A Non-Wizard Calls Marketing Automation’s Bluff

  |  July 17, 2014   |  Comments

Although marketing automation tools help to make marketers' lives much more manageable, they do not in fact "automate" a marketer's job. There is still the need for a human touch even when it comes to marketing automation.

Where Are All the Magic Machines?

Marketing automation solutions are truly having their day in the sun, and as someone who relies on marketing automation software daily, I get what all the hype is about - HubSpot has been invaluable to our agency's ability to grow large-scale, strategic campaigns for multiple clients.

That being said, for people who don't work in the trenches of marketing, the name can be a bit misleading. You see, marketing automation tools do not in fact actually "automate" the marketing function.

They do provide a more streamlined and less hectic way to plan and review campaigns. They do connect all of the moving parts within each campaign, while providing an analytics layer that outlines a big-picture view of what's happening with the content we create in our sector of the marketing universe. But they are not magic machines that create content for us.

And I'll be honest, that's where I really need the help. I don't need any more apps for productivity, planning, or analytics. What I need is more hands on deck, more people actually taking the ideas and topics and putting pen to paper. Because there's not a marketing automation software on the planet that can help me keep up with the growing content production expectations set by the explosion of content on the Web and people who aren't charged with actually creating the content.

A Non-Wizard's Short Rant

Now, before anyone breaks out the pitchforks, let me explain. In the age of content marketing, every marketing publication and Twitter-crowned guru is preaching the gospel of high-quality, visually stimulating, and useful content. I am bombarded day in and day out with messages telling me that as a marketing professional I need to be creating clever, engaging, inspiring, subtle (but not too subtle) strategic content and publishing the resulting collateral across a myriad of channels and mediums.

In addition, I better have an eye for design, understand the sales psychology responsible for producing successful 30-second product videos, and oh yeah - I also need to prove my capacity for inducing wizard-like plot changes mid-campaign.

Yes, that's right, in the age of granular analytics dashboards that display data points around every possible component of a campaign, I (as a marketing professional) must prove capable of pivoting any campaign at a moment's notice when A/B testing and real-time data reveal that there's room to further optimize the title, image, landing page, and call-to-action we launched the campaign with in the first place.

Out of the Rant, Into the Rave

So again, lest anyone try and convince you otherwise, let me tell you firsthand - marketing automation software does not do all of the work for you. Is it invaluable in doing my job every day? Absolutely. Has it increased our agency's success rate and ability to better understand what works for our clients' customers? Definitely.

But it is not a magic machine that will allow you to fire half the marketing team and "automate" their jobs. It is not a miracle maker that will drop engaging, useful, well-researched, beautiful e-books into your collateral pool. It can't come up with 68 clever tweets to promote said amazing e-book over the next month. Nor can it design accompanying graphics and animate videos to help gain visibility across LinkedIn and YouTube.

All of these things still must be done by human beings. And this is the part of marketing that is most challenging (for me, at least.) The coming up with ideas and putting pen to paper to script the video, write the e-book, record the webinar, or articulate ideas to a graphic designer.

But again, let me reiterate, in this age of hyper-productivity, marketing automation tools have made my marketing world infinitely more manageable. I can see what content is working and what ideas are total flops. I'm able to aggregate social promotion planning on one screen without being logged in to five different sites. I can pre-load and automate email workflows to follow up with leads who download the content we create. I can do a lot of things that I couldn't do before.

Apologies to Marketing Automation

So, perhaps on reflection, maybe it's not marketing automation I'm ranting on about so much as it is the state of our industry (and to be fair, this "state" appears to be inflicting a majority of industries). As much as our most forward-thinking colleagues and fellow humans hope and pray for Singularity to get here already, the fact of the (current) matter is that we are still just humans.

Human beings that require a 10-minute walk and stretch in the sun a few times throughout the day. Human beings that really ought to take more than seven rushed minutes when we sit down to take in our nourishment mid-day. Human beings with brains that were not designed to sit in front of a computer screen for eight hours a day clacking away at a keyboard in a competition of who can crank out the most creative and productive digital widgets nonstop for at least 35 of the 40 hours we spend in our computer chair every week.

So, yeah - apologies to the marketing automation software people. I shouldn't have tried to make this about you. You were obviously just trying to help by offering a way for us to maybe reclaim some of our time and some of our sanity in this increasingly out-of-touch work culture we've all somehow bought in to.

A Twist Ending

Is she?! Is it?! Is this a call for revolution?!

No. I'm not proposing a revolution. Just simply suggesting that we all might take a moment here, as a collective group, to stand up and take two or three deep breaths as we walk outside for a moment.

Stretch our arms, walk on our tiptoes, and just be outside for a minute or three. Relax our eyes away from the screen and get some good breaths in, because if we all really stopped to think about it, whether you use a marketing automation tool or not, most of us are producing at an astounding rate each and every day.

So the next time we feel overwhelmed or buried at work, maybe we can take a moment to stop and appreciate how productive and resourceful and intelligent we actually are. And then we can take it a step further to remember that we're human beings and not machines, and that even though our language and culture are speeding faster and faster, we all have the right to go at our own healthy speed and take the breaks we require and deserve as the magical human beings that we are.

Image via Shutterstock.

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Aubrey Beck

Aubrey is the director of marketing programs at Salted Stone, a digital marketing agency in Southern California. She specializes in brand strategy and inbound marketing, working with emerging tech companies and B2B providers to identify their voice and create revenue-driving content plans.

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