Sales Operations 8 Comments

Fool’s Tale: A True Story of Sales & Marketing Automation Failure

Jen Spencer

January 12th, 2016

Sales Marketing Automation Failure

You’re in sales. I’m in sales (and marketing). But, we’re all also customers. It’s honestly one of the more fun things about the work we do. We get to work with people every day to help make their lives a bit easier. We do this by understanding other people’s challenges and triumphs and looking for ways our solutions intersect to reduce those challenges and expand those triumphs. We use our verbal communication skills, our writing skills, and lately we rely on a TON of technology to help us along the way. And when we (the collective sales and marketing professionals in the universe) succeed, it’s awesome. But sometimes we fail. Miserably.

Sales and marketing technology can be amazing. Before I speak with a future customer, I typically know what pages of my website she’s viewed, what webinars she’s registered for (and if she’s attended those webinars and asked any questions), what content she’s downloaded, and I might even have insight into how she prefers I communicate with her. Creepy, I know, but this is our new normal. We have access to more demographic, psychographic, historical, and behavioral information than ever before. And yet some of us are cutting corners that make us look foolish. This is a story about one of those fools.

 Automated or asleep at the wheel?

One lovely day a couple of months ago, my colleague looked up from his computer with a completely perplexed expression. He had just received a new sales contract via email. Had he placed an online order? No. Had he agreed to any services via the phone? No. Had he spoken with anyone at all at this company? No. But he HAD downloaded an ebook that this company had been promoting online. The content looked interesting, and he took the necessary steps to input his information to gain access to the ebook. His name, company name, phone number, email address, and the number of employees at our organization. If you think about it, a salesperson had pretty much everything he needed to send my colleague a contract. So, he did. Here’s the kicker: we are already a customer.

Because we’re in sales and marketing, we often have a backstage view to every sales show, and I can write the script for this story:

  • Buyer persona is served valuable content via social media promotion.
  • Buyer persona completes marketing automation form to access valuable content.
  • Buyer persona, once a prospect, is now a lead.
  • Lead information is delivered to sales.
  • Sales sends contract.

First of all, above everything else, someone or something should have checked to see if my colleague was already a customer. I mean, really. But let’s say we weren’t already customers. What about the consumption of an ebook — ANY ebook — let’s even pretend the ebook was fortuitously titled, “So, You Want to Buy XYZ Solution?” What about this tells anyone that a sales contract is the very next step?

It’s not. It never will be. Content marketing provides us with a great opportunity at the top of the funnel to discover new prospects, and then later to nurture potential customers as they are gaining greater awareness of their problem and begin researching solutions. What it’s not is a silver bullet. A magic wand. A fast pass to the front of the line.

Back to my colleague. Since we were already customers, he did not sign and return that contract. After we had a good laugh, an upsetting feeling washed over us. Clearly we meant very little to this company. They didn’t even recognize us as customers. After all, they are a large corporation, and we’re a small software company (for now). Moreover, if they couldn’t get something this simple right, what did that say about their infrastructure? Their personnel? We started second guessing exactly how comfortable we felt relying on this company for an integral element of our business. And just like that, thanks to one great piece of content, a poorly architected marketing and sales handoff, and a bit of laziness, we were shopping for a new vendor.

About the author

Jen Spencer

As Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Jen Spencer leads SmartBug's sales, marketing, and brand strategy. Over her career, Jen has built several demand generation and sales enablement programs from the ground up and has experience working within tech startups, publicly traded companies, mid-market organizations, and the not-for-profit space. Jen subscribes to the notion that “we’re all in this together,” and great communication leads to great partnership. She loves animals, technology, the arts, and really good Scotch.

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