Marketing Automation and Human Interaction

Marketing Automation and Human Interaction

Marketing Automation is all the rage now, especially for the young startups coming out of the various incubators across the country. Simply, the term Marketing Automation refers to software platforms and related technologies designed to allow a company to market on multiple online channels and automate many of the repetitive tasks.

There are countless platforms and software in the market that are designed for automation across multiple digital channels, the most well-known including: Hubspot, Salesforce, Infusionsoft (now Keap) to name a few. These platforms allow the marketing manager to create automated digital content, from click funnels to emails and integration into CRM. They are highly effective and if set up correctly can have a huge impact on your conversion rates and therefore overall sales. It’s no wonder these tools are growing so rapidly and gaining in popularity. They work.

But are they missing something? Is having a full marketing automation plan all you need in order to get the most out of your business? Perhaps not.

Automation is efficient, yes, but it is also impersonal. A critique of modern society is that we are becoming too dependent on technology and losing interpersonal relationships. Not sure it’s true? Ride the Red Line L in Chicago at rush hour and count how many people are talking to each other and how many are glued to their phones. This phenomenon is why marketing automation works so well- we are constantly using technology and we expect it to anticipate our needs and communicate with us in a way that is user friendly and intuitive.

The problem, however, is that it’s not actually personal. You are not actually creating a real relationship with a customer. You aren’t forming a loyal, personal connection, but instead only a basic communication. The content you add to your automation platform makes a huge difference in this arena- being more friendly and sounding more like a person will help you, but don’t underestimate your customer base- at some point, one of those automated messages isn’t going to be quite right and they will know they aren’t communicating with a real human. In most customer service situations, there is always a point where a real human needs to be involved. Just think about the last time you needed to change something on your utility bills- bet you got to the point where you are screaming “representative” into the phone more than once in your life.

Several larger companies have been using automated marketing tactics for a while and have started to swing back to incorporating a real live human earlier in the process. Take Comcast for example. They recently launched a new campaign that allows their customers to use automated technology (scheduling appointments and sales emails) but they announced their focus on customer service- now their automated messages lead you to a real human faster. They put a face and a voice to the message and their customers are handled by a real live person earlier in the process, which makes their customers feel better understood and taken care of.

And that seems to be the key- utilizing both forms of customer service in your marketing. Yes, use helpful technology tools to keep your audience engaged, but do so with a human connection early on in the process. Afterall, connection is what we all crave- right?

Eat the frog

Eat the frog

"Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain


Twain has the right idea, and many successful entrepreneurs and business owners have adapted this concept into a philosophy that keeps them on track and focused. Personally, I have lived by this philosophy for several years and it has never failed me.

So how does it work?

Step 1: Create a list of to-dos. I’m a major list creator, so much so that I sometimes have lists of what lists I have. Each morning, as I set out to start my work day, I create an all-encompassing list of things to do. This list is primarily focused on the goals for that day, but often include larger projects that I can complete in stages. The key is to make your list as comprehensive as possible first.

Step 2: Prioritize your list. Once your list has been created, you want to take a few moments and prioritize it. I generally categorize my list into things I can complete today, those that are deadline focused ,those that are in stages and those that aren’t deadline focused but would be great to accomplish as soon as possible. Once you have a priority in mind, you know where you need to spend your time.

Step 3: Read your list. Read it, and as you do so, mark the items that make you groan vs the items that are relatively simple to complete and don’t bother you much.

Step 4: Biggest Groan = Frog. That one item on your list that you simply do not want to do. Perhaps when you were reading your list you were trying to imagine ways to procrastinate it. You will know what that one thing on your list is. For me, it’s often something to do with cash flow- I just simply hate reviewing accounting and financials- I’d much rather be spending my time on fun marketing projects, and writing.

Step 5: Eat the Frog. As Twain said, the key to having a positive day is to eat a frog first. That biggest groan on your list- do it first. Get it out of the way and the rest of your list will be no big deal.

It works. I do it every day and it keeps me on task, plus the feeling when you accomplish that thing you were dreading is a natural high that keeps you going all day. Mark Twain knew what he was talking about.

Shiny Penny Syndrome

Shiny Penny Syndrome


Distractions. We all have them. There are the regular distractions like cat videos on the internet ( or my personal obsession with how-to cake decorating videos) and then there are big picture, big idea type of distractions that can cause more heartache than they are worth. Entrepreneurs and small business owners can be known to suffer from shiny penny syndrome.- every idea we have is a new shiny penny- and we want to shift our focus to it.

The fact of the matter is we are idea people, and all of our ideas are shiny pennies that often distract us from our original, or bigger goals. You need to be careful otherwise you might inadvertently derail yourself. Take George for example.

