“Automation” carries many promises, all of which somehow revolve around efficiency (even accuracy is a measure of efficiency). Do more with less; do it better, faster, cheaper. Everyone wins! Marketing automation is just such a marvel—it’s the fire-and-forget weapon du jour. A very good one, but not without its pitfalls.

Marketing automation specifically refers to email marketing automation, as well as collecting the data and metadata this generates. Marketers get to script and automate an entire campaign, with full branching, which then unfolds as responses and non-responses occur. The promise is that human resources can then be deployed less toward lead nurturing, and more toward lead conversion.

Here are two recent marketing automation examples:

1) I recently made a reservation at a Westin hotel. I like that chain, the rooms are large and beds are nice. Several days prior to my stay I received an email requesting that I please respond with my estimated time of arrival. I responded saying I expect to arrive between 4-6 PM. Two days later I receive the exact same email with the same request.

2) My friend Ronald purchased an item from IKEA, but the box was missing a key component to finish assembly. He reached out to customer service via email, detailing his purchase (including a copy of the receipt), and asked to be sent the missing part. The response email thanked him for his job inquiry—he never applied for a job, he just wants his bookcase to stand up.

Marketing automation did exactly what it promised it would do: it made people at the Westin and IKEA more efficient because they could focus on onsite issues while the computer managed offsite issues.

Marketing automation also did the exact opposite to us recipients—it made us less efficient, made us mad, and endeared us less to brands we like to champion.

Lesson to marketers: Test, test, test. Monitor, monitor, monitor. And don’t waste my time.

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