Skip to main content

How Marketing Automation Fails When It Feels Like Automation

By February 16, 2016October 29th, 2017Podcast, Ralph and Carol Lynn
How Marketing Automation Fails When It Feels Like Automation

How Many F-Words Does It Take To Get To The Center Of A Bad Customer Experience?

We were going to talk about the challenges of naming our new software tool but about half an hour before we were set to record, an interesting thing happened and it incited a bit of a rant. But it’s a rant with a purpose and a good lesson on the dangers of marketing automation.

Grab a cup of your favorite Simpson & Vail tea (we’re loving the Valentine’s Day blend) and get ready.

Rick Carlson Sends An Email

Somehow Ralph got onto an email list for a product called SharpSpring. He didn’t sign up but for whatever reason they’ve been hammering him with marketing email after marketing email, signed from the founder Rick Carlson.

A few days ago Ralph got yet another email that began with an apology – the variety that basically says, “Hey, sorry for bombarding you with emails but here’s another one anyway.”

Ralph finally decided to see what the heck this software was about so he went to the website and 18 minutes later he got another email – with another apology, this time for being “creepy” – letting him know that they knew he’d been to the website, along with a screen shot of his activity.

Yes, it sounds creepy but hey, we know we’re being stalked online, by everyone from Facebook to Google to “random business down the block.” As marketers we like the idea of being able to de-anonymize our website visitors and put a name to the people who may be interested in our services. So we’re not opposed to what the software does.

What we’re opposed to is the way Rick Carlson has chosen to solicit us with it.

Rick Carlson Declines Our Invitation To Market His Own Product

After that last stalker email, Ralph decided to personally reach out to Rick Carlson and invite him onto our podcast to talk about his product. Rick declined, in a rather perfunctory way, followed by eight more paragraphs of pitching his product.

It was that email that finally sparked the conversation we had today.

For starters, we’re not bothered that he declined the invitation. We’ve been turned down before! But we were bothered by the fact that he did it with nary a “but hey, thanks for the offer.” And we were bothered by the continued solicitations that seemed completely oblivious to the fact that we are, in fact, actual humans with whom one might want to have an actual conversation if one wishes to sell their product.

But Rick was too busy with his automated software doing automated things and showed no interest in the humans at the other end. As a result, we have no interest in him or his product and perhaps more importantly, we are interested in telling everyone what a crummy experience we had with him and his company.

Automation Doesn’t Give Someone Permission To Be A Robot

Rick Carlson didn’t actually send any of those emails except one. The only one he sent was the one declining the podcast invitation. The rest were just automated. And that’s ok, but the minute Ralph tried to engage beyond automation, he was met with… more automation.

The net result for Rick Carlson-bot is that he will never make a sale to us. Not only that but we have close relationships with other agencies that we influence, none of which are likely to buy from Rick Carlson-bot.

Perhaps worst of all, Rick Carlson-bot is trying to sell a product in a pretty crowded niche that’s dominated by some big players like Infusionsoft who do know how to do automation – both from the software side and the human side.

A Better Automation Experience

We were solicited in the past by Infusionsoft, another marketing automation software. The difference was that when the folks over at Infusionsoft engaged with us, they spent some time getting to know us. They asked to speak with us so they could learn more about our business. They spent time making it about us – not about the solicitation.

In the end we didn’t sign up for Infusionsoft but what we did do was refer a colleague who signed up. Then we referred our business partner who signed up. And we’d gladly refer anyone who’s looking for that type of software.

Ultimately it’s only partly about the software. In larger part it’s about the experience. Anyone can build decent software. Not everyone can treat their customers as human beings that matter.

The Apology Trend

Have you seen this in your inbox lately? There seems to be some new internet marketing “Do This One Thing If You Want Success” course circulating because everyone is suddenly sooooo sorry to bother me and sooooo sorry to send me (yet another) marketing email.

It’s a disingenuous apology, a gimmick, a hollow marketing ploy. Gimmicks plus automation plus lack of human interaction plus aggressiveness equals failed marketing.

Are you doing mea culpas or doing marketing? How about not being sorry. How about doing better marketing that you don’t need to apologize for, even in a fake, gimmicky way.