George has a new product that is well thought out and designed for consumers who don’t want to use plastic grocery bags. His product is a specialized re-usable bag with unique imagery and branding that he is launching online, and in the geographic area of a city that has recently disposed of the use of plastic bags. Before launch, however, he has a new idea- what if we can customize the imagery on the bags?! What a great idea. George gets distracted by this new shiny penny and runs with it, offering custom orders online. The problem is that the amount of work and overhead it takes George for the custom bags is much higher than the standard ones, and his original idea. He switched gears too early with offering the custom bags that he never gave the standard ones a chance, and now he is underwater in both time and money.

This isn’t to say that George’s custom idea wasn’t a good one- it just maybe wasn’t the right time to switch gears so quickly before giving the original idea a chance to grow. Ultimately, George had to close up shop because he realized he didn’t have time and financing to cover the custom orders. He may relaunch and try to start again, but what’s to stop him from being distracted by the next shiny penny idea?

That’s why having a clear business growth plan is important. You will have new ideas, and that is a blessing, but knowing when to follow those ideas and when not to make a huge difference in your business. It’s not saying “no” to your shiny pennies, it’s being disciplined enough to say “not now” and take note and work it into your overall plan.

The moral of the story: keep and save your shiny pennies and use them wisely when it makes sense to do so.

Focus Groups: Yes!

Focus Groups: Yes!


Marketers are always talking about focus groups and how learning information from them is extremely valuable. Most business owners are rolling their eyes as they envision large conference rooms with two-way mirrors and product testing where the participants mostly just complain about the product and the business owners have to endure a torturous hour or so.

In today’s digital environment, and the age in which everyone is very vocal about their likes and dislikes it may seem like a focus group is unnecessary. The thing is, that’s not entirely true.

The part of the focus group that matters is the feedback you get from your prospective customer- in a third party environment. That’s not to say that the standard, old style two way mirror setting is the way to accomplish this. We’ve found that more casual, fun networking style events have a larger appeal and garner more interesting and ultimately helpful results.

For an example, read about a focus group event we hosted for one of our clients.


Regardless of the style of focus group you host the feedback is the most important. Many business owners have products that they love, and their family loves and they come to us stating that “everyone they have given it to loves it” Of course they do. When you are passionate about something you have created and you ask those close to you what they think of it, regardless of what they may actually think, they want to support you, so they tell you everything they like about it. Put simply, it’s a biased opinion, and no business owner will get an unbiased opinion from anyone they know personally, or otherwise, so long as they know you are the business owner.

Hiring a third party to host and discuss your product in an environment in which they feel safely protected from hurting the business owners’ feelings, however, changes the outcome quite a bit. Marketers use this feedback in a number of ways, including finding nuggets of truths from your potential customers about the advantages and disadvantages of your product, brand and message. Discovering that your new energy drink tastes terrible to your prospective audience, gives you the advantage to make changes to the formulation to improve the taste. Finding out that no one understands what your product does or how it works, gives you the opportunity to find clever ways to include that educational piece in your messaging. These are the things marketers need to know in order to help you sell your product to your target audience and that’s why we keep insisting that focus groups are something you need. Diversity Inclusion: Be The Change Diversity Inclusion: Be The Change

You’ve heard it before: Being diversity-inclusive is important. "Diversity inclusion" has become a bit of a buzzword lately, but what does this term mean when it comes to a small business?

Many small businesses hear "diversity inclusion" and assume it's related to HR -- and it is. But it's much more than that. Aside from hiring a diverse population as part of your workforce, there are internal and external messages that represent your company -- and being inclusive in those messages is also highly important.

Diversity inclusion can be broken down into three buckets:

To read the full article visit The Importance Of Diversifying Your Marketing Plan The Importance Of Diversifying Your Marketing Plan

In today’s increasingly digital age, business owners are often preoccupied with marketing tactics that they have heard about and know they need -- most commonly, social media. As marketers, we frequently encounter business owners who come to us asking for help in creating their social media strategies. Often, these clients are so focused on the idea of social media being the most important tactic that they neglect other, more important pieces of their marketing plans.

While no one disagrees that social media is an important and powerful marketing tool, it cannot be the only tool, as many businesses experienced when the largest social media platform, Facebook, recently experienced an outage....


Read the full article on 

Marketing Budgets for Businesses

Marketing Budgets for Businesses

MARCH 29, 2019


The big question when it comes to marketing is always, “how much is this going to cost?” Generally speaking, marketing services are perceived as an expensive project and many business owners are hesitant to spend valuable dollars on something that may or may not have the return they hope for.

There are some key things to consider when putting together your marketing budget and finding a marketing partner that will work for you.

Marketing & Advertising line items

Marketing & Advertising are not the same thing. Most business projections have a single category that accounts for both marketing and advertising. And, while they may be related, they are not the same. Simply put Advertising is the amount of money you need to pay to the media you place your campaign in while marketing is the planning, messaging and design behind that campaign. You need both to make a splash, but they really should be viewed as two separate expenses.


