Thoughts on marketing automation, and why you’re probably doing it wrong.

We recently completed an in depth planning session to inform a robust marketing automation campaign with one of our key clients, out in LA. During this discussion, someone in the room (profoundly) reminded us all that “a drip campaign is not an automation campaign” (shoutout to you, Jayme) — and while it went under the radar a bit, that comment underscores the problem we see time and again with how brands leverage this technology.

At their core, marketing automation platforms are used to power email campaigns. And most of the time, that’s where they stop.

That’s the problem.

Marketing automation, when done correctly, is much more than simply turning on Pardot and Salesforce, and building out a series of emails. When done right, a proper marketing automation program is built on the following:

  1. A fundamental, research driven, understanding of who your target is, what they think, feel, and do today, and what you want them to think, feel, and do tomorrow.
  2. A clear understanding of the purchase process from initial point of contact (i.e. awareness) with the brand, through the eduction process, and to a final close (transaction).
  3. An ecosystem of content, able to be delivered across email, advertising, websites, etc, with the ability to be personalized to each individual prospects unique needs and/or desires.

Let’s dive in to each of these individually.


1 — A fundamental, research driven, understanding of who your target is, what they think, feel, and do today, and what you want them to think, feel, and do tomorrow.

As with just about all advertising, this fundamental understanding of your audience is what enables great content to be developed that drives the behavior change you’re looking for. And from it, an understanding of what should inform messaging at each level of the marketing funnel, and the number of messaging paths that should exist for each and every type of prospect/customer that engages with your brand. For example: messaging for a Homeowner looking to buy an appliance package today should be different than one buying in 18 months, just like messaging for a Builder that might use those appliances in their next development would be different from a Designer that might recommend them to a client — and this can be further complicated by regional differences in buying preferences and needs.

2 — A clear understanding of the purchase process from initial point of contact (i.e. awareness) with the brand, through the eduction process, and to a final close (transaction).

In an ideal state, this understanding should cover both online and offline tactics, and used to align them in a way that allows future messaging to be informed by past interactions. Each touchpoint should be used to capture inputs that help us better understand who it is we’re talking to, where they’re located, what they’re interested in, and what might hold them back from a conversion. Then, we can ensure that each subsequent material they receive from the brand helps solve for that in a away that drives action (and ultimately, sales).

3 — An ecosystem of content, able to be delivered across email, advertising, websites, etc, with the ability to be personalized to each individual prospects unique needs and/or desires.

Done right, a marketing automation program is integrated with all facets of your marketing programs. When a prospect sees a print ad, it informs where they land on your site via campaign URLs; retargeting ads are then based on what that person has engaged with; follow up emails reinforce that message; and at each step of the process, past interactions are used to inform future interaction. This of it as the quarterback that calls the play, informing what happens next. It’s this level of personalization that makes marketing automation so powerful.


Looking for support getting your marketing automation programs running properly? Drop me a line.