December 14, 2020

When Not to Use Automation in Customer Acquisition Marketing


Automating various aspects of your digital marketing strategy is all the rage these days. The largest platforms are pushing automation more than ever: automated bidding and budgeting on digital campaigns, automated attribution modeling to mix in the best channels at the right time, even automated communication to help nurture leads. 

When used properly, these features – many tied to machine learning to help the automations get better over time – can be a big boost for your marketing efforts. They can create more rapid campaign optimizations, make better use of spend, and cut down on work hours required to maximize performance in your account. But rushing blindly into automating your digital strategies can be a recipe for disaster. Here are a few times when turning to automated marketing processes can actually do more harm than good in your campaigns.

You Can’t See the Full Customer Journey

Your digital strategy should be focused on closing more customers, regardless of your budget, and not just purely on lead volume. That means you need visibility into the entire lead-to-customer journey in order to turn campaigns over to automation. Building out a closed-loop analytics view of your post-lead milestones is the best way to fully get this information to use it in marketing efforts.

Closed-loop analytics will tell you not only where leads are coming from, but which ones are hitting milestones that eventually lead to a new customer. More importantly, that information is then shared back into marketing channels to help with optimization. That way, decisions can be made based on which elements are generating customers and not just inefficient leads.

Without this, turning on marketing automation can send your campaigns in the wrong direction and waste money. Imagine if you have a paid search ad group generating high lead volume, but it’s low quality and never turns into customers. Without closed-loop analytics pumping downstream data into the platform, bid and targeting automations would likely build up this ad group and push even heavier volume at the expense of other areas of the account. You could end up funneling more spend toward a low-performing tactic that only floods your sales team with irrelevant leads. In this instance, automation can be a nightmare and actually move your marketing in the wrong direction.

You Don’t Have an Attribution Model

Several digital channels feature automation based around attribution models. Most widely known is Google Ads, which uses multiple attribution models to help its automation make the best decisions based on your data. But turning on automation without truly knowing your ideal attribution model for your business and customer is not a winning solution.

Attribution is no longer about only valuing the last click that brought a prospect to your website. Truly evaluating your ideal attribution models goes hand-in-hand with having closed-loop analytics. You need to build a roadmap of the ideal touchpoints a prospect takes from beginning to end, to establish what value each should have. If the average customer takes 10 touchpoints, with the final three featuring various conversion actions, then perhaps a Time-Decay model works best. And so forth.

But without knowing this, turning on marketing automation and blindly selecting a model could optimize for the wrong touchpoints. You could end up spending too much on earlier touchpoints, when some digging would uncover it’s the final touchpoints that meant the most for gaining a customer. Much like automating strategies based on incomplete data, doing so with an incomplete idea of your attribution model trusts machines to make decisions that need some human context.

Auto-Generating Ad Copy

Much has been made about automated ad copy and AI content writing for marketers. Google even has an automation feature to create and launch new ads automatically in your paid search campaigns (something we feel should be turned off in most cases). 

While it may be tempting to turn over the copywriting keys to a machine, there is perhaps no area where human input is more important. The nuances involved in personalizing messaging based on specific audiences are too complex to fully trust automation across all your campaigns. And in many instances, this automated ad copy is determined based on content on your website and search queries and keywords in your campaigns. That means you’re agreeing with two scenarios:

  • Your website content is as optimized as possible for your target customers
  • Your ad campaigns are built out well, segmented, and constantly optimized toward the best search queries

More often than not, these things are not true. Especially with website content, unless you’re deep into an ongoing conversion rate optimization strategy to improve your content and UX design. But if these things aren’t 100%, then automated ad variations can easily start speaking to the wrong product benefits, alienate certain audiences, and in the worst cases get the messaging and business tone entirely wrong. Unless you’re simply too crunched for time to monitor and adjust ad copy in any way, leaving such a personal and nuanced concept such as messaging entirely up to ad platform automation is not advised.

At Statwax, we believe machines have their place but human brainpower is what really produces results. If you’re curious about how we mix the right automation with hands-on optimizations, get in touch with our digital customer acquisition specialists today!


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