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All I want for Christmas is Simplicity – The #1 Key to Marketing Automation

The holidays are here again and every year I exclaim a combination of the same things: “Man, that year flew by” and “I really want to keep things simpler this next go around.” The fact that I say these statements each year is a testament to the difficulty that surrounds simplicity, and also the fact that I’ve yet again failed at my goal.

Most of our major struggles in life arise out of learned behaviors growing up. The themes that we carry with us regarding relationships, love, success, business and money are all perceptions that we grasp on to and hold as truths. In most cases they never fail to prohibit us from achieving our true goals and cause us to fail time and time again. I’m not one of those people who attends motivational seminars but Tony Robbins has always had some great things to say on the subject of “changing your story” for results. You can check out a video here that does a good job of explaining his outlook.

In my opinion the best way to change our story is to ask why. Most of the truths we cling to cannot be explained when someone asks the simple question of, “why?”

I had one of these moments while having coffee with an investor last week. We were discussing some new tools available and how they would fit in the marketing mix. Marketing for the most part has become education, so we were more or less having a discussion about how people learn and what types of mediums really access engagement. He asked something that really put me on my heels – “why do we believe everyone learns in a different way?” I myself can remember being taught this in school somewhere around the time of entry into my teens. There were auditory learners, visual learners, and kinesthetic learners… WRONG! Those are actually learning styles. This does not mean that people learn in different ways, and this is something he caused me to pause on. We all learn in pretty much the same way — and normally with a combination of the above – but always with the achievement of certain milestones.

First, someone garners our attention. We are asked to process it and apply it to prior knowledge. Then we arrive at conclusions and understand it. Finally we apply it.

The learning styles we employ along the way help us to process information but our actual learning path is the same. By having coffee and simply asking the question, “why,” I had freed myself from a myth. I didn’t call the discovery channel and scramble the myth busters crew but it did get me thinking about my favorite topic, Marketing and Marketing Automation.

Carlos Hidalgo recently put out a two-part whiteboard video on Marketing Automation Software Advice that I thought was interesting because they were so damn simple. As most of you who have worked with me know, the idea of simplicity is one I really struggle with.

As this post suggests, I covet simplicity daily. I love it and loathe it. I love it because on one side it is all I want – I want to take time for myself and my loved ones, I want to go to work and have an extreme amount of impact by making the complex simple, I want to allow time to do things right the first time and to retreat into my simple hobbies, I want to see the world and bask in its majestic simplicity. At the same time I loathe it because I see all of the complexities necessary to make that a reality. Carlos was talking about the difference between Demand Gen and Lead Management and to support his case he had a lovely picture of a sales funnel. The video was very simple and to the point and frankly I didn’t see much need for it until I considered the tendency for most marketers to completely overlook the obvious.

Pretty simple right? By distilling marketing down to it’s simplest points we start to get at the only thing that marketing should be – and that’s “simple.”

Here’s part two.

We all may claim to like simplicity but we are pretty quick to complicate things – and often times for no good reason. We ask our clients to begin the process of adopting Marketing Automation by re-evaluating everything they’re done in the past. “Un-learn” and all that good stuff. The templates we use to try to promote this are very simple – what we get back in return looks like the schematics to a Russian nuclear facility. From our beginnings we are taught that things that look complex are rewarded and the simple route means lazy. This approach is completely backwards and you see organizations like Apple and Dropbox and many other “2.0” companies doing just that. Keep the message simple; make it simple to buy and simple to use and make telling others about it a no-brainer.

This all leads back to what we should have been taught all along and for me this is how I change my story. Know just this one thing – Things will get complicated on their own; there’s no need to help it along. By keeping things simple in the beginning you will help them grow on a strong foundation and you will avoid complexity for as long as possible. Ask yourself, why do we need that? How does it benefit the process? What will it allow us to do that we couldn’t do before? And my personal favorite, Is it sustainable? If the answers to those questions aren’t positive ones and you are adding something simply to build a bigger birds nest – stop – or at least don’t do it near me.

When it comes to Marketing Automation consider that you are making a long term investment in this software – what will it look like after you’ve operated on it for a year, how about two or three years? There is a lot of time to build out that machine and it WILL get complicated on some level. Try to make the decisions you make now rooted in simplicity, make sure they scale and make sure you can train others on your methodology. What you do now will make or break your effort 12 months from now. Everything matters – the way you name something, the way we structure simple campaigns or programs and the way we pass leads through our funnel. Less truly is more and on the quest for simplicity there is no need for a detour sign.

So, what is the #1 key to success with Marketing Automation? Commit to keeping it simple. When you feel that urge to add a few more arrows or lines for good measure – don’t. If you can say it in 5 words – don’t use 50. Your buyer, your bottom line and your sanity will thank you in the long run. We can use this year to strive for simplicity of design, of message and of process and when we look back at the end of it all, we just may find that we are actually closer to our goal; no longer obscured by a maze we made for ourselves. As for me, I’m starting right now, I’m leaving the office on this Christmas holiday and I’m going to take a nap.

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