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Who Would Win in a Fight: Marketing Automation or a Marketer?

The older I get the more simple things seem to become. A long time ago (nearly 20 years!) there was a book that was popular that stated “Everything I learned I Learned in Kindergarten.” You’ve probably heard of it. It was cute and playful and reminiscent. When I first saw the poster (version) I didn’t have much to reminisce upon – I was 8 years old. I looked at it like most things I did in my youth – with contempt. I thought that it oversimplified life and was a “stupid” generalization of someone who undoubtedly was a gigantic failure (I was an aggressive and opinionated 8 year old). There were things on it such as “Share Everything”, “Flush” and “Play Fair”. SUPER! Thanks for the obvious tips! Now let me continue living my complicated 8 year old life of attempting to NEVER compromise, avoiding vegetables and never, at any cost playing fair.

I continued on that same path for all of my teenage years and well into adulthood. It wasn’t until you run headfirst into your 100th or 100,000th wall that you start to realize there may be an easier path around those walls – and one that is in fact paved, well marked and in great condition. It’s been there the whole time, while you and your own stubborn nature pushes you past those big glaring signs – and safely back into the solid brick wall mortared mainly by your own lack of vision, bad attitudes and uncompromising nature. It wasn’t until I lost my first business in 2008 when I took a step back and considered another way. First, I didn’t “lose” the business – we all just lost our friendships – which led to my eventual departure. It takes a huge life event like that to change someone’s thinking – it doesn’t just happen overnight. The realization I came to in those following months were the same I had mocked as a child – “everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten.

One of those things was playing fair. It doesn’t sound positive but I actually think sometimes conflict can be. Sometimes it’s the only way to break down barriers causing an extreme amount of tension – just remember to keep it fair. Obviously fewer fists are thrown in the boardroom than on the playground but not all conflict is physical either. Some struggles evolve into an all out battle. It seems like that age old battle between people and machines has taken center stage in the marketing space – the latest area of business to be targeted by cloud software. Marketing Automation they call it – and it’s all the rage. The amount of messaging hitting the presses and general online space is staggering. Vendors, consultants, naysayers, proponents, journalists, analysts, developers, users, prospects, hangers-on, leeches – they all have an opinion. The problem is, it’s ending up to be a pretty unfair fight.

Still in its infancy, the majority of messaging falls within the manna from Heaven category. Some of it is actually useful and most is pure crap. Regardless, the underlying tone cannot be ignored. Anytime you bring automation into the benefits statement, you also bring the flag of war. War against those currently making their living doing what now will reportedly be automated at a much more efficient cost point. The battle cry is clear, evolve or a machine is waiting to fire you. Going back to the school analogy, it is that moment of no return where someone publicly throws down the challenge and you have only two choices, turn tail and run or meet at the old oak tree after the last bell. Marketing Automation has kicked dirt in the faces of many marketers but rather than showing up, sleeves rolled and fist clenched – instead they are headed home in the back of their mom’s station wagon, complaining of a stomachache. Sissy.

The thing I learned in kindergarten was that in a fight often there are no winners – often it’s just a release of tension and after the dust clears some of the strongest bonds are formed. Ultimately, no one wants to lose. Because losing is often such a traumatic event everyone can often feel for the loser. Many may be thinking about the time they lost or how much they wouldn’t want to be in those shoes. I’ve been in a few fights in my day. I’ll never forget my first real fight though. It was with another kid at school and it happened at the bus stop. It had been building all week and I was nervous. Everything happened very quickly and before I knew it, it was over. I didn’t feel like I had won though – I felt bad. I helped the kid up and after that we actually became good friends, which lasted through grade school and into high school. The key wasn’t winning – the key was playing fair and how you acted afterward. That was the lesson I took from the whole ordeal.

When it comes to marketing automation, most marketers aren’t even showing up to play at all. They have played into the buzz that Marketing Automation, in and of itself is the key. Unfortunately that’s false. Marketers are STILL the key. Marketers create the process, which Marketing Automation… well, automates. It’s on us to develop these innovative communication strategies, it’s our responsibility to create super compelling content and it falls firmly on our plates to create predictive models that actually forecast revenue BEFORE campaign execution. It’s on us!

Perhaps marketers should revisit this helpful list of basic knowledge, who’s simplicity makes it impossible to deny. Look hard at the list and focus specifically on the fifth bullet point – and Clean Up Your Own Mess.

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