Marketing automation

Marketing coffee break: Marketing Automation makes investment in people profitable

This is our first interview in a new series on best practices in marketing technology. today we talk to James (Jamie) Morgan, vice president of global sales for SharpSpring, one of our technology partners.

Most companies, we have found, that invest in new tech for marketing and sales somehow think they can skimp on professional personnel but that has been a poor model for success. The marketing automation industry is growing rapidly, one of the fastest growing industries in the world, but the tools are complex. Very few customers of the industry are making effective use of the tools and customer turnover is as high as 50 percent annually. as a result, many industry members are scrambling constantly for new customers. SharpSpring, however, ties it's business directly to marketing and communications professionals and has an admirable 2 percent turnover rate. One of the lowest in the marketing automation industry.

Our discussion with Jamie shows why it is so low and why investing in competent professionals is key to success.

Video: People are still key to Marketing Automation

Marketing automation tools are foundational to improving your digital marketing ROI, but they are not a magic talisman to sales. You still need expertise and experience to get the results you need.

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Echo Chamber Marketing

While you may have many happy customers, you can rest assured that every unhappy potential customer and past customer is going to your competitors and telling them how awful you are. You just don’t know it.


No matter how many tech companies we talk to we are constantly amazed at how many believe the exact same thing about two issues.

  1. Customer satisfaction

  2. Technical superiority

In issue one they believe that their customers are, collectively, more happy with their service and technology than with their competitors’; that their competitors are widely hated by their own customer base; and that their competitors, even those that no longer exist and all that are going to be are incompetent boobs.

In issue two they believe that customers see their contribution as the “secret sauce” behind the customers’ end products (e.g. “Our chip makes their mobile phone the fastest/lowest power/most versatile mobile phone ever). But that contribution is considered to be a “competitive advantage” by their customers and, therefore, the customers do not want to be identified or quoted.

Reality, however, is not as clear cut.

Reality check #1: There are incompetent people in every company and they annoy customers, some to the point that a customer will drop a product or service simply because they are annoying. But if the product or service provided gives them what they want at the price they are willing to pay, they will put up with the annoyance and incompetence. Any company that demonstrates incompetence, bad products and poor customer service will cease to exist. So if your competitor is still in business then they are doing something right.

While you may have many happy customers, you can rest assured that every unhappy potential customer and past customer is going to your competitors and telling them how awful you are. You just don’t know it.

Reality check #2: Every company we talked to in the past 20 years has told us, “off the record”, that they are providing products and services to a very large customer, or selling products and services to a vendor who is selling products to a very large customer. But at the same time, they say they are not allowed to publicly mention that customer or vendor because they are considered a “competitive advantage.” Every. Single. One.

We have found that smaller customers are generally more willing to give endorsements because it gives them attention in the marketplace, but we have also found that the companies we talk to prefer to talk only about the customers that they cannot publicly talk about.

So in both cases, their claims of customer satisfaction and technical superiority are unprovable.

This is what we call echo chamber marketing.

In their defense it is the only option they have because they really don’t know what the market is saying about them, or even if the glowing reports they get from their customers is anything more than polite conversation and a means to get a price cut for the next round. We have also noted that most of these companies have significant outstanding invoices on the books that have yet to be paid by their “happy” customers and when they threaten to withhold service or delivery the customer immediately calls a competitor. So how “happy” are they, really.

It does not have to be this way.

There are several tools and services that can get you honest feedback from your current and potential customer bases. There are ways to encourage customers who are truly satisfied with you to state so publicly. The choice is yours: Survive as long as you can in your self-built echo chamber, or learn how to thrive in the real world.


Marketing Automation changes the world, and how you see it.

This is the last installment in our series about marketing automation. We’ve looked at how you can afford it, what it really is, and how it helps sales. All of that is icing. Today we’re going right to the cake: How it changes your world.

I’m a small businessman working with a select group of clients. I know who they are, what their professional and personal backgrounds are, what they need and what they want. I have a personal relationship with pretty much every current, past, and many future clients. They are people first and a source of revenue second. Once you get to the point of having more than 50 customers, maintaining that kind of intimacy gets difficult. When you are a billion-dollar corporation, it is impossible, and customers cease to be people and become only a source of revenue. Unless you have a healthy marketing automation platform in place, that is.

