Marketo demonstrates why marketing automation fails more often than not – twice in one week…

You have to admire the marketing automation industry. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Twice recently, the good people at Marketo have demonstrated why most marketing automation fails – unless it has one essential element. And that element has no binary code or computer chips.

Can you guess what it is dear reader?

That’s right folks. The most powerful element ensuring the difference between success and failure in marketing automation, is “Homo Sapiens” – not a computer.

If you don’t have humans monitoring your computers, your automation will eventually fail. A layer of human intelligence is essential to monitor, analyse and act on what the computers are doing and revealing. Those microchips cannot do it on their own, despite the marketing automation sales spiel.

Here’s how Marketo demonstrated this recently.

If you’re a Marketo customer you’ll know the problem that occurred this week. In an amazing piece of irony, a Homo Sapiens at Marketo forgot to renew the Marketo domain. So Marketo’s customers couldn’t access the Marketo server to do what they pay Marketo to do – marketing automation.

Of course the industry has had a field day joking about it. Check out #marketofail.

But an even more powerful demonstration of how essential Homo Sapiens are to marketing automation, came with an email sent to me on the 19th July, from Bill Binch, the Managing Director of Marketo. It was a follow-up to an email sent a week earlier promoting a Marketo event.

Here’s the first email I received on the 13th July. I suspect your antenna is rattling too dear reader. When you read something like “STOP MARKETING. START ENGAGING.” you know you’re in for a self-serving sales pitch. After all, we’re in the marketing industry, not the marriage game. Leave that to The Bachelor reality TV series.

Ironically (again) the copy in the invitation says your customers “can smell insincerity kilometres away” and you certainly can with this invitation, it’s pungent.

I didn’t reply to this first invitation. It came from the latest name on the “From Line” – they keep changing. Probably a “customer engagement officer”.

On the 19th July, Bill sends me a personal message, though I do suspect he sent a few thousand of them. Here it is:

I’m not sure why he’s inviting me to the Melbourne event, given I live in Sydney? But I’m very keen to meet Bill. After all he sent me a personal message stating he’d love to meet me and that’s pretty powerful stuff for a business communication. So I replied personally to his email. Here’s my response:

Thanks Bill
I live in Sydney, so Melbourne is a bit difficult for brekkie, but could do the 1st if you’re in Sydney?

The problem of course folks, is that when you use marketing automation to fake sincerity, you can get caught out. The return email address for Bill’s message is not his personal email address.

It is an auto-reponder address:

I suspect there are no Homo Sapiens employed to monitor the auto-responder address, because Bill hasn’t replied to me. And given his enthusiasm for me to attend, I’d have thought this “marketing 101” function would be a sure thing at Marketo.

But then again, they seem to be more interested in getting engaged than marketing fundamentals.

I hope to get a reply, as I’ve decided I’d like to attend. And am keen to meet Bill, as I’m sure he’s a very capable MD. Better still, I’d love to work at Marketo, as I know I have something to offer. Even if it is just monitoring the automated marketing – because it seems that even when Marketo’s domain is working, the marketing automation is failing…


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  1. G’day from behind The Great Firewall of China Mal. (Being a Luddite, I have just worked out how to get around it… 8 days into a 10 day visit…).

    Now, where was I?

    I LURV marketing automation – because every other environment in which I have worked, grinds to a halt due to a limitation somewhere in the (human) system.

    BUT you are absolutely correct. Marketing automation still requires management. If you like, someone “fiddling at the edges”.

    UNFORTUNATELY the “fiddlers” have been made redundant because their knowledge threatens their younger bosses.

    Believe me – I have been there and the system I set up in 2003 was lost and the new owners are trying to recreate it 14 years later…

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