Why Your Marketing Automation Platform May Not Be That Great

Posted by Josh Weissburg on Feb 19, 2015



How Much Effort Should Marketing Tools Require?

There's no question that marketing automation has changed the nature of customer engagement by making it a whole lot easier to target messaging to prospects and customers. But as this industry has grown, frustration persists. Sure you can use Marketo or Eloqua, for example, to create marketing campaignsbut is it worth the amount of time, effort and specialized skills that these platforms require?

One of the main reasons that marketing automation has become standard for big, tech-savvy companies is that it takes a lot of work to build in-house personalized messages that account for user history, preferences and device. When engineering must be involved with every test and iteration of a campaign's messaging, it can take weeks to months to launch anything, often missing the original opportunity. The road from idea to test to result is just too long, so most ideas you don't even try.

Marketing automation came along because marketers need more control and ownership of campaigns and shouldn't have to rely on engineers for every tweak and test. And engineers have better things to do with their time (i.e. build features, squash bugs) than to spend their time editing messages in code. So the thinking is: remove engineering as the middleman and release marketing and product folks to do it themselves and seize opportunities quickly.

But, speaking from personal experience, the reality is that marketing automation software has replaced the original problem of building everything in-house with two related problems: cost and tool complexity. Most of the products that can do sophisticated targeting and goal reporting based on user history and preferences cost thousands of dollars a month—and that's before setup fees! Which brings me to tool complexity: setup fees are high because complexity is high: before you send your first message, you need to map all of your data to their integration spec and get specialized consultants to assist with hooking up your data. It takes months and changes to your integration or settings often initiate their own engineering cycles.

So how do you avoid this? The way we built Outbound enables marketers to be the first users (before any technical integration happens). We want marketers to have the freedom to dream up even the most outlandish idea, then when it comes time to hook up data to that campaign, we automatically generate a to do list for the engineering team that is formatted like the common tools and tasks they are already used to. The idea is that ideas shouldn't require heavy engineering investment up front. See what works and what doesn't, before you've invested weeks in a full technical integration. It should be easy for marketers to develop triggered messages based on custom variables and customer actions, then measure the effectiveness of each message to validate its success (or tell you that it's not working).

Are Customers Really #1?

We've covered cost and tool complexity, but there's another common flaw in many marketing platforms: they're locked into one channel. Instead of starting with each customer's preferences and device, they start with the channel (email) and ask what emails need to be sent. By presuming that everyone should get email, most tools ignore the fact that the consumer landscape is changing as the number of screens per user increases. Setting strategy based on what is easy and expected (email) instead of what will fit the customer experience (multi-channel) decreases the chance of success from the start.

Outbound takes a different approach, allowing you to record user actions AND the device on which those actions happen. Then we allow you to use that data to decide which customers get different kinds of triggered messages. Marketers can craft customized messages that match the context of each customer based on their behavior and preferences. "When a person does X but not Y and we know Z is true about them, then message A is sent via channel B."

Let's look at an example: say your customer has spent considerable time on a certain page of your website and clicked on a CTA (X) to fill out a form but then stops (Y). You know from their user profile that they prefer push notifcations to email (Z).  You can now create a personalized message to that person suggesting where to go in your product to take the next step, such as a tutorial or a direct number to a sales/service person available to discuss their concerns (A). Because you know that that person prefers push notifications, you can set up a filter makes sure that this user receives this message via their preferred method (B), increasing the likelihood of a response. 

IKEA vs. Chipotle

Think of it this way: Most marketing automation platforms are like IKEAyou have a lot of mass-produced items to choose from but you're going to have to navigate 5 miles of aisles with options to find what you want, load it on the cart yourself and spend most of your afternoon putting it together. 

Outbound is more like Chipotle: It's easy, fast and the work happens behind the scenes—you just choose how you want to put the ingredients together. You don't just have to get a burrito, but you can get a bowl or salad and put only what you want on it. You end up with a one-of-a-kind piece that satisfies you without draining your wallet or your time.

Okay, the analogy isn't perfect, but you get what I mean: you don't need Marketo or Eloqua to enable marketing automation for your app.

You can get a much more user-friendly solution that offers greater customizability, more flexibility and less heavy-lifting with Outbound. That means you can create better messages faster, easier and with higher accuracy so no opportunity is missed, which translates to higher likelihood of customer satisfaction, loyalty and referals.

Take a good look at your current marketing automation tool(s). "Automation" shouldn't mean you have to put in hours of manual work to get things working the way you want. How many resources are required to launch your campaigns? How customized are your messages? Are the needs and wants of your customers really being considered? If any of these questions raise doubt, get it line. Your burrito is waiting!