The other day I was on the webinar, “The Definitive Guide to B2B Marketing Operations,” produced by Bizible. Eight SAAS vendors—Bizible, Datanyze, DemandBase, Infer, Invoca, Optimizely, ReachForce, and Tealium—each briefly talked about what their product provides and what benefits one can expect. While familiar myself with most of these vendors, and all the capabilities, I still made it a point to tune. You never know what you don’t know.

It was a very good webinar if you have no to little knowledge of marketing automation and analytics. In the end I didn’t learn much new, but did thoroughly enjoy myself, because the webinar was well produced and had a good pace. You can view the recording here.

But I did thank Dave Rigotti, head of marketing at Bizible, via email for producing the event. And he responded asking how at my job we are thinking about the interrelation of technology and our marketing needs?

Which got me thinking…

What are marketers trying to achieve? And more importantly, how are we trying to achieve these things?

The first answer is simple: we are trying to profitably increase market share. We’re not in the business of lead generation, brand awareness, or customer satisfaction—we are in the business of making money. The activities just mentioned help serve the outcome of profitability.

There is nothing new about knowing that happy customers beget new customers. Caveat: but do you know which of your happy customers are profitable for your company?

Also, personalized information helps qualify and speed lead flow to purchasing decisions. Caveat: do you have the correct persona segmentation and attribution model?

Every single vendor on this webinar has a piece to the vast marketing puzzle. And if I were to purchase every single solution out there, which I would really like to—and I’m also looking at Drift, Totango, UserIQ, Influtitve, 6sense, Inboundli, Radius, InsightSquared, Amplero—I’d be broke. And I’m already spending a mint on CRM, sales force automation, marketing automation, a webinar platform, professional b2b video hosting, and data sources.

Every single tool mentioned above is to help marketing departments make great decisions through insights. Insights that would usually take a cadre of experts to distill can now be had without needing to have these resident experts.

Even if I had the money to buy every tool I want, I’d never be successful in deploying them all, regardless of how much assistance the vendors offer. Time and other resources are not on my side to get it all done. More tools require more work. It’s as simple as that.

Here’s a little known, and never-communicated fact: marketing automation isn’t automatic. It comes from the operations axiom that removing one bottleneck always creates another one. Marketing automation is wonderful; it lets you do more by shifting manual labor typically performed in the sales department to an automated process in the marketing department. But it’s never automatic! Creating well segmented, branching, and insightful marketing campaigns is huge work. The content creation alone is near overwhelming.

To extrapolate and hypothesize: let’s assume for a moment that all these tools could be implemented with little effort, and that optimized results started flowing quickly. Where does that leave us? Every marketing department is now the best it could ever hope to be. We would just cancel each other out and create buyer paralysis in the process.

The problem is that buyers are still bound in their purchasing decisions by limited resources. And if we’re all perfect in marketing, the buyer still has to make a choice between multiple offerings. They don’t even have to be similar offerings; a company can only afford to buy so much in a year.

I don’t think the problem is solved by technology (although I always lust for more tools to do a better job). And I full well know not every marketing department that I am competitive with will execute at its best. That leaves me the hope that I can sway my prospects’ vendor decision in my favor. But entering the marketing technology arms race does not guarantee success.

I solve this problem with people. Not a lot of people, but great people.

I’m not saying they’re data scientists. I’m saying they understand the product, the industry, and the needs of the individual. With the help of a few great people we create original content so targeted and compelling that prospects can’t help but contact us for more information. By being subject matter experts in our customers’ industry, our marketing benefits from insightfulness and authenticity, which fosters trust. Trust puts you on shortlists and accelerates sales cycles.

And while you cannot buy customer happiness and word of mouth buzz, you can make sure you hire great people that enable the second best marketing: industry trust. And this is something that no automation or analytics platform can create for you.

Today’s takeaway: your most important asset is your customers, but your most important investment is your people.

(But I still want my toys, too.)

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