When you hear “Marketing automation”do those two words fill your head with visions of annoying emails sent to you over and over again by marketers desperately trying to push a product but without the slightest clue about how to target their pitches?  Phil Harrell, vice president of enterprise sales at Hubspot, gave a fascinating presentation on the secret to avoiding common marketing automation pitfalls at the last meeting of the NJ chapter of MENG (Marketing Executives Networking Group) on this topic.  Here are some highlights:

Mistake: Viewing marketing automation programs as little more than sophisticated email tools.

The Secret: Marketing automation isn’t just about smarter email. Given than 80% of people don’t read all their email, marketing automation can’t be just about email. BMW claims to offer customers the ultimate driving experience; now what if you could offer your customers the ultimate buying experience? Here’s how: rather than thinking about marketing automation in narrow context of email, expand your automation applications to better reach your customers in a personalized way, across all touch points (SEO, social media, mobile, etc.). They’ll thank you for the personalized attention with their wallets.

Mistake: Irritating customers with irrelevant messages (usually email).

 The Secret: Ever notice how “one-size-fits-all” clothing doesn’t actually fit anyone at all? Marketing is just like clothing in that must be tailored to fit each customer. Rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach, personalize and target your messages to your individual customers. Recognize that your customers are at all different points in the buying cycle and if you can tailor your content to meet your customers where they are, they’re more likely to buy from you. This type of personalization is already rampant in B2C marketing and will be come to be expected from B2B companies as well.

For great B2C examples, think of Amazon and Netflix—both of these companies offer recommendation to customers on what to get. Since these suggestions are based on the customers’ past behavior, they are perfectly targeted. For you, that might mean sending one message if customers visit one suite of pages on your website and another message if they visit another suite of pages.

Mistake: Using marketing automation in a vacuum.

 The Secret: To be effective, marketing automation must be part of a larger inbound marketing plan. Customer databases expire just like milk: you will lose an average of 25% of your list each year, due to people moving, changing their contact information, and unsubscribing from your list, etc. To keep your database from shrinking, you need to have an inbound marketing plan that incorporates excellent SEO and compelling content. Marketing automation is about building a smarter experience for your customers at all points of the funnel.

If we’re going to use marketing automation, we need to think about without our overall marketing strategy and use to it reach out to our customers in a personalized way. Marketing automation is a tool—not an end in itself. Just like hammers and other tools, if its used incorrectly, marketing automation will not be effective and may even hurt your overall marketing efforts. With this in mind, how can you use marketing automation to its fullest potential within your organization? Sound off in the comments!

Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0OTuT0Dwqk

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