Starwood Hotel Group is a poster child for marketing automation best practices. Every contact with a guest or potential guest is recorded, tracked, assigned a relevance and then turned into a response to that individual guest. In laymen’s terms this is called a conversation. If you are like most companies, even those that have purchased marketing automation technology, you are not doing this. Starwood developed this very effective strategy for customer relationship called the Five Human Truths. It drives everything they do in sales and marketing.

Unless you employ a huge team of highly trained customer service employees, the only way you can afford to do that is with some sort of automation. Let me break these truths down for you.

The need to be understood — When a customer contacts a vendor to make an order, ask for help or lodge a complaint, if he needs to give background of his problem/need he’s already frustrated. If the automated options on the online contact form are not relevant, he’s going to get more frustrated. But a basic marketing automation platform can maintain all that background and former problems to anticipate what the current problem will be, without having to put a team of people on the case. When the customer does make that contact, the issue is a long way down the path to resolution. That kind of response also resolves…

Belonging — If you are handling the requests of your customer effectively, then the customer actually does belong to your “family.” That’s what Starwood does so well. Every hotel guest actually does belong in this massive group and their needs are being considered at every level. The data that Starwood gathers through its complex system is designed to do just that. And it doesn’t matter if it is the hotel manager or the reps on the reservation line. They all have access to the information with a few keystrokes. As I said in the previous installment of this series, information is not power. The trust of people is what gives you power in relationships. The information helps you engender that trust and the trust satisfies…

The longing to feel special — From the perspective of the customer, they believe their sets of needs and experiences set them apart from others. They are right. Everyone has a unique perspective to life. When a vendor demonstrates that understanding in the slightest way, it creates a bond between vendor and customer. For almost a century, however, vendors only sought to take a somewhat educated guess about what those needs would be with the expectation they would succeed no more than 2 percent of the time. That meant to be profitable, they had to reach tens of thousands of people to get a positive return. That was the essence of advertising. If you made statements enough times over the few available channels, eventually people would believe you. That doesn’t work anymore. Customers have a greater opportunity to ignore the wild guesses of marketing messages than ever before. So the companies that succeed are the ones that know enough about the fragmented market channels and what a small group of customers want, then use that information to make those customers feel special.

To get that understanding you have to listen to more customers than you ever have before. Marketing automation makes that possible by categorizing the listening patterns of the potential market, focusing on the most likely customer and providing a vehicle for real conversation. While some people call that an innovation of privacy, in reality it actually gives both the vendor and customer…

Control — In the 20th century way of marketing, customers had little control over what they had to look at. Every television and radio program had advertising blasted at them every 15 minutes. The only way to avoid it was to turn it off or walk away and at the risk of missing something they wanted to see. The advertisers had false metrics to tell them they were succeeding, but it really told them nothing, except the steady drumbeat from the market that everyone hated advertising and the people that created it. It was an intrusion and an imposition on their lives. Today, however, DVRs, social media, streaming audio and video and online search provides a level of control to the consumer that didn’t exist 10 years ago while, at the same time, providing a wealth of feedback to companies that want to find out what their customers really want and think.  According to every available study, however, less than 10 percent of all companies are taking advantage of that information, simply because they are not investing in the technology that provides them access to it — marketing automation — which gives them greater control over their own destiny, which brings us to the final point.

Reaching our potential — It is hard to find your way in the absence of light unless you are a bat. But none of us are bats (except for Dracula, I guess). Traditional marketing is, at best a 3W light bulb that barely illuminates what is closest to us. Without more light, customers are less likely to venture beyond the perimeter of that light and can never discover what they could potentially achieve. In your own lives, how many times have you been approached by a vendor who might actually have a better product than what you are using, but you refuse to change because you just can’t figure out if the benefits are actually greater? And how many times have you tried to sell a product to a hidebound customer knowing you could make him more successful? It doesn’t have to be that way.

Footwasher Media has been using content marketing driven by marketing automation for a very short time, but it has completely changed how we approach marketing and sales for our business, even though we maintain a small clientele. It has not only changed how we communicate, but it has changed our products and services because it gives us greater insight into what our clients need, helping both them and us reach our potential.

This series has been created to help give you some direction in adopting this capability. You might need more help and we are available to provide it. We offer 30-minute evaluations and recommendation sessions at no cost. All you have to do is contact us. If we can be of more help, we can discuss a relationship. Don’t be part of the 90 percent getting left behind. Take a step forward to be part of a larger, more productive and satisfying world. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.