Marketing Automation… Who’s Driving Whom?

So… the big technology players have moved in and started gobbling up Marketing Automation vendors like sweets.

Salesforce snapped up ExactTarget. Oracle bought Eloqua, and IBM snaffled Unica to name a few. Meanwhile, Adobe are promoting the life out of their marketing cloud.

Does it mean anything? And how should a marketer respond?

Let’s take a look.

Change is inevitable.

If Marketing Automation hasn’t affected your job yet, it almost certainly will. I won’t list or try to interpret all the huge tech deals (this article at ChiefMartec does that really well) but you know when a company as smart as Oracle spends $876 million, something strategic is afoot.

Make no mistake: Automation is big business, and getting bigger. And as the companies seek to leverage their new acquisitions, the options and functionalities available to the CMO will become even more diverse… but automation alone is not really the answer.

Stay agile.

Disruption in the digital market is everywhere… but as a marketer, you don’t have the luxury of waiting for the dust to settle. You have a job to do now. How should you choose?

Like death and taxes, one thing is guaranteed: there are more changes coming − so making a long−term commitment to a rigid system could put you at a disadvantage. Stay light on your feet, and cherry−pick the best offerings in a way that will let you pivot when you need to.

But more than that, realise that whatever your Marketing Automation arrangements, it is only a tool.

So look at your individual goals and target audience. Analyse your marketing behaviours, the way you want to manage data, and how you’re going to align with sales. There’s no right or wrong answer, just the best tool for your particular job.

Marketing is still marketing.

70% of respondents in a recent Accenture survey said they expect the marketing function to change fundamentally in the next five years.

Rubbish.

Marketing is, and always will be, fundamentally about connecting an audience of human beings with relevant, compelling information. Automation is a brilliantly effective piece of kit for empowering and scaling that job, but it can’t replace it. So, yes, the tools are changing − but the fundamental function isn’t.

After all, if you take crap, and scale it, you just get a lot more crap. So invest time and effort in getting the messages right.

Be human first.

Marketing technology is changing at an unbelievable pace − possibly faster than most marketers can reasonably cope with − and because of that, our conversations end up being dominated by systems and complexities.

The danger is, almost without realising it, you can start to change your marketing behaviour to feed the machine.

Start from basic principles. Finding and engaging your audience. Honing messages and building relationships. Educating and persuading. Mixing channels and media to give the best experience. Now take those thoughts, and use them to inform your automation choices.

Drive the technology. Don’t let it drive you.