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Like a scene from James Cameron’s Terminator, the machines are slowly but surely taking over the world of marketing. Thankfully, unlike the movie, we’re not quite at the post-apocalyptic state.

Leaving things to the computers is now part and parcel of big business. Whether it’s harnessing the power of big data to gain additional customer insight, embracing IoT connectivity amongst smart devices, or moving marketing operations onto one of the many automation platforms available to streamline productivity.

There can be no doubt that if managed correctly, artificial intelligence (AI) can add huge value to businesses. But from a marketing perspective, automation can risk becoming an incubator for lacklustre content with a decline towards a quantity over quality.

Connect the equivalent of an automatic gearbox to the marketing engine; fuel it with structured, engaging and targeted content and you’ll not only make the buyer journey smoother but also accelerate the delivery of qualified, in-mode prospects to sales. Unfortunately, the reality doesn’t always match this vision. Ill-conceived strategies, lack of empathy with decision makers and thinly veiled sales pitches masquerading as thought leadership tend to put the brakes on too many nurture programmes.

Safety in numbers

For many marketing automation practitioners, success (and ultimately failure) is all in the numbers, ie. how many prospects can we move through the sales funnel. Typically, this is governed by interactions with certain pieces of content that are then assigned a value. This value is recorded upon click and not upon the actual engagement with the content quality itself. Automation, it could be argued, simply encourages ‘click bait’. After all, if it’s short-term gratification that marketers require, then snappy headlines and empty promises will certainly deliver the quick hit that line managers need to report.

The road is long

In the realm of technology marketing, the decision-making process can be a long and winding road. Influencers can hail from both IT and business sides of the house. Buying cycles can vary wildly depending on the nature and price ticket of the purchase. In some cases, closing the sale can take in excess of 18 months. This is where hit and run, lacklustre content falls by the wayside. Instant gratification may yield superficial marketing results but in terms of deepening engagement and enhancing brand position these may well be compromised in the long-term.

Computer says ‘yes’

Another drawback of leaving ‘intelligent’ content distribution to a set of rules is that you are removing a degree of empathy with the prospect. On a large scale, there can be no denying the benefits of introducing a series of workflows which determines the order, frequency and type of content. Doing this manually would simply be foolhardy. However, for complex, big ticket, B2B purchases there is a degree of treating each prospect in the same way as you would with an Account Based Marketing (ABM) programme. If left to lead scoring, automation platforms could raise a flag that the prospect is ready to buy when in reality, they are merely showing the first signs of curiosity.

Take a look at our quick guide to discover how content can be more ‘killer’ and less ‘filler’.

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