I, Robot: How Marketing Automation Can Destroy Your Content Marketing StrategyBy Justin Lambert July 21st, 2014
Marketing automation is easily one of the fastest-growing segments in the software industry, and one of the hottest topics on the minds of business owners and content marketers everywhere. Whether you found yourself discussing formal marketing automation software suites—like HubSpot, Marketo, InfusionSoft, Act-On—or the broader concepts involved with automated email and social media marketing, there’s no doubt marketing automation has been on your mind at some point in the last year.
For anyone responsible for lead generation and nurturing, the idea of automating your marketing holds serious appeal. Just imagine a steady stream of qualified leads being sucked into the top of your funnel and automatically working their way down until they’re paid customers—all with little or no effort on your part.
And that, my friend, is part of the problem.
Marketing automation IS NOT automatic marketing
You see, there’s a serious disconnect in the average user’s understanding of what marketing automation is and is not supposed to accomplish for you. No matter how fantastic their own marketing claims may sound, no reputable marketing automation vendor is ever going to claim that their systems provide foolproof, set-it-and-forget-it solutions that will provide you with the kind of rosy scenario described above. For example, here’s a quote from one of HubSpot’s blogs on myths surrounding marketing automation (including their own platform): “Marketing automation needs constant care and awareness for it to work effectively. Too many companies skimp on these details and think they can let their automation do all the work—not exactly the best way of accomplishing your goals. Marketing automation works as a supplement to your sales strategy, allowing you to strategize the path ahead. It’s not meant as something you can set and forget.” But a lot of folks invest in marketing automation thinking they’ll be able to flip a switch and watch the money flow in. And it’s just not going to happen that way.
Marketing automation can even harm your efforts
Even worse, too heavy a reliance on marketing automation in lieu of the kind of best practices that actually make it work properly can do a lot of damage to your content marketing strategy. After all, content marketing—and, really, all inbound marketing—relies, to a large extent, on your company’s reputation. Before they’re going to raise their hands and identify themselves as prospects and leads, visitors to your website (or consumers of any other content you create) need to know, like, and trust you. They need to believe you’re working with their best interests in mind, that you care about them as individuals, and that what you have to say means something important to them personally. Of course, it’s not possible to scale personalized email and social media messaging to the extent that it can support your business without some form of automation. But when your automated emails sound robotic, you suddenly draw the curtain back and shout out loud to your prospects, “You’re just cogs in this machine I’ve built, so stand in line and let me place you on my conveyor belt!” And that doesn’t leave your prospects feeling very good.
How to reap the benefits of marketing automation without creating epic fails
The bottom line, as any marketing pro worthy of the title knows, is balance. Should you take advantage of marketing automation? Absolutely. You’d be silly not to. Should you rely on marketing automation to do your lead generation, lead nurturing, follow-up, social media marketing, and sales for you? Not if you’re smart. Instead, take the advice of some professional marketers who are doing marketing automation right:
“Executing an effective social media marketing strategy isn’t easy. You need to frequently serve your audience with relevant content, respond to their questions and comments quickly, and do it all with a touch of personality. You also need to maintain this activity across multiple social networks.” —Clayton Lainsbury of Crowd Content via the Hootsuite Blog
“People are THE most valuable resource for a Demand Generation Strategy that is supported with Marketing Automation. Without people, Marketing Automation is just a shiny technology platform with cool features.” —Brian Hansford of Heinz Marketing
“… you need to make sure you’re not using marketing automation alone, and you’re executing a plan to continually grow the top of your funnel alongside your marketing automation efforts. By continuously attracting and adding net new contacts to your database, you’ll thwart the ill-effects of an inevitably depleting marketing list.” —Pamela Vaughn of HubSpot
“Hopefully you see the advantages of automation and the symbiotic relationship automation has with conversation. One cannot be as effective without the other. Automation benefits from conversation because you have a more engaged group of followers. Conversation benefits from automation because you are freed to spend more time engaging with those who matter.” —Kevan Lee of Buffer
While marketing automation can be helpful, in the end, it’s about people, conversation, and striking that all-important balance between productivity and being human. That’s a job a robot can’t do.
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