Marketing automation is the wrong term


By Brian Hansford, account director and marketing automation practice lead for Heinz Marketing

I remember the early days of Customer Relationship Management when the term “Sales Force Automation” or SFA was thrown about. (And it still is in some circles.) Marketing Automation is an evolving segment going through very similar pains and innovation.

There are a few challenges with using Marketing Automation as a category name. Firstly, marketing people are marketing to other marketing people. We love to be marketed to. Just like car sales people love to sell to other sales professionals because they are an easy sale. Marketing people buy into the promise of marketing automation without a full understanding of what is required to succeed.

Secondly, executives outside the marketing clubhouse hear the term “marketing automation” along with the fantastic anecdotal discussions. These executives are attracted to the siren call these stories offer, once again without really understanding the effort required for success.

Thirdly, service providers, vendors, and even analysts tell the story of how revenue pipelines will grow. All organizations have to do is get started and each incremental quarter will show significant growth in revenue pipelines. The technology is cloud-based and therefore that means marketing operations will be easy to launch.

Yes, I’m being blunt. But these three observations really aren’t beyond the pale when speaking with fellow marketers in multiple segments and a magnitude of different sizes of businesses.

Marketing cannot be “automated” simply by using technology. Organizations have to understand, tweak, and build a business process that involves organizations that are often in contention with one another.

People are the most important asset with marketing automation. They require training both on the platform and best practices.

Content strategy and tactical implementation are the most overlooked elements in marketing automation. As I have said for a few years now, content is the fuel that launches the marketing automation rocket.

Finally, measuring marketing effectiveness with marketing automation is a growing challenge and valued capability. The clicks, opens and bounces only tell micro-details of the overall story. Marketing automation systems will capture and record the information needed to accelerate sales and grow revenue.

The promise of marketing automation is very real. But so is the effort.