The Danger of Marketing Automation

Where there are benefits, there are pitfalls

by Jason Falls |

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.


About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls 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 Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).