Marketing Automation: A Lesson in Irony

The advent of marketing automation has created an ironic business dilemma. On one hand, the most appealing thing about automated marketing technology is its automatic functionality. By definition, these technologies should require minimal human intervention. On the other hand, it seems as if the complex nature of this technology demands a hands-on approach to installation, followed by additional expert assistance. 

The premise is simple – leverage insanely intelligent software as a service (SaaS) technology to automate mundane or routine tacks. Invest in these platforms to enable real-time segmentation, personalization, and dynamic messaging. Enjoy these advanced and complex offerings and watch your team become more efficient, do more with less people and enjoy more strategic roles. However, the reality is another story.

Most of today’s marketing automation technologies are powerful and completely capable of fulfilling their promises to take your programs to the next level. But this only happens after they are installed, up, and running. More often than not, getting these systems in place requires a fairly large investment of incremental people. Also once it’s live, your automated technology will still require additional support in order to get the most out of its advanced abilities. At the end of the day, you don’t see headcount savings; you see incremental spending and budgets shifting.

David Daniels and his team at The Relevancy Group recently conducted a study – The Relevancy Ring: Email Agency Buyer’s Guide – 2015 – analyzing a number of companies that support brands lacking in the staff or expertise to create and run strategies around their email marketing technologies. While I think it’s fantastic that these companies offer such a valuable service, I also recognize the irony of this situation. In order to effectively streamline everything, as well as simplify and improve marketing efforts, you have to hire companies to assist with running the technology you invested in. 

This basic understanding of the “rules of the road” allows us to assess the future from a clear point of view. Here are three key takeaways:

1. The Role of the Marketing Executive is Evolving

Today, quality marketers are also coordination gurus. Strong marketers must have the ability to effectively manage multiple extensions of their own team in order to drive the most powerful results.

2. Support Services Are Really Strategic Services

Gone are the days of the support services for the sake of answering the occasional question. Today’s support services are strategic. They literally have the power to make or break your results. To ensure you get the most out of the team, choose them wisely, get them on board, and refer them to the most reliable and experienced members of your team. 

3. Keep Your Eyes Open

Know that bringing on a new technology means you will also have added support expenses. You will also need to put forth the necessary time and energy to set up the system and train those who must use it. You need to keep everyone laser focused on the deliverable. Don’t cut corners. Don’t try to do it yourself. Most importantly, do not allow your chief financial officer to cut the allocated dollars. In the end, the investment will be well worth it.

As our world continues to change, we must continue to accept every new nuance as an opportunity to redefine who we are as brands, marketers, and all around smart managers.

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