It’s about 32 years since I first got a trifle tipsy with Malcolm Auld on Sydney Harbor. He hasn’t changed a bit

After he didn’t reply to an email encouraging him to “STOP MARKETING. START ENGAGING”- whatever the hell that means – Mal experienced the skills of the marketing automation geniuses at Marketo.

Twice recently, the good people at Marketo have demonstrated why most marketing automation fails – unless it has one essential element. And that element has no binary code or computer chips.

Can you guess what it is dear reader?

That’s right folks. The most powerful element ensuring the difference between success and failure in marketing automation, is Homo Sapiens – not a computer.

If you don’t have humans monitoring your computers, your automation will eventually fail. A layer of human intelligence is essential to monitor, analyse and act on what the computers are doing and revealing. Those microchips cannot do it on their own, despite the marketing automation sales spiel.

Here’s how Marketo demonstrated this recently.

In an amazing piece of irony, a Homo Sapiens at Marketo forgot to renew the Marketo domain. So Marketo’s customers couldn’t access the Marketo server to do what they pay Marketo to do – marketing automation.

Of course the industry has had a field day joking about it. Check out #marketofail.

But an even more powerful demonstration of how essential Homo Sapiens is to marketing automation came with an email on July 19 from Bill Binch, the managing director of Marketo. It was a follow-up to one sent a week earlier promoting a Marketo event.

Here’s the first email I received on July 13. I suspect your antenna is rattling too dear reader. When you read something like “STOP MARKETING. START ENGAGING.” you know you’re in for a self-serving sales pitch. After all, we’re in the marketing industry, not the marriage game. Leave that to The Bachelor reality TV series.

Ironically (again) the copy in the invitation says your customers “can smell insincerity kilometres away” and you certainly can with this invitation, it’s pungent.

I didn’t reply to this first invitation. It came from the latest name on the “From Line” – they keep changing. Probably a “customer engagement officer”.

On July 19, Bill sends me a personal message, though I do suspect he sent a few thousand of them. Here it is:

I’m not sure why he’s inviting me to the Melbourne event, given I live in Sydney, but I’m very keen to meet Bill. After all he sent me a personal message stating he’d love to meet me and that’s pretty powerful stuff for a business communication. So I replied personally to his email. Here’s my response:

Thanks Bill

I live in Sydney, so Melbourne is a bit difficult for brekkie, but could do the 1st if you’re in Sydney.

The problem of course folks, is that when you use marketing automation to fake sincerity, you can get caught out. The return email address for Bill’s message is not his personal email address.

It is an auto-responder address: marketing_apac@marketo.com.

I suspect there are no Homo Sapiens employed to monitor the auto-responder address, because Bill hasn’t replied to me. And given his enthusiasm for me to attend, I’d have thought this “marketing 101” function would be a sure thing at Marketo.

But then again, they seem to be more interested in getting engaged than marketing fundamentals.

I hope to get a reply, as I’ve decided I’d like to attend. And am keen to meet Bill, as I’m sure he’s a very capable MD. Better still, I’d love to work at Marketo, as I know I have something to offer. Even if it is just monitoring the automated marketing – because it seems that even when Marketo’s domain is working, the marketing automation is failing.

Malcolm Auld is founder of The Content Brewery. This post originally appeared on his blog. He and I will be having a little more fun in November when I’ll be in Australia for a week or two.

About the Author

Drayton

In 2003, the Chartered Institute of Marketing named Drayton one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.

He has worked in 55 countries with many of the world’s greatest brands. These include American Express, Audi, Bentley, British Airways, Cisco, Columbia Business School, Deutsche Post, Ford, IBM, McKinsey, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nestle, Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever, Visa and Volkswagen.

Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.

He was a main board member of the Ogilvy Group, a founding member of the Superbrands Organisation, one of the first eight Honorary Fellows of the Institute of Direct Marketing and one of the first three people named to the Hall of Fame of the Direct Marketing Association of India. He has also been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Caples Organisation in New York and Early To Rise in Florida.

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