What that smooth sales rep didn’t tell you about Marketing Automation


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When automation goes wrong. Licensed for reuse under Creative Commons.
When automation goes wrong. Licensed for reuse under Creative Commons.

Marketing automation is awesome…

If you keep a close eye on the marketing technology space, you cannot fail to have noticed the recent marketing automation boom.

The promise of marketing automation has been that it can take previously manual marketing tasks and, well, automate them. This has led to the misperception that marketers can just ‘set it and forget it’ – underestimating both the amount of work required by marketers to make this technology work effectively and the necessary maintenance required to optimize such efforts.

…Except when it’s not.

The Annuitas 2015 B2B Enterprise survey of over 100 B2B enterprise marketers from organizations with annual revenues that exceed $250M revealed that only 2.8% of respondents believed demand generation campaigns achieve their goals. Undergirding all of these responses was frustration in the marketing automation technology powering campaigns.

The fact is that far from a marketing nirvana – installing a marketing automation platform brings with it a whole load of new woes.

For a start, marketing automation means having to bring on more – not less – staff. As well as a marketing manager, a database manager, a demand gen exec, a content strategist, you will most likely need a marketing technologist who is able to help you get the most out of your new system.

Secondly, all marketing automation relies on preset logic (“If this X happens then do Y”, “if X does not happen, then do Z”) and traditional purchase funnel theory to architect marketing campaigns and trigger communications.The problem is that the buyer journey is much more complex than marketing automation vendors would have you believe.

Thirdly, marketing automation ignores that prospects are continually evolving in their interests, needs and motives. Marketing automation can provide you a lead score but it doesn’t tell you why a prospect is so engaged. This is next to useless for a salesperson who wishes to have a successful sales call.

Finally, far from a ‘set it and forget it’ system, marketing automation requires constant monitoring and attention to get the most out of it.

OK, so I’m stuck with my marketing automation tool. What do I do?

It’s important to understand what marketing automation does well.

Marketing automation works well when there is a process in place. It doesn’t automate your marketing so much as streamline and scale your current processes. Fundamentally, marketing automation is a workflow tool, not an automation tool. So what does it need to become a truly automated system? More automation.

Machine learning is a type of technology whereby algorithms ‘learn’ from new information and quickly decide what the next best action is for an optimal outcome. Machine learning is well-suited to the new Big Content environment where CMOs face complex buyer journeys, constantly evolving user profiles and myriad pieces of content that need to be categorised and structured before being served across multiple-platforms.

Rather than relying on restrictive rules-based logic, machine learning adapts to the unique signals and interactions of each buyer and automatically decides the next-best-content to send to them. Similarly, an algorithm can learn each individuals’ interests by analysing their unique content consumption.

If marketing automation wants to be truly automated – and start delivering better demand generation campaigns – we need to start using machine learning.

Jonny Rose
Idio makes buyer-centric marketing possible for global B2B enterprises. Idio’s Demand Orchestration platform uses Content Intelligence to predict the interests of every individual, and automatically deliver relevant 1:1 experiences across digital channels. Global leaders including Intel, Fitch Ratings, and AllianceBernstein trust Idio’s AI to maximize buyer engagement and pipeline, whilst automating marketing complexity.


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