Technology providers and managed services providers (MSPs) are all about automation. They invest in tools that automate a wide range of tasks, such as monitoring systems and networks and patching PCs and servers. Automation makes them more efficient and helps ensure that these tasks are done right, on time, every time.

When technology providers and MSPs hear about marketing automation, it seems like a no-brainer. After all, they use automation successfully every day. They typically lack adequate resources for their marketing efforts. Automation seems like the answer.

But if you don’t have a sustained and sustainable marketing strategy, what are you going to automate? It’s like that old saying in software development: If you automate a mess you wind up with an automated mess.

Marketing automation also presumes that you have an active sales funnel with a sufficient quantity of leads worthy of nurturing. However, many organizations try to buy lists and use marketing automation as an emailing tool, without even implementing landing pages, social listening, analytics and other tools. This is a recipe for failure.

Furthermore, marketing automation requires the ability to create a ton of content. You’re automating repetitive activities such as blog posting, social media management and email campaign delivery. There’s no sense in automating those tasks if you don’t have the content to drive them.

Marketing automation tools tend to be highly complex, requiring many hours for setup, integration, training and ongoing management. Many companies find that the effort isn’t worth it for a small number of leads, so they never fully implement the system. Others use only a small fraction of the functionality before giving up entirely.

For many companies, that time and money would be better spent on top-of-the-funnel activities — blogging, social media posts, and outbound campaigns with high-quality landing pages and downloadable content assets such as whitepapers and e-books. If those activities generate so many leads that you need an automated tool to nurture them, you have a happy problem. Until then, it’s better to focus on developing and executing a content marketing strategy.

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