by: Sarah Gayda
There is a lot of hype around marketing automation these days. The buzz term is everywhere, with software companies aggressively flocking their wares, and marketing and sales aficionados jostling for a spot on the bandwagon.
Unfortunately, many people haven't taken the time to fully understand what marketing automation is, and more important, what it is not.
Marketing automation is not what most of us want it to be (and what many companies peddling marketing automation want us to think): software you purchase, install and turn on, to then sit back while qualified leads pour in and your sales and revenues skyrocket.
Rather, marketing automation "refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks." In other words, it's software that can simplify and speed up some of the manual, redundant things you do.
While automation may speed up some processes, it won't give you the essential elements of a successful company marketing program, such as a well-thought-out strategic plan, high-quality contact lists or databases, and relevant, worth-your-time content. These things do not come from software. They require human expertise, research and hard work.
Buying into the "if you build it, they will come" dream, some companies are making large investments in marketing automation software while at the same time trying to save pennies by reducing labour costs. This scenario represents a misallocation of priorities and funds, and it typically doesn't end well.
Investments in marketing should be carefully apportioned. Hiring talented marketing professionals and content creators is critical, as is earmarking a sufficient amount in your budget for them. These are the people who will ensure your marketing strategy and execution satisfies your revenue targets. Once you have these individuals in place, you can put an appropriate amount towards automated software to facilitate delivery — but only if and when the strategy deems it necessary.
Another point to consider, which few software sellers readily share, is that there are some serious downsides to marketing automation. Most involve improper use or overuse. No doubt you've experienced the annoyance of "personalized" emails in your inbox from people or companies you've never heard of before, despite Canada's implementation of anti-spam legislation. Or, perhaps you've voluntarily given your contact details, only to be deluged with far-too-frequent emails or phone calls. This type of thing can negatively impact your brand and business.
Can marketing automation software make a marketer's life easier? Yes. But no software can replace the need for a solid marketing strategy, great content and well-executed tactics. There's no substitute for the hard and thoughtful work of real humans.