Marketing Automation is a Robot That Hates You

February 21, 2013 | Justin Gray | 2 Comments |

Did you know that? Marketing Automation now has a face. The face is on the front of a bucket, a metal bucket. At the top of the bucket is a lever that glows orange. It seems to beckon to everyone in the visible range of the bucket’s mischievous smile – “pull me, dammit!” Pull my lever and leads will come out. Now, where the leads will come out of is probably a bit much to detail in this article but when you put all of these aesthetics together they form a robot and the robot’s name is marketing automation.

Last week Marketo launched something called the Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation. The first time I became aware of it was in mid-December when I received an email from Jon Miller which described a piece they would be putting out in Q1 that was going to be a biggie. He wasn’t lying. The result is a 100-page opus to marketing automation. What it is, why you need it, how to buy it, how THEY use it and much, much more. It’s a great guide, but if you think that’s all it is you are sadly mistaken.

Marketo’s definitive guide series has been going on for years now. They have guides on Social Media, Email Marketing, Lead Nurturing, Scoring, and all those now familiar terms. Wait. What? Are you even doing half of these things already? Be honest. If you do, you are in the minority. 85% of the clients we work with, at the start of the engagement are NOT using many of those pillars of marketing automation. The ones that do are just scratching the surface. So, why then do we have a 100-page guide (with a bar code and a price on the back of it) explaining again, in great detail, why we NEED marketing automation?

The answer is simple. In order for most of us to attempt to solve something we first have to have a problem. Well, most of us at least – I’ll admit to, on occasion, creating a problem just to solve it. Who doesn’t love a good problem? It presents us with the opportunity to become the hero – and if there’s one thing people love, it’s a hero.

However, assuming that most people aren’t like me and will actually need to experience a problem in order to want to solve it – especially when there is money at the root of that solution – then it’s pretty important to make the buyer aware of the problem. How do we do this? Anyone in sales, please answer with me. Expose the pain.

Pain is a funny thing. It tells us when something is wrong, alerts us to threats and notifies us to do whatever we can to make that sensation stop. If we want to create a case for marketing automation, we have to call attention to pain. That friendly little smiling bucket is starting to take on an ominous grin.

You see the biggest value in Marketo’s Definitive Guide doesn’t come from the information within. In fact, what I would prompt every marketer reading this to ask themselves is this: How much work and money would it take you to create a similar guide and to promote it with the effectiveness that Marketo did here?

I mean… that’s basically what the guide is doing. Over the course of 100 pages it’s describing the trends, methods and needs for content-driven, right time, buyer engagement – but mostly its giving you a blueprint. The ugly truth is, the majority of B2B marketing is still in amateur hour. This certainly isn’t a new message for me, but it really is reinforced when a marketing automation vendor has to put out a 100 page guide telling its target buyers how much pain they WOULD be in if they actually started marketing like them.

Craig Rosenberg, the Funnelholic, put out a great synopsis of the cutting edge techniques Marketo used in putting out this content piece. It’s a great list of things this well funded marketing juggernaut is leading the way with. I certainly don’t think Marketo’s marketing prowess is in question here. All of those terms that now seem so familiar — such as nurturing, scoring, revenue models – these were barely in existence five years ago. When you create the marketplace, you define the marketplace and Marketo does a great job of that. However, if there’s one thing they’ve learned along the way it’s that if the buyer hasn’t felt the same pain of trying to launch a global, content driven, multi-persona, multi-variant, well-segmented digital marketing campaign – it’s hard for them to identify.

So, that brings us back to our smiley friend – a grinning bucket that attempts to kick the reader into gear for 100 pages with his glowing lever and charming cow-like eyes. The fact is, he hates you. He hates you because it takes 100 pages to describe to you how much pain you should be in if you were to attempt to market the way you really want to market. The only problem that remains is that telling someone about pain just isn’t as effective as a good ole beat down by a bucket.

Ultimately the only catalyst for true change is actual pain, felt pain – the kind where marketers are trying to juggle great content with great process but are unable because they aren’t backed with scalable software. But we can’t really succeed with software until we know exactly what we don’t’ want to go back to. So, until then, the smiling bucket remains frustrated. Discouraged but not down, he heads back to the drawing board to formulate a new content piece and even more effective campaign to translate pain to his buyer. How much he must want to just walk up to that buyer and simply give him a swift kick, a kick right in the rear to get that pain flowing. Alas, he cannot – because he’s a floating, smiling bucket, without any legs.


  1. Jon Miller on February 22, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Justin — thanks for a post that made me smile. I will say, however, that one of the key themes of the Guide is that marketing automation is best practiced by the mantra of “think big, start small, move quickly”. Sure, I want marketers to dream big and aspire to marketing greatness… but I also know that there are many gains to be had with small steps along the way. A small nurturing program. Some basic lead scoring. Automate a webinar. And so on. These won’t always be about acute pains, but that doesn’t mean folks should wait to get started.

    • Justin Gray Justin Gray on February 22, 2013 at 4:20 pm


      I definitely picked up on that message and it’s one that I think is absolutely key to success with MA. Rome wasn’t built in a… err, I guess that’s been overused. The only item I’d like to add to that ‘start small, build smart’ process is to do some additional process definition prior to purchase. That will expose the pain and bolster the value in scalable software. As marketers, we like shiny new things, so many are buying first and then using the time immediately after purchase to congeal a process. Many MA evaluations and buying cycles are extending beyond 90 days as execs make a case internally for new technology – so it would be just as effective to add process distillation to the buying journey.

      In fact think I just stumbled on my next blog topic – RFP: Request for Process.

      Thanks for your comments here – the approach behind the the Definitive Guide to MA piece really was damn impressive.

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