Marketing Automation – why you can’t automate bad marketing

Don’t believe the marketing automation hype.

Brands and marketers are falling over themselves trying to automate their marketing, there’s a proliferation of marketing automation vendors and the marketing automation market is rapidly growing at 8.55% and is set to be worth a staggering $5.5 billion by 2019 according to a report by MarketsandMarkets. So why is it so many companies are struggling to demonstrate a substantial return on investment?

Research by LeadMD shows half of the companies reported no increase at all in qualified leads since implementing Marketing Automation, while research by Ascend2 shows only 32% of companies consider marketing automation “very successful” at achieving their important goals.

Even the Chief Marketing Officer at leading marketing automation vendor Hubspot admits things are far from rosy:

“You can’t automate shitty marketing. The option of doing bad spammy marketing doesn’t exist in the future…Slack and Facebook Messenger does not allow you to do that, we need to change our marketing model”

– Kipp Bodnar, CMO at Hubspot

So what’s going wrong?

Marketers are rushing to implement marketing automation in the hope it will solve all their problems but in reality, they need to fix other issues first before these solutions will have a positive effect.

Has marketing automation made us lazy?

In some instances, yes. Some marketers aren’t considering the customer journey and experience before embarking on these projects. This leads to poorly planned campaigns, customer confusion and messages that are unclear.

Has it caused consumers to switch off?

Consumers are now receiving more communication than ever before and research conducted by UK-based email service provider, Emailcenter found that 70% of consumers wish to stop receiving emails from a company because the messages contain no relevant content.

Marketing automation is just adding to the noise, causing consumers to switch off (sometimes consciously, sometimes subconsciously).

Marketers need, more than ever before, to create timely, personal, relevant and powerful messages that break through this noise. But how?

ALCMY’s Approach

Obsess about strategy

Any marketing campaign, project or plan should have a solid strategy. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself that will help you form the foundation of your strategy…

  • What do you want your brand to stand for?
  • How does your brand convey value?
  • How will your marketing differentiate from that of your competitors?
  • Who is your audience and what do they love?
  • Do you need different messages for different audience segments?
  • What is your ultimate aim for the campaign?
  • What does failure look like?
  • What does your ideal target audience look like?

Your strategy should clearly outline your KPIs (key performance indicators) as these will be used to measure your success and keep you honest. Examples of these include:

  • Revenue / Sales
  • Cost per acquisition
  • Brand Awareness
  • Web Traffic
  • Market share

Whichever you decide on you should also have secondary ones so you can measure your campaign on multiple levels.

“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.”

– Michael Porter, Harvard Business School Professor

Build a brand that demands attention

In order to build a brand that demands attention, you need to leave your ego at the door. It may be true that you know your company and market extremely well (and that is very valuable) but this alone will have little effect.

One aspect that’s often overlooked is what customers want. In order to find out you can ask them, conduct market research and see what your target audience has responded well too with other non-competitive brands.

“A brand is no longer what we tell consumers it is, it is what consumers tell each other it is.”

– Scott David Cook, Co-Founder of Intuit

Create messaging that resonates

Controversy, humour, wit, straight-talking, casual – what will you use to get your brand’s message across?

What do you want your brand to stand for and who your audience is are important factors in this decision. If your business is a funeral service you don’t really want to use humour – although one funeral home in America did call itself Resurrection.

As well as your tone of voice you will need to think about the overall message you want your campaign to convey, this should ideally include the value you can deliver, what you want the customer to do and why you are different.

Other ways to consider are asking a question, suggesting there’s a problem or being controversial.

Here’s one of our recent favourite ads (for a few reasons)…

“Marketing is the art of telling a story that resonates with your audience and then spreads.”

Seth Godin, Best-Selling Marketing Author and Entrepreneur

Design something memorable

This is, of course, easier said than done. The stark reality is that some of the best ideas and messages never get noticed due to bad design.

Be bold and brave with your design and design with your audience in mind. This is the best place to start and it is easier to refine from here than to start safe and try and build.

Next, consider what trends your consumers are into and take inspiration.

Finally, take an iterative approach… Test, Learn, Measure, Change and Repeat. This process will quickly allow you to choose a design that will compliment your brand and your consumers will love!

“Good design is making something intelligible and memorable. Great design is making something memorable and meaningful.”

