The composition of my email inbox has changed dramatically over the last several months, and it’s given me fresh insight into how data is being used by marketers. Apparently, contact data has found increased importance as the raw material needed to power marketing automation software.

Every day now, I am accosted not with simple email solicitations, but email campaigns, all relentlessly determined either to trick me into a conversation with a salesperson, or turn me into a customer by grinding me into submission through endless messaging. Marketing automation technology is widely being used as a “fire and forget” weapon. Load in a series of messages, load in a mailing list, and watch the leads roll in.

Marketing automation platforms do in fact offer a sophisticated new approach to marketing. But where things go wrong is that customers are expected to supply the sophistication, not the software. The two main areas of abuse:

  • Trying to fake a relationship in order to encourage a response. You’ve probably seen them: the carefully worded emails written to imply you’ve had previous contact with the sender. Should you fail to respond, you keep getting more emails (each with the full email chain), all written to make you feel as if you dropped the ball at some point, with the hope that concern, confusion or guilt will push you to engage. I have just one question about this: have you really created a qualified prospect by getting someone to contact you under false pretenses? And since for this deception to work, the emails need to look personal, that means no CAN-SPAM compliant opt-out link. You’re going to receive these emails until the sender gets tired of sending them. 

  • Blasting out repeated messages to an unqualified list. Do I really need to repair the roof on my office building? There are plenty of clues (starting with my industry classification code) to suggest you are wasting your time. Ditto that for robots to automate my factory. Offer the average marketer 100 perfectly qualified in-market leads or 10,000 lightly qualified contacts, and the sad fact is that the majority will take the big list every time.

My simple point in all this is that even with vastly improved data and state-of-the-art tools, most marketing people use it only to push more stuff out faster. Yes, even in 2019, marketers still talk targeting but buy volume, and this translates to their data buying practices as well. As an industry, we can offer our customer so much more. Unfortunately,  there are still too many people doing marketing for dummies.