Average Budgets

For established businesses,The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7-8% of your gross revenue for businesses under $5 million, and closer to 10% for those over $5 million.For new businesses you should be spending somewhere between 12-20% of your revenue or expected revenue. This percentage of revenue should be split between Marketing and Advertising.


Marketing Only portion of budget


The marketing only piece of the budget is around 5% of your expected gross revenue. This 5% should be allocated towards things such as the ongoing marketing implementation of a solid foundational strategy. These are the day-to-day tactics that engage your audience, the advertisements you place with specific media and the tactics like email newsletters, video, content and so forth.  You should expect also to use more than 5% on big projects, such as website updates.

However, spending money on these day to day items will certainly be a waste of funds if you do not have a solid foundation.


Solid Foundation

In order for your day to day activities to perform well, you will need to invest in a solid marketing foundation, which, since it generally includes the necessary larger projects, will usually cost closer to the 10%.

The foundation includes items like Branding, Strategy, Website and Social Media. Working on these items to create a solid strategy that highlights your best target audience, the messaging and branding for those audiences and putting together a roadmap of strategy pieces paired with the big projects like a website will give you a healthy starting point. Once these things are completed, your day to day activities will have a much higher conversion rate.


Consider the cost of client acquisition

When making your marketing budget the most important thing to remember is what your potential ROI will be. Consider what a single new client means to your bottom line. For example: currently you have not built your foundation and you are relying on a sales person to convert customers. You probably see the direct correlation between what you pay that sales person to what the conversion of each customer is. Let’s say you currently spend $2,000 per new customer with your sales rep. and he or she can convert 1 new customer per month. Provided that each new customer is worth more than the $2,000 you spent, you are happy.

But consider this, you built your foundation and were able to add a highly converting website and social media channels in addition to your sales rep. Using the 5% rule, let’s say you spend $1,000 per month on digital media tactics, and can convert 2 additional customers per month. You’ve increased your customers by three times, while only spending a fraction of the cost, and in a shorter time period.

That’s where marketing becomes a savings vs. a spend.

The key is finding a marketing partner who can work with you on the foundational items, but also on a long-term implementation and execution process. This is where you will save the most.


Our Latest Forbes Article

Our Latest Forbes Article

FEBRUARY 6, 2019

Stress is part of all of our lives. But for entrepreneurs and managers, it can be even more overwhelming and carry higher consequences. A new study suggests that the way a leader handles stress could have serious consequences for employees and, ultimately, company culture and productivity.


The Rule of 2/3

The Rule of 2/3


You’ve heard of this rule before. You’ve seen it before applied to various industries of service providers, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  For marketing professionals, we know this rule all too well. Getting our clients to understand, however, is a different matter.

The Rule: CHEAP. FAST. GOOD. You can only choose 2.

CHEAP: You are always looking for a deal. It is our human condition to try to find ways to save money, and retain the best value for the work we are paying for

FAST: You also want your projects done as quickly as possible.

GOOD: Not only do you want it done quickly and for less money, but you want it to be good. Good design, good strategy, good in every way.

Why can you only choose 2?

VALUE: the value of quality marketing work is not synonymous with the amount you pay necessarily. Value is provided when something is done well, with intention and provides both instant results and long-term outcomes.

CHEAP + FAST: When you’re choosing two, cheap and fast end up being a likely option, afterall, those are your two primary motivational factors, get it done now and get it done for the least amount possible. The problem with this strategy is that it forces your marketing team into a situation in which they have to cut corners, spend less time finding the best possibly solutions and instead finish a “quick and dirty” version of your project. That means the thing you have sacrificed is GOOD. Your project will still have a lot of positive attributes, but will it be everything you hoped, and be perfect without any missteps? No.

CHEAP + GOOD: Ok, so above it seems like the issue is one of time, by combining cheap and fast you lost quality which is what you need in the long run. Choosing cheap and good could be a better combination because you save money while getting a higher quality completed project which could ultimately mean higher value. The sacrifice here is time. In order to perform high quality services at a lower rate, your team will need to manage this project differently. And you may be one of many projects in process and in order to spend the time wisely on your project and make it beneficial to the team, they will need to take extra time.

FAST + GOOD: Yes, this is an option. Yes, we can do what you want in the quality that you want in the timeline you want, but that will mean our team will have to work double-time, triple time and that means it’s going to cost you more, because you will have to pay for that time and extra time spent.

Keep this in mind next time you are trying to hire a marketing company, or any other services company – you will have to sacrifice one of the three. Otherwise, you will not get the value you are actually looking for.

Which 2 would you choose?

Our Latest Forbes Article

Our Latest Forbes Article

OCTOBER 10, 2018

So, you’ve had a breakthrough and have come up with the “next big thing” for retail. Maybe it’s a new boutique or e-commerce platform, or maybe it’s a new consumer product. Whatever the case may be, we’ve entered a new age of retail, and any business team needs to ask themselves one big question: Can we compete with Amazon?