– Dieter Rams, German Industrial Designer and Minimalist Pioneer

The “SK 2” tube radio designed by Dieter Ramms in 1955

Create a killer campaign

In order to create a kick-ass campaign, you will need to map out the customer journey an ideal experience. This is integral to understanding how consumers will engage with your campaign and allow you to spot and prevent potential pitfalls.

Once all your communication touch points have been mapped get your team to test it. Is it what they expected? Are there things you hadn’t considered? Are there opportunities to make improvements.

All of these are valid questions but the most important question is, would they actually take up your offer? Ask for honesty as the answer to this could give you foresight into how your campaign will perform.

“Marketing is a contest for people’s attention.”

– Seth Godin

Be smart with how you automate

So you have used all of the above to create a beautifully designed, well thought through, an intelligent campaign that is sure to resonate with your audience? Right? Wrong!

You can never be sure what will work and what won’t, sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised, sometimes shocked and disappointed. That’s why it is important not to plan too far into the future.

Be prepared to pivot

At certain points during your campaign you will want to be able to quickly react; there may be a breaking piece of relevant news you want to respond to, an aspect of your campaign may be resonating better than you expected or it may not be resonating at all. We recommend 60% planning and 40% flexibility.

It’s time to automate

The great thing about marketing automation is it allows you to execute your campaign without the need to constantly send emails and social media messages. The big plus to this is it allows you to concentrate on the vast amount of analytical data at your disposal. These powerful insights allow you to make quick and informed decisions that have the potential of transforming your campaign from good to great.

Certain things should NEVER be automated

There’s a tendency with automation to have an over-reliance. People often forget each person in their target audience is human and therefore wants something truly personal to them. Find people who are responding to your campaign and have a conversation with them, ask them for their opinions and ideas and then use these to make improvements and innovate.

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify inefficiency.”

– Bill Gates

Don’t have an over-reliance on digital

In a digital world sometimes offline activity can have the biggest impact.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you received a really good piece of print?

Print still offers a significant opportunity for brands, especially if your competitors aren’t utilising this channel, the key (as with all aspects of the campaign) is to make sure it is well designed and the messages are on point. Our advice is to use print to compliment your digital efforts, things to consider include VIP invitations, image heavy adverts and image-led product collateral.

“Print is not dead; its role has just shifted. Print and digital can still live and thrive side-by-side.”

– Marc Apple, Inbound Marketing Strategist

If content is king, distribution is the crown prince

Most campaigns fail not because they aren’t good, it’s because they aren’t seen.

Email is great but relies on you having an audience, social is powerful but requires you to have a substantial following and SEO is wonderful but takes a vast amount of time and resource.

So what do you do while you’re growing your audience?


We’ve all heard the adage: spend money to make money. Like all cliches, there’s an element of truth (no matter how annoying the phrase is).

The smartest way of going about this is to spend small amounts across all channels and measure their success – invest more in the channels that work and less in those that don’t, however, don’t entirely turn off any channel… you never know when you might start to reap the rewards.

“Great Content Does Not Mean It Will Find An Audience.”

– Keith Richman, President, Defy Media

For more information on the importance of digital marketing, distribution check out Adage’s article.

The future

At ALCMY we embrace the future, it’s what we were founded on and we embrace everything about it. That’s why we like to keep abreast and pass this knowledge onto our clients.

Automating Design

You can now create simple drawings quicker than ever before using Auto Draw. The Chrome Experiment by Google allows a user to doodle and then Artificial intelligence smartly detects what is intended and converts the doodle into an elegant icon.

Automating Messaging

It is now possible to get a copy and messaging created by a computer… Persado’s cognitive content platform is a smart system that combines natural language processing and machine learning technologies to machine generate the precise words, phrases and images that can inspire any given audience to act, every time.

Algorithmic Adverts

Possibly the most impressive of all the innovations featured here is AlgorithmicAds (which is now part of wordstream) – this amazing tool creates adverts based on your branding, products and audience and auto-generates 100’s of different variations. The system then monitors performance and automatically optimises them so you are guaranteed a great response.

Automating Agencies

With artificial intelligence and innovation transforming the marketing and creative industries it will only be a matter of time until we have a fully automated agency but until that day comes we’ll be here to help you.

How can ALCMY help?

Our Marketing, Creative and Technology Alchemists have a wealth of experience running large-scale campaigns that deliver amazing results.

We can run workshops and consult to get you and your team up and running, we can execute your entire campaign from start to finish or we can help you where help is needed.