Global Marketers Channel by RuthNov 22, 2019

Marketing Automation is Not Marketing Strategy

Text by
Ruth P. Stevens

Too often, I am hearing B2B marketers say things like "We got this new [fill in the brand] automation tool, so now we can reduce headcount."  Or, "Once this automation system is installed, it will take our marketing to the next level."  This worries me.  Marketers sometimes see automation as a silver bullet.  But it’s only a tool.  Marketing automation doesn’t identify your best target audiences.  It can’t develop value propositions.  No way will it make the tough decisions among competing investment options.  In short, marketing automation doesn’t work without strategy.

Remember ten years ago, when CRM came along?  Similar situation.  Marketers thought that the new CRM software would solve their customer service and customer retention problems.  Expectations dashed.  Not only was it a nightmare to get up and running, the software served only to automate the processes─good or bad─that companies already had in place.

So, what should we be doing with automation, to ensure its success?  Three things come to mind.

1. Be realistic about what it can and can’t do

Automation is not a silver bullet that you can set and forget.  So make sure real humans are thinking through the essential tasks of identifying your key audiences, understanding their needs, scoping out their buying processes and developing contact strategies to move them along, in your direction.

2. Clean up your database

By now it’s clear that the database is the single most important success factor in B2B marketing communications.  So don’t be automating messages that can’t or won’t be delivered to the right targets.

3. Train up your team

Too many marketing groups are leaving the campaign automation system to a set of junior staffers who interface with the tools, deploy campaigns, and report results.  I am not saying the marketing VPs should be executing campaigns.  But to get the right mix of strategy and tools, we need better integration.  Senior marketers should be deeply aware of the capabilities of the software.  And junior staffers need training in strategic marketing thinking.

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