed to send them the right content with the right calls to action at scale without Marketing Automation?” The problem with marketing automation is that marketers of all companies are lusting after the latest recommendation tricks that Amazon, Google and Netflix are using to see if they can apply them to their business. The problem with this is that it sucks for your prospects if you are selling something that is disruptive. Prospects don’t want to hear about some generic eBook that you are offerring them because they match some characteristics. They want to talk to somebody. They want to learn and understand how it your solution can work for them. This is why innovative and disruptive companies typically have an army of customer facing folks on their team. Instead of making that army spend a large part of their day entering data so marketers can do more targeted campaigns, they need to embrace the power of the customer facing army. This army can do a way better job targeting, educating, and nurturing than any automated campaign could ever do.

The good news in this marketing shift is that marketers are producing crazy amounts of educational content. They’re publishing customer videos on YouTube, product demos on Vimeo, slide decks on Slideshare, several posts a week on their blog, 1-2 eBooks a quarter, and a number of webinars every month. Instead of spending weeks configuring Pardot, Marketo, Hubspot, or Eloqua and building sophisticated drip campaigns to share this content, marketers should instead take the time to train their customer teams on what they’ve produced, curate some great content that helps their team “get it,” and organize the materials for easy access so the customer teams can be evangelists and educate the masses. This lets content produced by the marketing team get in the hands of the people who need it most: the customer facing army whose job is to educate and help customers and prospects succeed.

Image courtesy of BinaryApe


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