It felt a little like high noon, when the CMOs of Aprimo and Hubspot discussed the pros and cons of marketing automation during a webinar on September 28th, 2011. This webinar (hosted by Social Media Today and moderated by Maggie Fox), was one of the few that I’ve attended in which the conversation wasn’t “flowers and rainbows.” Two different viewpoints contributed to an interesting and rich set of perspectives, even if one shies away from calling it a conversation.
After both sides gave an introduction into their philosophies, it was clear that they agreed on one thing; integration is a need to have and not a nice to have thing. Having a tool that allows you to account for your resources, technology, processes and metrics in a centralized location is a great asset. However, this is where the agreements ended.
When asked about the benefits of marketing automation, Lisa Arthur of Aprimo responded with functions such as integrating the function of marketing; from the people to the channels, marketing automation can help you better deliver a good customer experience. On the other hand, Mike Volpe of Hubspot compared marketing automation to PowerPoint- widely used, rarely for the correct reason. Mike continued this thought by stating that customers don’t want automation in their conversations and too much automation can be a bad thing.
While Mike made some very bold comments such as suggesting the abandonment of traditional marketing and that reinvention is more important than automation, I don’t completely disagree with that perspective. After all, as consultants, we see behind the GUI to understand how Enterprise Marketing Management (EMM) application suites really work. It is true that most tools still have solid direct channel capabilities but lack true conversational abilities. They focus on “push” and “sell” with engage and interact being step-children. As such, using “inbound” techniques such as optimizing your website, playing an engaging role in the social world and being active in the “blog-sphere” are all great ways to increase business.
However, Lisa Arthur made some great points as well. While social media and other marketing channels have hit critical mass, they don’t cover 100% of the population. Segmentation and target marketing is still proven and marketing automation helps to cut many costs. Behavioral and cultural changes are now being better integrated into databases and CMOs need to act more like CIOs than ever before. I’d also argue that they need to act more like CFOs as well.
While this conversation was very interesting (and both offered interesting arguments), I have to say that the real answer isn’t so “black and white.” Your best marketing techniques will depend on the customer experience you want to shape. Very rarely will a company be able to solely depend on a marketing automation tool or an inbound marketing technique. Automate what works; reinvent to find what else can add value.
The webinar was recorded and you can listen to it in its entirety here.