This year, more than any in a long time, I am hearing a strong backlash to the volumes of emails and content buyers are receiving. In the past eight months, after conducting numerous buyer interviews, this pattern has become so evident; it is as if buyers are screaming at the top of their lungs. In my opinion, there is a cause and effect dynamic taking place in B2B marketing. It goes something like this:
The hard adjustment to the new digital economy is putting pressure on B2B companies to grow. Many are jumping on the content marketing bandwagon. This pressure is resulting in the creation of campaign after campaign in attempts to win over existing customers and new buyers. Inadvertently causing a visible shift in how they are perceived.
The above is my brief view of how I see what is happening to buyer behaviors and perceptions. Let me provide you with an example from an actual customer of a Fortune 500 organization. An example I used at my recent BMA 2014 Conference presentation:
“I’m not sure what happened but it is certainly different. I mean I used to get the occasional emails among many I get but may still have taken the time to give a quick look. Now, it has gotten somewhat out of hand. It seems like everyday I am getting multiple emails from them. What I do now is basically delete them all. I just don’t have the time.” Senior Director, Finance Operations
Although unarticulated, you can sense perception of the organization sending the emails is changing. It is being shaped by the activities and behavior of the organization – not by content. In fact, the content is not even being read.
The Missing Link: Human Connection
From my vantage point of helping organizations and interviewing buyers, there is a missing link occurring. It has to do with buyers desiring high touch in a high tech world. Businesses today risk, in using new digital technologies fervently, losing the human connection with their customers and potential buyers. Through such fervent activities related to automating marketing, organizations can unintentionally create the opposite of what they had hoped to accomplish. Which is, “de-humanize” their digital and content marketing efforts!
The fervent activities I refer to have much to do with automation. What organizations have to be on guard for today is what I call “robotic marketing”. Why would I call it such? Because we can automate to such a degree, we take the human factor right out of it. What follows are some general observations, which should give us pause, based on talking directly with buyers:
- Buyers’ notice when you are pushing hard. As seen above, buyers can figure out when someone has been given a huge lead quota and the campaign pumpers are pumping.
- Hooked on marketing automation. To get the return on recent marketing automation, companies are attempting to make full use of it. Some are doing so in a very overzealous way. It is important to get a return – but at the expense turning off customers and buyers?
- Automating the process. Usually, the focus of automation has been to automate processes. In the name of efficiency and effectiveness. However, a problem arises when the process is what the buyer sees. Such as this example I saw recently in an email displayed for me from a buyer: <Name: First, Last>. Sloppy and obvious to the buyer it was sent by an automated robot.
- Automating bad habits. Without taking care to determine what is the right level of interaction and relevancy we should be having with buyers, we may be automating very bad habits. Taking the status quo and automating everything about it – without first asking questions related to what stays, what goes, and what is needed. For example, the mention above by the Senior Director could be a bad habit in the eyes of a buyer – now exacerbated with automation.
- Automated scheduling means forgetting. With automation has come automated scheduling. Some scheduling is happening so far out, important adaptations are being missed. For example, buyers in a specific group interviewed were receiving content about an industry issue, which was hot three months prior but no longer.
Here is what is evident. If you are engaged in robotic marketing, buyers are going to be astute enough to pick it up. Unfortunately, it will speak volumes about whether your firm really cares. And with millions and millions of content flying about in the digital landscape, getting attention will be next to impossible.
Build Human Connection
A mantra I echoed recently is this – instead of looking at new digital technologies to automate processes, we should look at how we can enhance human interaction. Buyers are not signing up for cold realities. What they do seem to desire is more high touch connection. But, high touch has to have meaning and value for the modern buyer to engage. We are living in an age of digital connections infusing every aspect of life. And, customer and buyers are valuing the one thing we all do not want to lose – the human connection.