Your Seriously Social Moment

Ian Anderson Gray is back today to ask: How do you choose the best tools for your business? Last he checked (and if you know Ian, you know he DOES check), he found over 800 (800!) tools for marketing, social and SEO. There are so many it seems impossible to choose! In a prior Moment, Ian suggested that you start by making a list of tasks you need help with. He says there are 5 common things that people want help with when it comes to tools.

  1. A tool to help build and grow your audience.
  2. A tool to help you schedule content easily.
  3. A tool to help you measure and engage with your fan base.
  4. A tool to help you monitor conversations.
  5. A tool to help you communicate with your team and work together.

Ian says that before you invest in a new shiny tool, do your research because it’s the only way you’ll know how well something performs the tasks you need done. And if you need help, he’s pretty much THE tool guy and you can get in touch and schedule some consulting time with him for help.

Even More Lame Automated Marketing

I got my own dumb marketing email just before we started recording this, from someone whose list I didn’t sign up for either. (Just wondering if anyone is still doing permission based marketing these days, huh people??)

Two things struck me as stupid right in the first sentence. The first thing is that the sender said he “noticed that Rahvalor sends out marketing emails regularly.”

Strangely enough, “Rahvalor” hasn’t sent out a marketing email in years. And if you’re wondering “What the heck is Rahvalor?” then that just proves my point. Rahvalor is our company name. It’s how we incorporated in 1999 and who the checks get written to. But for years we’ve done business as Web.Search.Social and almost never mention Rahvalor.

Let’s assume that somehow this random person soliciting me made the connection between Rahvalor and Web.Search.Social. The hilarious thing about that, is just that morning, Ralph and I had a fight… I mean a discussion because we never fight… about the fact that we haven’t, in fact, sent out a marketing email in a long time to our Web.Search.Social list.

The fight… er, conversation… went something like this:

Ralph: Did you send out that marketing email to our list?

Me: No, I was busy.

Ralph: ROAR!

Or at least that’s how I interpreted it and since I’m writing the show notes, I get to tell the story. The amusing part is how five minutes later I got an email from someone telling me how often I send out marketing emails.

That, of course, was followed by the trite apology… “sorry to bug you but…”

How about this: Don’t be sorry for bugging me, just don’t bug me.

You Can Do Automation If You Remember You’re Still Selling To People

Automation can be an incredible tool. It can save you a ton of time, it can help you stay top-of-mind with minimal effort, it can keep people moving through your sales funnel while you run your business and manage your clients.

It can help you effectively find, vet and target people who may be ideal customers.

But it can’t magically replace you. It can’t engage people on a human level. To win customers, to get people to become your fans and advocates, you will always need to be a person.

Oh, and stop being so darn sorry. Don’t be sorry for marketing. Be confident and proud of your marketing. And if you’re doing something you think you need to apologize for, then stop doing it!

Links & Resources

Join the discussion 370 Comments

  • Preach it, sister! Great rundown of the many ways in which automation fails, Carol-Lynn. If you’re going to leave out the human connection, what’s the point?

  • Here’s how an email I received this morning begins …

    “Hi Melanie,
    You have possibly noticed my free online masterclass invites in your
    inbox already – and have noticed my email frequency has increased lately

    Yeah, Ms. Marketing Maven, I noticed. How could I help but not notice?! You’ve been pitching your thing in such an annoying manner, I wouldn’t take you up on your offer if you PAID ME to attend!!

    Automation has its upsides and downsides. Unfortunately, it seems I’m most often on the receiving end of the downside. 🙁

    • I still say that if you have to apologize for your marketing – or comment on it or feel guilty about it or say something like “you may have noticed my frequency…” – that’s probably a good sign that you should stop whatever you’re doing. Why is everyone suddenly so meta about their marketing? Stop telling us you’re doing it, just do it! With integrity. And then it won’t feel like “MARKETING.”

  • LOL, “we scream at the people we love”

  • Interestingly, I have received nothing but very personal attention from a real live human being (named Max) at SharpSpring. I’m quite pleased with my entire experience. They’ve been nothing but professional and I haven’t gotten any weird, spammy, or apologetic emails either automated or otherwise. I wonder why such a difference for you guys?

    • To be honest, I’ve had a pretty good experience using them too. I never ended up in their marketing system though! All I can say is that their technical support was good, friendlly and they were always pretty prompt and getting back to me.

