April 6, 2016

4 Signs Marketing Automation Has Turned You into a Robot

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Marketing automation has a lot to offer: seamless data transfer, custom email campaigns, the ability to scale personalization across multiple channels . . .

But look closer, and you’ll see that those benefits can come with a price for marketers who embrace the “automation side” too completely.

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It starts with sending a few well-meaning triggered emails to people who download a whitepaper. Before you know it, you’re obsessing over lead scores and unleashing the sales team on anyone who so much as glances at your product page.

You’ve lost your ability to empathize. This is when you know automation has turned you into a robot.

The robot life doesn’t have to be your destiny. If you pay attention to the signs, you can avoid over-automating and reel it back in. As a marketing automation user, I’ve had to resist the call of The Dark Side more than once. Here are four of the warning signs I’ve noticed:  

Jargon Starts to Sound Normal

The way we describe something is an important indicator of how we feel about that thing. The first sign that your empathy is being replaced by a heartless set of automation cogs will be in the way you describe your work.

Telling people that you “optimize customer experience using personalized triggers” is a clear indicator you’re starting to slip.

This may seem innocuous.

But it isn’t.

Do you “drive traffic” or “find leads that fall out of the funnel” for a living? You’ve forgotten that marketing automation is a tool for building relationships . . . with people. Instead, you’re thinking about data profiles and numbers on a spreadsheet.

An increased affinity for technical manuals may indicate you’ve slipped into this stage.

You’re Trigger Happy

People love email, and people want personalized email, so the greater number of personalized emails you send, the more people will like you, right?

This means you need to create a ton of automation triggers so you’ll have every single action that anyone could ever take on your website for the next five years covered.

Does someone look at your feature page after they’ve signed up for your email newsletter? It’s time to bombard them with free trial offers. Has a visitor perused your pricing section? Unleash the competitor comparison charts! Did someone have the temerity to read three related articles in one week? Target them with a series of related emails, pronto!  

Turn back, marketer. This way lies machine logic.

Yes, people do prefer to communicate with businesses through email. And yes, people do, on occasion, like personalized emails. But everything in moderation.

ALSO READ: How to Perfect the Art of Email Capture

Setting up a security perimeter around your website that ensnares anyone curious won’t make you successful. It will make you the creepy house with tripwires and spotlights near which all of the neighborhood kids are scared to walk.

You Only Think in Lead Scores

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“If everyone had lead scores” is robot-centric thinking.

The customer journey is long, convoluted, and very difficult to track. We should consider ourselves lucky that we have a lead score to neatly package the entirety of each person’s interactions with our brand into a single, shining metric.

Wouldn’t it be easier if we could judge all of our relationships this way?

With lead scoring, we would know when old friends are more likely to finally return our phone calls based on their engagement with our Facebook page, or whether we should attend that party on Friday based on how engaged everyone is with memes being posted in the group channel.

If a friend’s lead score gets high enough, they get a triggered email with an invitation to your monthly barbecue.

If they haven’t messaged you in a couple of months, reduce their score and drop them into a re-engagement campaign. After all, if we don’t hit the monthly numbers, our BBQ budget might get cut.

It would be marketing robot utopia.

Robots love quantitative measurements, but they struggle with the qualitative. The decisions people make and the conclusions they draw about your brand are built on qualitative data as well as quantitative.

Even if someone reads your blog for nine months straight and fits your demographic criteria, it doesn’t mean they’re going to buy your product.

Lead scoring can be put to good use, but it can’t provide a definitive analysis of a human being. Only a robot would want that.

You Start Automating Other Aspects of Your Life

If you progress to lead scoring monomania, you’re in trouble. Reacting purely based on lead scores means you can automate all of your interactions.

You can automate customer service, customer feedback, content production, etc., etc.

At this point, you’ve made the transition into full blown robot-hood. People will know you not by your smile or charm, but by your impeccably timed text messages and emails that contain loads of personalized content. Now you’ve narrowed your interactions down to only the most qualified moments. Your conversion rate and ROI should skyrocket.

You may start to notice that you don’t eat as often, and that most of your free time is spent running internal diagnostic tests.

You have become the marketing version of Skynet. Regardless of how timely and personalized your responses, people will eventually discover your mechanical core.

* * *

Could a robot be a better marketer than a person? If marketers don’t use automation with care, that question will quickly become academic.

The moral of the story is to treat automation as a tool, not an end game. It’s tempting to push technology to its limits, but you must always remember that marketing is a human craft. If we build our campaigns exclusively out of data, we reduce our audience to data points. 

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