The Danger of Marketing Automation

by · August 20, 201312 comments

The larger your company, audience or stakeholder group, the less your most useful marketing will scale. That is, if you accept the notion that social marketing, word-of-mouth marketing and one-to-one marketing is your most useful.

Surveying the greater blogosphere in the marketing space these days, I’m a bit concerned at the recent thrust for everyone to discuss and promote the idea of marketing automation. Don’t get me wrong, I use it, believe in it and know that it does one critical thing that your business will at some point need: It scales one-to-one communication. Marketing automation — having auto-responders and timed email and other messages sent to individuals based on their previous behaviors and interactions with your brand — is incredible. But as much as I believe in the power of marketing automation, I also believe in the lazy marketer’s ability to muck it up, royally.

The danger for many of us is that we are forever in search of an easy button. Marketing automation is a big, frosty, glazed, delicious one just waiting for us to sink our teeth into. For the set-it-and-forget-it set, marketing automation is an open invitation to extra Words With Friends time during work hours. All we have to do is set up the auto-responders and schedule our content posts to open the top of the funnel and marketing is easy … it’s automated.

As much as I believe in the power of marketing automation, I also believe in the lazy marketer’s ability to muck it up, royally

But this notion dismisses the fact that your “target audience” is comprised of human beings. Automated messages, even if expertly timed and crafted, will never replace the comfort of real human interaction that reassures the buying process and leads to loyal, repeat customers our businesses also need.

The social monitoring software craze of 2008-09 led many to believe all they had to do was monitor, only to find out that it wasn’t the software, but what you did with the information it provided that was important. This marketing automation frenzy we’re in now leads many to believe all they need to do is buy some marketing automation software and set it up and you’re done. But the meat in using marketing automation software is actually in how you fill the gaps in non-automated ways. You need to make your job easier — generate leads, cultivate and segment prospects and nurture the superficial relationships — with automation. But in order to be the company we all hope for in the ideal of the social business world, the proof to your pudding will be whether or not you are there when customers have questions your automation doesn’t answer.

Will you respond to emails? On Facebook? On Twitter? Do you answer the phone? Will you go above and beyond to be helpful to the fringes that need you for more than what you plugged in to some form?

Marketing automation does not infer nor permit you to do it and only it. In fact, marketing automation exists to make the necessary hard work, day-to-day interactions with your audiences easier to fulfill.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.mcgrawmarketing.com/ patmcgraw

    Jason, great post (as always). Technology should be used to strengthen and improve weaknesses in the effective processes – but, instead, it’s seen as the cure for a lack of an effective process. We went through this with CRM and we’re doing the same with marketing automation. For too many businesses, marketing automation is a way to push out more emails rather than a way to deliver the right messages and offers to the right person at the right time in order to drive the right response. (When you wrote “…it scales one to one communication” above, the voice in my head responded with “….for too few organizations because they haven’t come close to moving beyond a few segments, at best.”)

    Technology can help but we have a lot of work to do to enjoy the full potential.

  • http://www.feldmancreative.com/ Barry Feldman

    Answer the phone. Now that’s a good one. Sweet stuff here Jason, SMExplorer.

  • Dave Link

    Love the post. I’ve been in far too many conversations lately where fellow marketers have said many of the phrases you highlighted above and see automation as their answers to, God forbid, having to respond to people’s wants and needs. While automation can be great for some of the more mundane tasks associated with marketing, our industry is built on relationships. If we forgo the opportunity to build those connections in favor of auto-responds and canned replies we might as well find new careers.

  • Brian Hansford

    Marketing Automation is such a terrible term. It implies that Marketing is easy and the flip of a switch will open flood gates of leads and revenue. It doesn’t work like that. Sadly many MA users fall into a ‘safe’ mode of batch and blast emails because Execs want “results” quickly. Inertia sets in. Marketing done well and done right still requires heavy lifting, creativity, analysis and human engagement.

    Cheers,
    Brian Hansford
    Tw. @RemarkMarketing

  • Patrick Stroh

    I am very sympathetic to the perspective here that marketing automation can be lazy, unfocused, and cold. It should however be realized that many marketing automation efforts are aimed at reducing “cost to serve” (saving cash, reducing call center expenses, etc.). Of course, it’s kind of a bait and switch … “Let’s use highly personalized, targeted, and relevant marketing automation to replace people interactions” is the justification used to buy the automation solution. But the execution of that automation solution is actuall not so great. So, service suffers, and we lose relevance to customers. And the business becomes further detached from the ostensible goal of “personalized customer engagement.” A lose (for business) – lose (for customer) proposition.

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  • http://www.jumplead.com/ Matt Fenn

    Nice. I was going to say something incisive and erudite about the effective scaling of marketing through automation; but I’m struggling to get to a triple word square…

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  • Michael Bian

    Great blog! I haven’t thought about this before the power of marketing automation.. Thanks ! http://www.sixelevencenter.com

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