I talk to a lot of marketers and business leaders about marketing. These conversations cover anything from strategy to operations and everything in between. If I’m being honest, most of these conversations eventually shift to marketing automation. When it comes to marketing automation there’s two kinds of folks: Believers and Non-Believers.

Believers are pretty straight forward. At a high level, they understand marketing automation. They see its potential to augment marketing programs and support key audience engagement. They see the solution as a good investment.

Non-Believers don’t make the same connection. Sometimes it’s a lack of understanding (of the technology) and other times it’s about different marketing ideals or values. As it relates to marketing ideals, I think part of it has to do with the fact that marketing automation is somewhat of a misunderstood term. It might not surprise you to learn most Non-Believers don’t view marketing automation as a good investment.

Anyways, here’s my thesis: I think marketing automation is a bad name for marketing automation.

Let me explain. ‘Marketing Automation’ is only a means to executing part of an existing strategy. It isn’t designed to be a replacement for your role or your marketing plan. It’s software designed to enable things you either couldn’t previously do or don’t have the ability to do at scale. Things such as prospect tracking and behavioural scoring or action-based triggers and subsequent tasks. The list is goes on and on.

The point is the software is only automating tasks that make up a larger plan – the plan marketers and business leaders are building, operating, tweaking, etc. It is not The Plan, not is it automating the creation or management of The Plan. I think that’s area where some of the Non-Believers get hung up.

The other point that’s important when it comes to marketing automation: it’s not a quick solution, nor is it a set-and-forget application. It’s the kind of application that needs to be used, updated and maintained regularly. And the use of the tool needs to evolve as you and your plan do too. I liken marketing automation to a gym membership: it represents the ability to (one day) get washboard abs. That doesn’t happen on day 1 of going to the gym and those abs won’t stay that way if you stop going to the gym.

Back to the strategy conversations… It’s usually in these discussions that I try to explain the investment and effort marketing automation requires. As service partners to leading marketing automation platforms, Goose Digital is in the business of taking our customers on a journey with marketing automation. We start with the basics (contact lists, CRM integrations, etc.) and create a multi-year plan that helps organizations execute their marketing strategies to meet growth goals with marketing automation functionality.

Believer or Non-Believer, I think most can agree the strategy and plan lies with the business leaders. The technology doesn’t replace that. However, it absolutely supports the strategy.