Automation is one of the hottest buzzwords on marketers’ lips today, and it’s also the one that’s most likely to get them into trouble.
It’s permeating every vertical in the industry as organizations look for ways to streamline their processes and cut costs. From reporting to media buying, customer engagement to social media and everything in between, few aspects of marketing remain untouched from its influence.
And rightfully so. When used appropriately, automation has the potential to drastically improve almost all your marketing functions. It allows for bigger campaigns, more accurate targeting, faster reactions and improved customer experiences. If you hope to stay competitive in coming years, you’ll have to learn to use it.
But like a seductive Siren, it’s also poised to lead many marketing ships to crash upon the rocks of reality.
The Great Automation Misunderstanding
Marketing automation isn’t a new concept. We’ve been trying to figure out the best way to use it since the rise of the Internet. But only in recent years has technology reached the point to make the theory and dreams of advanced automation a reality.
…while automation is an excellent compliment to your overall marketing strategy, it will utterly fail if you think of it as a magic wand that solves all your marketing problems.
Now any business can leverage both basic and advanced automation strategies with relative ease, often with user-friendly DIY services provided by platforms like Eloqua, Hubspot or Marketo. What once took a team of technical and marketing geniuses weeks of planning, programming and collaboration can now be set up in a few minutes with a little training.
But many businesses misunderstand automation and the potential it brings to the table. And that’s dangerous. Because while automation is an excellent compliment to your overall marketing strategy, it will utterly fail if you think of it as a magic wand that solves all your marketing problems.
Similarly, automation can not replace marketers themselves. Too many organizations try to view marketing automation in terms of an industrial equivalent, like automating a factory assembly line to churn out a finished product. But that’s not how automation works.
It’s not a fire-and-forget system where you simply set up your automated processes, press the start button, and then sit back while the money flows in. Businesses that try to replace their marketing automation staffing and agencies with digital programs and tools are in for an unpleasant surprise.
Automatic by the People
No, automation won’t make marketing any easier for you or your marketers.
If anything, it’s quite the opposite. Sure, it will reduce the amount of tedious but relatively simple marketing work your organization does. Less time wasted manually pulling reports, digging through mountains of data, assembling email campaigns, and the like.
But that will just free up resources and brain power that must be reoriented towards strategy and creativity, which is much more difficult. Imagine that–you’ll actually be paying your marketers to market!
…instead of being less reliant on marketers, your business will be more dependent on them.
So instead of being less reliant on marketers, your business will be more dependent on them.
You’ll need automation experts to assemble and maintain your automation infrastructure. You’ll need people who can integrate your automation across a flood of constantly emerging channels and platforms to provide a seamless experience for your customers. And you’ll need innovative minds to work alongside it all to send the right message to the right people at the right time.
Despite their growing proliferation, 85% of B2B marketers say they’re not getting the most out of their automation software and tools. As automation becomes the norm, it will be more important than ever to choose the right marketers to guide your business forward. Because instead of spending much of their day executing repetitive tasks, they’ll be making important tactical decisions and devising innovative ways for you to better reach your customers. That’s when the differences in talent level will really start showing.
Start adjusting your hiring strategy now to acquire dynamic, forward thinking talent that is comfortable working alongside automation systems and knows how to make the most use of it. Consider bringing in expertise through marketing automation staffing or consulting to get your program off the ground and properly optimized.
There may come a day where robots are able to act creatively, think strategically, and execute a marketing program from top to bottom. Of course, by that time they’ll probably be more interested in a Terminator-style takeover of the planet than coming up with funny subject lines for your emails.
In the meantime, you’ll need to make smart use of automation systems AND marketers side-by-side to remain competitive in the marketplace of the future.