When we talk about marketing automation, we are essentially referring to software that follows pre-programmed rules with the aim of delivering the right marketing materials to the right people at the right time.
At its most basic, if someone downloads a whitepaper or e-guide from a website having been asked to first submit their contact details (also known as ‘gating content’), then automation software can be used to:
• store this information
• recognise what content was downloaded, and then
• send a further sequence of relevant information based on the responses or actions of the recipient
Further visits to the website (or engagement with any further email or online resources) can be identified and responded to in a similar manner, not just with emailed content but with personalised web pages for example.
And as return visits build, more and more data can be collected for an ever richer picture of the prospect and their requirements.
Is it the right thing to do?
It’s hardly surprising that this technology and the ‘in-bound marketing’ approach it supports has taken the marketing industry by storm over recent years. With its promises of increased productivity, personalised messaging, customer engagement and revenue growth, it hits all of the sector’s hottest buttons.
And when it works well it can indeed deliver outstanding results. In many respects it has become the workhorse in our own lead generation programmes, delivering carefully chosen content to our clients’ prospects in order to encourage and support them along the customer journey to an eventual purchase.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s right for every marketing situation. And sadly, we hear more and more examples of automation being sold as a wonder solution is circumstances where it should never have been considered.
These cases tend to fall into three broad categories:
1. It’s not right for the company.
In-bound marketing, and particularly the content which is needed to fuel it, can be a big commitment, especially for a small company or team. If the budget and resources aren’t there to meet this need, then in-bound and automation is likely to do much more harm than good.
2. The sales resources aren’t in place (or aren’t fully committed) to follow through on nurtured customer interest.
A timely and considered handover from nurtured marketing lead to sales qualified lead is an essential step in the majority of automation campaigns (particularly in business-to-business markets), and any fumble at this stage could see results dwindle to nothing.
3. It’s not right for that particular product, service or market sector.
At one end of the scale, all that extra content and engagement may not add enough value when the customer is looking to make a relatively simple e-Commerce purchasing decision. At the other end it might not be able to reach the contacts and build the engagement needed to make an effective contribution to complex multi-stakeholder purchase decisions.