    • Good question! I suspect it boils down to the one thing that always matters in the end – people. Sounds like Max got the memo on human interaction but maybe Rick got too caught up in the automation. In the end, you’ll remember the positive and we’ll remember the negative. It reminds us of how important it is to be on top of our game all the time. And a good example of both sides of automation!

  • Really sorry to leave this comment, but I thought you’d like to know about my latest super duper amazing new product. It’s going to solve all your problems and all you need to do is to listen to us. We’re so proud of our new product that we just know you’re going to love it, so contact me now and we’ll give you a demo. Not with real people, no. We’re far to busy automating replies to other customers. We’ll use real live robots to conduct your demo so that you too can have that beautiful automated feeling.
    And because it’s you (remember, we know where you live) we’re going to offer you a huge discount. Normally we charge $1 billion dollars for our super duper amazing thingy, but to you, we’re offering it to you for just $679, just because we’re just so great.
    Remember get in touch, otherwise we’ll send you more stuff.

  • …OK, I’ll be more serious now. Your discussion made me think of a couple of experiences with sales emails and calls. The first company is UKFast and the second, Lead Forensics.
    I’m very happy with our hosting company, but I received a call from UKFast, a hosting company based in Manchester in the UK. When they phoned up I told them I was perfectly happy with our current host, and they said they totally understood. They wanted to know more about me and my business and just wanted to be there in my mind if my situation changed. I received a few phone calls a year from them, and none of them were pushy. I was really impressed. While I’m still happy with my current host, if my situation does change I’ll be contacted them.
    The second company I wanted to mention was Lead Forensics. They provide data on anonymous people who visit your website. I received multiple sales calls from them. I told them that it wasn’t the kind of tool that would fit my business, but that I’d be interested to know more about their tool because that’s what my blog is all about. They said I could their code on my blog, so I did. But they didn’t give me a free trial, they gave me a demo where all I could see were static screenshots on their screen. They then went for the hard sell. I can’t remember how much it cost, but it was $$$s per month- and it wasn’t something I was interested in. Since then, I’ve had phone calls, emails and even people filling my contact form saying how amazing Lead Forensics are.
    They could be the most amazing tool since sliced bread, but I am totally put off them.

    • I really don’t like being stalked by vendors. The harder they push, the less likely I am to do business with them and the more likely to tell everyone I know not to do business with them. The other thing I can’t help but wonder, is doesn’t anyone do actual permission-based marketing anymore? Aren’t there laws about spam and soliciting people, or is that soooo 2015? How is it that we get bombarded by these emails when we never asked to be contacted, let alone contacted over and over? I’ve also noticed they rarely allow you to unsubscribe. I’ve gotten very liberal with the “report spam” button on this nonsense. Not sure if that matters, but at a minimum I’ll send them directly to the trash bin where I never have to see them again.

  • SharpSpring’s email marketing tactics are WAY TOO CREEPY for me. Ralph is right … “aggressive and shitty”. I’ll add “ignorant”. Their email messages are selfish and self-centered. Sounds like they don’t have a clue what human interaction or customer service means. Nor do they care. They’re totally focused on sales, not on building relationships.

    Human kindness works for me … not hammering.

  • Howard Vivian says:

    My name is Vivian and I base in USA…“My life is back!!! After 1 years of Broken marriage, my husband left me with two kids . I felt like my life was about to end i almost committed suicide, i was emotionally down for a very long time. Thanks to a spell caster called High Priest ADE which i met online. On one faithful day, as I was browsing through the internet,I came across allot of testimonies about this particular spell caster. Some people testified that he brought their Ex lover back, some testified that he restores womb,cure cancer,and other sickness, some testified that he can cast a spell to stop divorce and so on. i also come across one particular testimony,it was about a woman called Sonia,she testified about how he brought back her Ex lover in less than 7 days, and at the end of her testimony she dropped High Priest ADE’s e-mail address. After reading all these,I decided to give it a try. I contacted him via email and explained my problem to him. In just 3 days, my husband came back to me. We solved our issues, and we are even happier than before. High Priest ADE is really a gifted man and i will not stop publishing him because he is a wonderful man… If you have a problem and you are looking for a real and genuine spell caster to solve all your problems for you. Try High Priest ADE anytime, he might be the answer to your problems. Here’s his contact:{[email protected]}. or call his mobile number +2347057375409 or whatsapp him on this number +2348148487280….