How to Explain Your Marketing Automation Job

Marketing Automation

You think you have a tough time explaining your marketing job to your in-laws, grandparents, and old high school friends? Try explaining your marketing job at a marketing automation company.

Blank stares.

It makes me envy Owen explaining his software engineering job at GE.

But first, from all of us at Act-On, we want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! For those of you outside the United States, we want to wish you a Happy Thursday! We’re thankful for so many things, and one of them is the opportunity to work with great customers and partners throughout the marketing world.

Now, back to the task at hand: explaining ourselves and our jobs. This time of year in the States, we typically gather with family and friends to celebrate the holiday. We expect that, at some point, someone is going to ask us what it is we do professionally, or they are going to ask us how work is going.

Around my Thanksgiving dinner table, where we will be hosting my wife’s family, this question will be asked to educators, chefs, homemakers, dentists, retirees, and even a software engineer. For the most part, everyone can understand what everyone else does; they even grasp the job of the engineer who works at Amazon.

Then there’s me. A content strategist at a marketing automation company. How meta. Most of the time I explain that I write blogs and other copy, shoot and edit videos, and record podcasts. But how do I explain marketing automation?

Well, let’s cut up that turkey, shall we?

It helps to start with an official definition.

“Marketing automation refers to a software platform that automates manual tasks and multi-step processes such as email and social media campaigns, allowing marketing departments to get more done with less effort.”

This is from the What is Marketing Automation page on our website. It includes a lot of great information, including this explainer video below:

I also love this wonky definition from Seas Marketing’s Kari Seas, who recently defined marketing automation’s role in lead generation on Episode 53 of the Rethink Marketing podcast. She said, “Marketing automation’s role is putting individuals in target accounts into the sales funnel who are most likely to result in closed revenue in the shortest time frame possible.”

How do you think my 90-year old grandmother would respond to that? I think I’m just going to get more blank stares from everyone around the dinner table (even more than I normally get).

Now let’s look at some of the more popular metaphors that are used to explain marketing automation.

Marketing automation is like dating.

This conveys the concept of delivering the right message at the right time to the target. You don’t ask someone to marry you on the first date. Just like you don’t ask someone for a sale on the first interaction.

Marketing automation is like a pumpkin.

This analogy, whether growing a pumpkin or any thing else from seedling to harvest, expresses the idea of nurturing the relationship with a prospect from first touch to final sales.

Marketing automation is like a three-martini lunch.

I paraphrased this one from a LinkedIn infographic on lead nurturing. But it gets to the point in a very Mad Men kind of way. It refers to the time when sales would take out a prospect or customer for boozy lunches and weekend getaways to build and strengthen the relationship (or get some embarrassing blackmail).

For our Thanksgiving dinner conversation, let’s think about marketing automation with what we have around the table.

Marketing automation is like having your own Martha Stewart.

We often talk about MA as delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.

If you think about planning a meal for a large group, you know there are always several people who like different dishes, or have a food allergy, or are vegetarian, or don’t eat gluten, and so forth. Addressing all these needs is easy enough to do when you’re preparing one meal at a time.

In our profession, however, we don’t have that luxury of accommodating our prospects and customers’ individual needs one by one. Marketing automation helps us scale. It’s like having Martha Stewart hanging out in the kitchen to help you to cook all those different meals at once; it’s like serving Thanksgiving dinner to everyone in the United States at the same time.

Marketing automation is like gravy.

Gravy makes everything better. I don’t know about you, but I pour it on the turkey, the potatoes, the green bean casserole … pretty much everything on my dinner plate. It makes all those individual dishes and side dishes so much better. Marketing automation is similar. You need to know who your buyer personas are. You need to have a list or build a list of prospects. You need to create the content that answers the questions buyers may have. Marketing automation, like gravy, ties it all together.

Marketing Automation is like the turkey.

If you’re running a mid-market B2B business, it’s critical you have a marketing automation platform. It’s the cornerstone of your marketing efforts. Same with the turkey. Thanksgiving isn’t complete without a turkey (or that one special main dish if turkey is not your thing).

And now let’s briefly revisit the pumpkin comparison. At the end of the growing cycle you get a pumpkin, and at the end of Thanksgiving dinner you get pumpkin in pie form. At the end of the sales funnel you get revenue ‒ which is also delicious.

OK, I’d better stop now. All this talk of turkey and pie … and I now need a nap.

Again, from all of us at Act-On, we hope you have a safe, restful, and enjoyable holiday. And please share your Thanksgiving-related metaphors to explain marketing automation or marketing in general. Use the hashtag #Rethink Marketing.