The limitations of marketing automation

and the need for a marketer's human touch.

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So you’ve heard all about marketing automation and what it can do to help marketers achieve more. There are however limitations to the technology, because artificial intelligence can’t yet replace human discretion. In this article, we’ll look at what marketers have to do to complete the puzzle.

In general, marketing automation makes customisation possible, reduces repetitive tasks, and provides amplification at the middle of marketing funnels. It allows you to:


Here’s a helpful way to think about marketing automation; just think about it as a fishing line.


You will be able to catch more fish with fishing lines, because you can cast many lines out at the same time. But, you’ll still have to monitor the lines, decide where to cast the lines, and ultimately reel in the fish manually. Also, no matter how good the fishing line is, it’ll still need bait to get the fish on line. So, do be sure to provide things of value to the contact, be it relevant promotions, or high-quality information.

While marketing automation provides a lot of benefits, it is important to have realistic expectations. Expounding a little, here are some of the typical limitations

  • Marketing automation isn’t a once-and-done solution. It requires maintenance and timely revisions to help the brand seem well-attuned to the larger context and make better use of opportunities. For an example, confirmation email templates can be updated to promote ongoing campaigns.

  • On a more mundane level, marketers need to periodically prune the contacts list for invalid contacts and bounced email addresses. This is especially true for B2B brands, as their business customers will have existing employees leave and new hires incoming.

  • Users rarely take full advantage of the technology they have invested in.

  • Marketing automation can only provide you with the raw data, and perhaps a superficial sketch of the bigger picture. For an understanding of the context, deep analysis of the data, and decision making, it still requires the marketing expertise of your good ol’ marketer. (Hello there!)


Further considerations

  • Depending on the call to action for the campaign, effective campaigns can often result in happy problems for the marketer. Such as not having enough manpower to cope with the response that the campaign has provoked.

  • Being able to reach a vast number of people can be a double-edged sword; without finesse and proper handling, you can wind up hurting your business instead. The worst thing you can do is blindly blast the entire contact list with generic emails, without making them personal and timely. Doing so will annoy the contacts and cause them to drop off permanently.

  • One customer’s spam can easily be another customer’s most useful email of the day. The difference is relevancy. So do make it a point to reach out to the right contacts at the right time, in the right manner.


Still worth it, because…?

  • Allows the marketer to develop a better understanding of their customer, especially in B2B Marketing. In terms of wants, interests, and how the messages are delivered.

  • Because marketing automation tools often require a functioning contact database to be effective, it can result in side benefits for the sales and customer service departments. Since they require customer information too, there’s always an opportunity to share the workload updating the customer data, and encourage more collaboration across departments.


Additional value-adds for marketers who work with agencies:

  • Having marketing automation usually means shared monitoring tools and dashboards. This allows for full transparency on the effectiveness of digital campaigns.

  • Agencies generally focus on a specific area of marketing, allowing them to have deeper understanding of a smaller selection of tools. They will be able to make better use of the more niche capabilities of your marketing automation tools.

  • Due to the rise of data science, digital marketing agencies often have an analytics team that can apply statistical analysis for a better understanding of the customer data harvested with your marketing automation tools.


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