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John Bonini

By John Bonini

Oct 11, 2013


Inbound Marketing
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Inbound Marketing

Can Context & Marketing Automation Really Coexist?

John Bonini

By John Bonini

Oct 11, 2013

Can Context & Marketing Automation Really Coexist?

Alone in a crowd.

Airline schedules.

Jumbo shrimp.

A good Steven Seagal movie.

All classic examples of a literary device we refer to as oxymorons.

Unfortunately, context and marketing automation are often associated in a similar manner. I mean, how personal can you get when, by definition, you're automating some form of your prospecting or customerrelations strategy?

Can they even coexist?

Have we, as inbound marketers who care so much about the human element, reached a crossroads?

What's a marketer to do when such an effortless vehicle for lead management is also going against the very principles that make us different?

Well, it all depends on what type of context you're aiming to provide. Like anything else worth doing, there's shades of grey.

There's two extremes: full on automation, and automating nothing. Great marketers don't function at either extreme.

Here's what you should consider when developing your lead and prospect management strategy.

And remember, there's no way you can provide context if you don't know who your buyers are. Buyer Personas should be your very first priority in developing a more personalized strategy.

Behavioral Context

When done effectively, this form of context can be extremely powerful for both the consumer and the marketer who initiated it.

Marketers still blasting emails to their entire contact database are dinosaurs in an industry hungry for fossils; they don't have much time left.

List Segmentation

Grouping your contacts together into groups based on past behaviors is not only still an effective method of executing marketing automation, it's also essential.

Your new product announcement?

Unless at its core it was manufactured for the masses, your whole contact database doesn't need to know about it. It turns many people off and also skews the effectiveness of any email campaign.

As a marketer, if a new product centers around executing a smarter social media campaign, I'm going to create a smart list in HubSpot to include all contacts who have previously taken an interest in anything social media. This could mean a previous download or even a page visit.

Provide your contacts with the information they want, not the information you want them to consume. In this context, marketing automation is extremely effective.


To put it simply, the main function of HubSpot workflows is basically this; prospect performs [action A] and as a result [action B] occurs.

'Action B' is some sort of contact or action on behalf of you as the marketer.

So perhaps your prospect request a free product demo. By creating an automated workflow, the prospect will then receive whatever corresponding content you deem helpful to both their experience as well as your sales process in order to ensure a more effective demonstration.

Once again, extremely effective.

Personal Context

Ah, now here's where things start getting interesting.

As a human being, you've certainly received an email that looked something like this:

Context & Marketing Automation: Can they Coexist?

This isn't context. It's not human.

It's freakin' annoying.

Here's where marketing automation falls flat; don't rely on automated emails to provide any sort of personal context and think your contacts will actually buy it. They won't. More importantly, they won't buy your product, either.

Social Nurturing

Marketers be forewarned; this is going to take more effort.

Truly humanizing your brand and proving real context that speaks to your buyers is hard work.

Aside from behavioral context, marketing automation is fools gold when it comes to providing true context. An oasis. Empty calories.

Sure you can do it, but don't you feel a little guilty afterwards?

Social media has provided marketers with platforms to engage in real conversations with their audience...for free!

Utilizing tools such as HubSpot's Social Inbox, you can actually create streams that monitor what specific groups of your contacts are saying about you, your products, or any other industry terms.

Simply create a smart list, and create a stream using Social Inbox that follows said stream in order to monitor and effectively engage in real conversations with your prospects.

It's real. It's more human. It builds trust rather than break it.

Think about how you personally respond to notifications via email in comparison to social.

The days of being excited at the sound of "You've Got Mail" are long over. However, a very similar feeling of warmth and excitement now exists when people receive social notifications. It's how we communicate now.

Don't be a dinosaur.

The Verdict

Can context and marketing automation coexist? Absolutely.

However, in order to truly provide context, marketers need to be adept at recognizing where traditional automation works, and where it falls shorts.

Adaptability is critical.

Effort is required.

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