An automated marketing EPIC FAIL…

Yesterday I received an email with the spurious subject line: Customers Have Changed – Has Your Marketing? (Why all the CAPS, I have no idea?)

I didn’t realised I’d changed, so just had to learn why – so I suppose the subject line did its job.

I was greeted by the following:  “Today’s customers are more informed, more value oriented, more connected via many channels and expect higher quality service and interaction. Meaning that companies must create personalised, relevant and engaging, multi-channel experiences to reach buyers wherever they are….. The new IDC workbook Graduating from Email to Engagement, provides guidance on how to move the needle with engagement marketing.”

This is such a crock on so many levels, I had to get the workbook to read the insights on how we’ve changed and how to move my needle. WTF?

But unfortunately I couldn’t, despite Marketo being one of the most respected suppliers of automated marketing software on the planet.

Step 1 – I completed the form using the same email address that received the original message.

I completed the form with the same email address they used to contact me
I completed the form with the same email address they used to contact me

Step 2 – The computer page recognised me and welcomed me back. I clicked on the download button. But the computer told me to enter a valid email address. Yet the email address I entered is the one I have in my account. It is the one used to send me the email for the report and the one I have been using for about 18 years.

Within the email message there are 4 links to click to enter your details to get the workbook. I tried all four links and entered my details in each of them, but with the same result – rejection for an invalid email address. So then I entered my bride’s business email address – it was rejected as well.

We do not accept your business email address
We do not accept your business email address

Step 3 – I registered again on the site to see what would happen. They sent me this – a link to an entirely different report.

You cannot download the report you want, but how about this one?
You cannot download the report you want, but how about this one?

This is what happens when humans are left out of the business process. I’ll bet nobody is tracking those whom the computer rejects. I’ve heard nothing so far.

Given I’ve yet to read how customers have changed, it’s hard to comment on the “content” – let alone on how to “move my needle on engagement marketing”.

I’m fascinated to know how they would have created a “personalised, relevant and engaging, multi-channel experience to reach me wherever I was” for me yesterday. How would they have helped me when I raced into the supermarket after taking the kids to the movies, just prior to my free parking ticket running out? All I wanted was a BBQ chook, some milk and biscuits. It took me less than 5 minutes with kids in tow to walk in, grab said items and DIY check-out (well the kids did that as I don’t get it).

So I can’t wait to read how I’ve changed and how the new Amazo Marketing with EXTRA Wonderfulness, will enhance my multi-channel customer experience. I got so excited I almost choked on the chook leg in anticipation.

But now we come to the real issue in the email. The illiteracy of the message. This is what happens when the wrong people write the copy. And it seems illiteracy is one of the trends you can guarantee with today’s “content marketers”.

So I asked John Hancock to assess it, as I didn’t know what it meant. Hancock is the best in the business of copywriting –

The copy, though only a couple of sentences, is a hotch-potch of past tense passive verbs, irrelevant buzzwords and incorrect grammar. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level indicates you’d almost need a PhD to comprehend it easily.

You can read Hancock’s assessment and rewrite here – Marketo rewrite. He demonstrates how the copy should have been written to be easily understood by the reader.

And as for the following paragraph where suggestions are made about moving the needle, Hancock says: “Moving the needle has been my goal in life since I got my first car. Although, to be completely honest about it, hot-rodders and bikies really want to “bury the needle” — in the red zone of the tachometer or in the dust at the bottom of the speedometer.  This is, of course, a totally analogue metaphor. Analogue instruments have dial faces with needle pointers. Digital instruments just have numbers. I’m sure it’s a “dashboard” image — referring to the phony analogue dials on digital dashboards.”

And then there is the headline of the workbook, as displayed on the screen image – How To Engage With Today’s New Buyer. Is it a book about teenagers with credit cards and pocket money? After all, they are the only ones who are new to buying?

Like I said, a crock on sooo many levels. As my kids would say in today’s vernacular, “an epic fail” as far as my “engagement” was concerned. Let’s hope their social media tracking is working and a human gets in touch with me so I can download the workbook.

I also hope they realise the reality of modern marketing – customers haven’t changed. Only technology has changed. Customers want things to be easy to use. They want simple language that is easy to understand. And they definitely don’t want to spend their waking moments wondering how they can have multi-channel engagement experiences with brands.


  1. Hi Malcolm,

    Thank you very much for your feedback.

    We looked into the issue and it was caused by a bug on our landing page.
    It recognised you as a repeat visitor, but incorrectly asked for and tried to validate your email address.

    We sincerely apologise for the frustrating experience you had.
    We have the Workbook for you and will give you a call.

    Best wishes, Melanie

  2. Hi Malcolm,

    I’m the VP Marketing here at Marketo. I sincerely appreciate your feedback on both the download experience (should be fixed now) as well as the copy of the email. We strive to write great copy, but as you know, you can’t automate that part and we don’t always succeed. 🙂 But we’ll always work on getting better.


  3. 5 million children under the age of 13 do engage and participate in social media.
    The average length of each book is, say, 200 pages. Advantages of email surveys are the higher response rate from recipients and the ability to track user behavior
    with them. Share information that benefits your customers even if it doesn’t directly
    help your bottom line. If you want to type in their name each time that
    is helpful, but takes a bit more time. Companies often encourage users to like them through
    contests or giveaways to appear as though tens of thousands of
    people actually like their product. In the Age
    of Information, when instant gratification is the trend and more people surf the web than watch TV, the
    best way to send and receive information on the internet is
    through video sharing. Make sure that your approach with link building is ethical.
    While some of these phonies are just faking it for kicks, it is not uncommon for
    an account manager to place a major international order that
    never comes through because they wired the cash to an entity that doesn’t exist.
    I have tweeted three hundred word articles, sentence by sentence, but there is more to it than that.

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