Don't get me wrong. I love me some marketing automation and programmatic media buying. Without them, we Marketers would be spending days doing what we can now accomplish in minutes. Automated advertising and marketing have allowed us to reach millions of people anytime, anywhere online. More to the point, they have allowed us to target real potential buyers and so avoid the "spray and pray" approaches of yesteryear that gave Marketing a bad name. The trouble is, like anything else, there are pitfalls to automated campaigns. Let's examine some of the more ominous perils.
Ask any Sales Rep worth her salt, and she will tell you that conversation, not content, is King. If we fall in love with all of the cool advertising and marketing technology that's out there, we might miss that point. Ultimately, we want to engage in conversations with our customers and potential buyers.
But what are we really doing when we send ads, or blog posts, or any other form of marketing to someone? We're interrupting them and probably annoying them. Even if the content we send is highly relevant and high quality, and even if they have subscribed to receive it, each touch point requires an action of some kind. Deleting emails, dismissing pop-up ads and even ignoring display ads takes time or at least distracts us from whatever we are doing online. Any way you slice it, this is still push marketing.
I challenge anyone to show me data that proves the assumption that most Marketers cling to—that more content distributed more frequently leads to more and better engagement. Poppycock.
I don't have any data to prove it either, but I know I get way too much interruptive stuff, so I do what I need to do to get rid of it. So do you. Unfortunately, I'm too busy to unsubscribe from everything I see or receive, and I'm too lazy to get the latest ad blocker software. Shame on me.
How are Marketers (like me) dealing with this challenge? We're using technology to get more stuff in front of you and me all day, every day. The only difference between today and yesterday is that now it's much easier for us to do the job.
The only thing worse than being targeted is being manipulated after you're hit. The mission of marketing automation is to generate a lead (that's the hit) and keep hitting until you and I become customers. Mea culpa. This is what I do for a living.
My cohorts and I assume that you want to be gently coerced into buying something. Do you? That would be an interesting poll. I'll bet you no one says "yes." We would much rather do our own research, find what we want, and buy it. Think about car sales. Does anybody like sitting in the car salesman's office for hours while he figures out how to trick you into a bigger car payment?
In today's post-hackathon world, there are real dangers to clicking on any link or ad and real perils to sharing your personal information in social media. Hackers can scan your smartphone while they stand next to you in line or even pass you on the street.
It's a wonder that anyone ever clicks on anything, but we still do, so hopefully we all get identity theft insurance. That begs the question, is digital marketing creating all kinds of opportunities for crooks? Or is it doomed to suffer a slow death as people learn how to avoid clicking on anything?
I think what we're all starting to figure out is that online relationships only work if they were real, person-to-person relationships in the first place. To pretend that adding your first name to an email or making some pithy remark about my industry will convince me to spend an hour with you in a webinar is far from building a relationship with me.
I need to give you a reason to call me, and I can only do that if I know you somehow. So, for marketers, it's a chicken-egg thing. We can only reach out to you indirectly first and hope our message resonates with you. Then, maybe over time, you start to think I might know what I'm talking about and want a dialog. If my purpose is always to sell you something, what's in it for you?
With these five perils in mind, what's the way forward for Marketers?
Is there a better way to accomplish the mission—sales—without falling into these traps? Should we abandon advertising and marketing automation?
I don't think so, but I do think we need to keep you in mind more often.
We've come a long way in our methods of reaching out to people instead of email addresses or pixels, but there's a lot more to do. We should focus more on conversation and less on "targeting" and "messaging." We should make our websites helpful and interactive for people who want what we have to offer. Same with our social profiles. Our marketing campaigns should be readily available but not "pushed" so much to an unwilling audience. They should also be helpful and human, focusing more on real stories from real people. This is what Jay Baer calls "Youtility", and I think it's the smartest direction for Marketing to follow.
I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment or two.
Photo Credit: Alan Turkus