(To catch my—admittedly few—readers up, I’ve recently moved positions to ActiveConversion, a Marketing Automation vendor who focuses on the industrial and manufacturing market segment.  My position with ActiveConversion is as the Product Specialist, and so understanding the how, where and most importantly, why the software works and does what it does for our customers—and what pitfalls need to be avoided to be successful—is central to my role.

Read more about Marketing Automation for Industrial and Manufacturing customers at the ActiveConversion Blog.)

Recently, while doing some industry research I came across another Marketing Automation vendor’s State-of-the-Market report which, based on its executive summary looked interesting.  As it was gated content I filled in the form, including the standard fist name, last name and email.  They also requested a Company name (not uncommon); despite being a competitor I thought the research was of interest so I included our company name.

The form submission went through; the research report was emailed to me as well as a polite greeting—all pretty standard Marketing Automation behaviors.  As a Marketing Automation vendor we eat our own dog food—so why wouldn’t a competitor?  Made sense to me.

I’ve been involved with Marketing Automation for over a decade now—from coding, designing and developing a platform to training, implementation, evangelizing—I’ve seen the sausage getting made and know a bit about the pit-falls.  The number one challenge most users of Marketing Automation face is a lack of content—scratch that, it’s a lack of relevant content.  Too often drip emails will be too general, not specifically relevant to the conversation or flat-out incorrect.  Sometimes it’s because one email is being used for multiple drip processes, or that the emails are slightly modified versions of the templates or canned content that came with the system.

If you know what you’re looking for, you can catch these pretty easily.

And that’s what happened with our competitor’s drip campaign.  Three business days after I download the research report I received an email from the company, signed by a mid-level manager pitching me on marketing automation software and services.  The email was pretty plain, but read well and I’m sure to most would look and sound like a personal response.

It wasn’t—and here’s how I knew:  the email specifically said that the sender had done some research and had found our company and thought we might be facing sales challenges that could be solved by marketing automation.  It’s was personalized with my name, and used our company name throughout.

For any other possible lead/company this email might have worked.  But it was glaringly obvious that this was automated; that no research had been done and that in all likely hood no one was paying attention to the fact that I was in this nurture campaign.  If they had done some research, and had paid attention they would have known that I was a competitor and not a potential lead.  They would have known that I’m not unfamiliar with Marketing Automation and that I understand how it can help my business—and they would have known I’m unlikely to change marketing automation platforms.

Because no one was watching this, or really following up, this competitor ended up wasting at least 1 email (perhaps not much in the big picture financially) and looked pretty foolish.  Worse yet would be if I clicked through on the links to schedule a consulting session—I’d be wasting valuable salesperson time and bandwidth (I didn’t).  Because no one was paying attention to the “fit” of a lead like me—and not reviewing company names/personal names through Google or LinkedIn the entire ROI of the interaction with me was shot to hell.

This could have all been avoided if someone had reviewed my lead profile, actually done some research and flagged me as a poor fit/competitor.

While I don’t know for sure that this competing vendor’s product can provide company identification information (although in my case I provided the Company name) and the ability to search Google and LinkedIn (or other social media) for an identified lead to determine who they are and if they fit—the concepts are obviously universal.

(I will point out that the  ActiveConversion software does provide those handy capabilities to allow users to research and flag leads who aren’t of value—like me)

Ultimately, in my mind this instance is that perfect example of where using Marketing Automation fails—it’s a powerful tool which can positively impact sales, marketing and efficiency but it’s not a silver bullet.  Drip emails are not one-size-fits-all and the information provided by a Marketing Automation system is only of value if it’s used—and used properly—to enhance profiling and intelligence and focusing sales efforts on those leads most likely to become customers.

But if the glove doesn’t fit….