Marketing Automation: 5 Situations Where You Shouldn’t Use It

Marketing automation has been a big win for small and large businesses alike.

Any one of us can think of many things we’d rather do instead of labouring over repetitive tasks that a computer would easily take care of.

You could have spare time for lunch breaks, hangout runs and whatever you love doing once your tasks are handled by a machine.

Automating means your business can continue to convert and nurture visitors to leads; and leads to opportunities.

And it does not even matter the time of day.

However, the problem with getting bots to do something is that sometimes they handle things the wrong way. And it can get very, very messy.

When you’re weighing your options to know whether automation is the solution, think clearly and objectively. You might be saving yourself time and cash in the short term. But you could also be hurting your brand in the long term.

1. When you have not considered your customer’s needs, automation may be a disaster

The biggest motivation for why or what to automate depends on who your ideal customer is.

Where do they spend their time? Who are they? What are their motives? How do they engage with new tech?

The success of any marketing effort hinges on the truthfulness and clarity of your buyer personas.

And it doesn’t even matter if your target market comprises of retirees who just discovered Skype and now use it to call their grandchildren.

There’s little sense in automating identical posts across social networks, when the likelihood is they are on Facebook alone or use email predominantly.

Automation technology is great. However, it has a potential for time wasting; no less than any other system. When efforts are misplaced, you’re missing out on good opportunity and losing valuable leads.

If you haven’t re-evaluated and reassessed your buyer behaviour in over 6 months, I suggest you slow it down a bit.

Invest time and labour into fully understanding your ideal customers and how they interact, before you even approach any software. Do not initiate a new series of scheduled messages or new automated emails just yet.

Lesson: Say yes to automation that backs your marketing campaigns in line with your buyer persona. Say no to automation done for “the sake of automation”

2. When machine automated responses give off the impression that you don’t care

We all like to feel special. Unfortunately, automated responses can provide the wrong impression.

You could end up saying “you’re just like everyone else and we don’t need to address you with a unique message” instead of “You’re special”

Everyone has is different perception of a response. Whether you’re responding to positive feedback or placating an angry customer; you’d do well to avoid automated responses.

In terms of blunder, Twitter is a major automation disaster zone. If you’ve spent any time on Twitter, you will probably have received a little text in your DM that goes like:

“Hey, thank you for following! Don’t forget to get yourself a copy of our latest eBook. Also check our videos on YouTube for more information”

Now even when you do not use automation, people will get turned off if it looks spammy. These canned messages are problematic for the following reasons:

• They go on first with a sales pitch without trying to establishing any personal connection.

• Due to the absence of any prior connection, these messages ring of fake sincerity and no one likes a scam.

• Rather than engagement, the aim here is clearly self-promotional. This shuts doors to meaningful collaboration.

Look at it this way. Imagine if a customer service agent replies to each and every complaint with:

“We are sorry to hear that you are experiencing problems. Please send us your details, so that a customer service representative can sort it out.”

How crazy is that?

Lesson: Say no to the usage of automated responses when you have to deal with people’s feelings. This is an especially important nugget for customer service departments.

3. When you’re taking a blanket “one size fits all” approach

Automation makes a lot of things very easy. You can bulk email a list of over 2000 contacts, instead of emailing one person with a personalized and perfectly tailored message.

You can promote one text across your network within seconds, instead of just posting one social message on one platform. Now you go thinking “It’s time to machine-up and stop doing the same things over and over again.”

With all that done, every marketer would have saved time and can now sigh with relief.

However, there is one problem with this practice. The blanket approach is too often overused.  A personalized approach is key to successful marketing.

Now, instead of sending that lifeless email to all 2000 subscribers, compartmentalize your audience and send them edited versions of the same email based on their preferences.

The world of social networking has a different etiquette in practice; from hash tagging to image sizes to vocabulary. While it is normal to have paragraphs of hashtags on Instagram; it’s going to look funny on Twitter.

While it’s acceptable for you to take selfies and videos of you on Snapchat, it would be very difficult to find anyone uploading such multimedia on Linkedin.

Lesson: You can, but it doesn’t mean that you should. Automation is excellent when it caters for different platforms, personalities and purposes.

4. When it becomes very awkward

The reputation of businesses can be heavily damaged with poor customer service that can be caused by repeated, automated spammy messages. Automation often creates awkward situations.

Here is an example from Evan LePage, a Hootsuite Blog Specialist.

He tested out a series of automated comments on the Instagram platform. While the experiment was able to instantly increase his audience; it also created a visibly awkward atmosphere.

The algorithm did not know the difference between commenting “so cute” on images of little children and posting “Hell no” on an adult’s picture.

Also, as part of a large campaign, OREO automated retweets for tweets that contained a targeted hashtag. However, the campaign encountered problems when accounts with explicit and adult handles were retweeted. Ouch!

Lesson: Sometimes spending time to craft your campaign will save you the stress of damage control. Say no to automation if you’re dealing with too many variables.

5. When you’re trying to convert visitors to customers

Even though marketers can classify potential customers into preference based groups, there’s still a huge flaw in applying section generalization.

When it comes to the final decision making process; every costumer’s needs, doubts and concerns might be different and unique.

An automated or canned series of messages in this crucial final decision stage runs the risk of turning the visitor away. All they need to do is click the back button and they are gone.

They will wonder why you are sending them a response with the solution for problem A, when all they have been searching for is the solution to B and C.

Lesson: Say no to machine-like responses in the final stage of a user or buyer opt-in process. You can lightly automate after a purchase to delight your new customers.

Marketing automation: final thoughts

In reality, automation is just a tool and it cannot guarantee success in marketing.

If your strategy is foundationally faulty, if your campaign goals are wrongly aligned with your business objectives and buyer behaviour, if you set up automation without a distinct purpose; then the time saver could eventually become a time waster.

In the end, only humans can be, and think, like humans.

Let’s have your opinion

Do you have any great or disastrous experiences with marketing automation you’d like to share?

About the Author

Godwin Adoga is a marketer, business and writer and social culture enthusiast. He has a lot of interest for growing small and medium scale enterprise. He writes at and you can reach him @og_adoga.

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