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If Marketing Automation Could Talk: An Interview

by Carlos Hidalgo  |  
March 23, 2011

Of the many aspects of my job, one that I enjoy most is the various conversations I have daily about the emergence of B2B marketing, marketing best practices, and the new B2B buyer. These discussions, in which ideas are exchanged, are a highlight for me. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Marketing Automation to have a discussion about its role in B2B marketing. Here is the transcript of our discussion.

CH: Thanks for the time to get together today. I know you’re busy.

Marketing Automation: Glad I could do it. I always enjoy talking about the impact I am making in B2B companies.

CH: You are indeed making an impact! However, there still seems to be quite a bit of confusion regarding who you are, what you are, how you should be defined, and what companies can expect from you. In your own words, who is Marketing Automation?

Marketing Automation: I get that question a lot, and I am well aware of how many have misrepresented me. I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight. I would define myself as follows: I am an enabling technology that will power both demand generation and lead management processes. I allow for consistent and repeatable communications to your buyers, tracking of their behavior, lead qualification, data segmentation, metrics, and other features.

CH: So, if I heard you correctly, you do NOT provide management process, correct? I ask this because many vendors and industry pundits have labeled you as Lead Management Automation.

Marketing Automation: You absolutely heard me correctly! I am not lead management. Yes, lead management and I are related, but we’re distinct. Lead management is a process that I can help enable. If a lead management process is established, then I automate it. But if a company does not have a lead management process, even though I am indeed robust, I can’t bring it about. I can only automate what is already there. Truth be told, in many instances I automate chaos because that’s what’s there.  The companies who implement me with no forethought on how to best utilize me? ... Now, those are rather unfortunate cases.

CH: It must be hard to be put into a situation where you are expected to live up to a lot of hype, but because of someone else’s unpreparedness, you just can’t. Besides process, what else would you want to ensure is in place so you can perform to your fullest?

Marketing Automation: Besides being a well-defined process, I would also want to ensure that there are the right people who understand me for what I am---technology. There’s a lot of pressure when you’re brought into an organization where everyone has been told you’re the savior. People who understand best practices, customer engagement, and who get sales involved early usually get the most out of me.  When I have the right people to work with, the returns are staggering.

CH: Anything else?

Marketing Automation: Timely, relevant content. With content, it’s “a garbage in, garbage out” scenario. I can only send what’s put into me. If it’s bad content, then it won’t engage the buyer. Conversely, nothing is more satisfying then when I send relevant content that aligns to the buyer persona, their buying cycle, and results in 1-1 engagement. I wish more companies would invest in this area. If they did, I’d have a much greater impact.

CH: Let’s shift gears a little bit. There have been many vendors promoting you with messages of “ease of installation” and “easy to use.” Is this a characterization that you embrace?

Marketing Automation: Are you asking me if I’m “easy”?  Just kidding (laughs). You know, I don’t want to sound arrogant or anything, but there is a whole lot I can do. When companies reduce me to terms like “easy” or give me away like I am “plug and play,” it’s as if they don’t understand the power I can have. If you simply want me to fire off emails, well, I guess that’s OK. I can do that in my sleep. However, when it comes to database segmentation, database integrations, complex scoring, multi-stream nurture campaigns, and delivering dynamic content, just to name a few, I don’t think you can equate it to Geico …with all due respect to cavemen everywhere.

CH: So are you saying that you’re hard to work with?

Marketing Automation: No, not at all. What I’m saying is that getting the most from me often requires change. And change is rarely easy. Change needs to occur in the way they approach sales and marketing. They need to adopt a process-based approach, and they need to figure out the best ways to engage their buyer. These changes are not just static. They’re dynamic. The new processes need to be continually monitored, so I can, in turn, perform to the best of my abilities. Changes like these are not overnight fixes. They take hard work and effort to achieve. But when they are completed, they make the difference between a best-in-class company and one that struggles.

CH: One last question before I let you go. It’s forecasted that this could really be your breakout year---but they said the same about 2010. Is this indeed the year for you to hit the mainstream or do we need to wait longer?

Marketing Automation: Ahhh, if I only had a crystal ball. In all honesty, I think the next two years are crucial for me. I don’t think organizations will get away with swapping me in and out every 1-2 years just because they don’t like the results. I think if I am going to really hit my stride, it’s incumbent on the vendors to deliver a realistic message about what I can truly do as an enabler. Likewise, B2B marketers also need to be realistic and understand what it will take to be successful. If these things converge, and companies can truly change like I just mentioned, then I truly believe the sky’s the limit for me.

CH: Thanks so much for the time. This has been great!

Marketing Automation: I am more than happy to do it, and I appreciate the opportunity.

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Carlos is founder and CEO of VisumCx, a Customer Experience Strategy Firm. He has over 20 years of experience working with B2B organizations in delivering multi-channel customer experiences. Carlos is widely recognized for his expertise and as an international speaker on how organizations need to transform to meet the needs of their customers and buyers. He is the author of Driving Demand, has been named one of the 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management for the last six years, and is recognized by Onalytica as the Most Influential Person in B2B North America in 2015.

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  • by Honey Patel Wed Mar 23, 2011 via blog

    Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing. There is a lot of learn about Marketing Automation as it can be a very successful tool or a failure. The most important things I take away from this is Marketing Automation it powers demand generation and lead management process.

  • by Marino Fadda Wed Mar 23, 2011 via blog


    The distinction between process and technology is very important. Many companies believe that marketing automation is also lead management process. So marketing automation isn't used efficiently.

    The report "CMO Perspective on B2B Marketing Automation" writes:
    "Marketing automation process are commonly established prior to, or during the implementation of an automation software solution, and the software acts as a support system for the execution and measurement of these process".

  • by Jeff Barnes Thu Mar 24, 2011 via blog


    Excellent post - hit many nails on the head, and amusing to!


  • by Bill Thu Mar 24, 2011 via blog

    Very funny...and accurate. Would love to see a Charlie Sheen darker side as well about resources and data/list management. Nice Job.

  • by Louise Borglund Thu Apr 14, 2011 via blog


    This is one of the best blog posts I ever have read, and a great description of marketing automation and the challanges that comes with it. Entertaining and educating at the same time. Great job. I will definitely hit the LIKE button! ;)

    Best regards
    Louise Borglund

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