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High Performance: The failure of automated email marketing

August 11, 2014 -  By

EmailsIf you’ve ever had a conversation with a tree or a brick wall, you know how it feels to interact with a company that relies too heavily on automated email marketing. Ask a question, and be ignored. Click on the wrong thing, and prepare for a lifetime of “helpful hints” that may or may not be relevant. Do nothing at all and end up in the dreaded “long-term nurture campaign.” Where is the desire to make human contact? Where is the listening, caring and empathy?

Don’t get me wrong. I love marketing. I have a degree in marketing. I also love automation. But the trend toward incessant email marketing is misguided, in my humble opinion. I say this from personal experience, as my organization invested heavily in automated email marketing only to pull the plug on all of it. Our experience may save you hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars.

The premise of automated email marketing is actually quite ingenious. Build out a plethora of emails, and set them up to be sent out automatically based on what a prospect does or doesn’t do, allowing the company to “interact” with thousands of people without any human contact. Doesn’t that sound great?

The problem is humans desire human contact. You desire human contact and so do I. At a major U.S. airport, I recently tried a new restaurant concept where each table setting displayed an iPad from which the guest was required to place their order, pay by credit card and then surf the web. No human contact was needed. I dutifully ate my meal and surfed the web, but I would never go back. My food showed up quickly and it was actually quite tasty, but the lack of human interaction was unnerving. Since when was it our goal to go through each day without any human interaction?

The counter to my argument is that automated email marketing is only one aspect of marketing, and that it is simply a cost-effective way to determine preferences leading up to a more personal, human interaction. I understand this perfectly. However, when was the last time you had a great personal interaction with the companies who bombard you with email on a daily basis? I’m guessing it’s either rare or never.

Marketing choices are endless. Each of us has to decide what marketing initiatives to invest in. For me and my organization, we have decided to spend our marketing dollars on developing personal relationships. Will we still send out emails? Of course we will, but not as part of a complex automated marketing strategy that seeks to avoid human contact.

Our advice is to get to know your prospects through human contact, not through impersonal automation. They will be glad you did and so will you when they turn into satisfied customers. Turn off the email faucet, and pick up the phone or the keys to your vehicle.

Now go forth.


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About the Author:

Phil Harwood is a Senior Advisor with Tamarisk Business Advisors. Contact him at

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