How Marketing Automation will Need to Evolve to Survive

Meghan Keaney Anderson is a marketing manager at HubSpot, a marketing software company in Cambridge, MA that makes marketing automation software.

We are all seeking a way to scale personal attention. The great promise of marketing automation is that it enables you to trigger messages based on a visitor’s actions on your site, ideally sending messages when they are most relevant rather than spam. But whether you are a B2B or B2C marketer, you can recognize that buyer-behavior is ever-changing. If marketing automation tools are to remain useful, they need to adapt and evolve as quickly as buyers do. There has already been much discussion about the next phase of marketing automation, and a lot of it has focused on the marketer’s needs (revenue performance management etc) here are a few things to consider from the customer’s perspective.

Much of prospect and lead activity now happens outside of your site.

Buyers control how and when they interact with your company, and more and more they are navigating their decision process outside of the confines of your website and your exclusive set of marketing campaigns. To truly be relevant, lead nurturing and email campaigns need to take into account buyers’ experiences across multiple channels and platforms.

Social media interactions should factor into targeted email campaigns. If an individual has downloaded a whitepaper that’s one thing, but what about if they tweet about it too? That indicates an additional level of interest. Additionally, you should be triggering communications based on all the types of content a lead has viewed and not just the forms he or she has submitted.

For example, we want to know that a person has signed up for a free trial, but what if they signed up for a free trial and primarily looked at one content type on your site? That information can help you provide an even more personalized experience to your leads, and should also be available to your sales team so that they know in advance what your lead was looking for. You should consider all of the avenues that someone could use to find your content.

Email is changing.

In the past, the only barrier to in an individual’s inbox, was a basic filter set up to weed out malicious and spammer content. That’s no longer the case. Today, more and more inboxes are being reshaped to help viewers prioritize their email and de-emphasize any non-urgent material. 3 million organizations now use Google Accounts, which gives users the option to automatically sort their inboxes by priority, as determined by the content and their relation to the sender. Even without Google’s “priority inbox,” many users leverage filter tools to automatically redirect marketing messages to side-folder. To stand out, your messages have to be tailored and useful.

Content beats technology ten times out of ten.

When well run, marketing automation should provide leads and customers with exactly what they need and nothing more. It should be interesting, relevant and useful. One of the biggest errors with marketing automation tools has to do with the content strategy not the tool itself. Without smart, tailored, useful content – marketing automation is just a intelligent spamming tool. Many marketing automation systems today have neglected the key principal of good marketing in favor of volume. Instead of just increasing the volume, speak to the pain points that a particular person has had. Ask what questions they had after reading the ebook, and them send them further content on those subjects to keep their interest.

What other limitations to today’s marketing automation and lead nurturing programs have you seen? If you are using marketing automation today, what unique content have you sent your leads?

#AdaptorDie!
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Image Credit: Shutterstock

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  • http://twitter.com/Collectual Collective Intellect

    You make a number of really important points! I think I would also recommend calling-out the the need to analyze other enterprise data to help create relevant and appropriate marketing pieces, like transactional, participation in community forums or other offline metrics, where available.

  • Heather Caldwell

    I thought this was a really great post.  Social media is all about interacting with people and if you are a business, your customers and gaining their trust.  I think businesses have to pay attention to social media habits and what their customers are doing on the various social media outlets.  I also really liked your focus on the content of the message, not just how many people it will reach.  Should business also focus more on interacting more with their customers in social media and not just pushing marketing messages out to them?

  • Emily R. Coleman

    A major problem with the current crop of automation tools is that they are largely built by technical people – with some in-put (if we are lucky) from marketing people.  And marketing people are too timid to tell the techies that the tools are great but they don’t work for their markets.  Key word strategies don’t give any insight into subtleties.  Quantity still wins over quality.  (It’s easier to tell management that you got a boatload of hits…)  What we need is more collaboration among marketing, sales, and technical people before automation is designed and implemented.

    • Elivela67

      I totally agree with this! The type of reporting we want to do to see the cohesiveness of our efforts is thwarted by the stovepipe reporting structure of the tool and the time it takes to almost literally “program” it to give us meaningful data. AND, we have one of the better tools out there. Programmers should spend more time with Marketing folks learning about what they need to see in terms of behavior, sub-segmentation, etc. It would make these tools so much more useful not just to marketing teams but to the organization as a whole. More is not better in this overstimulated world. BETTER is BETTER. I don’t think that concept has filtered into the marketing automation tool development world just yet.

  • http://www.overnight-wrinkle-cures.com Wrinkle Treatment

    I totally agree that Content beats technology ten out of ten times.

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  • http://www.ferreemoney.com/blog/ Neil Ferree

    Its pretty easy to curate content that is topic & niche related and syndicate that content to the top social networks. The problem is, while this content may appeal to its intended audience and they may even take action and click thru and read the article/post or watch the video etc. that’s where the wheel falls of the cart. The task is to “engage” the intended recipient in such a way that you don’t come off as a cheesy sales guy or overly aggressive. Rather, you post/publish engaging content that establishes you as a thought leader and “naturally” elevate the relationship vs. the conventional inbound marketing sales funnel, email list building tactics that seem to be less effective as before?

ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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