The Major Flaw in Today’s Marketing Automation Solutions

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Having spent my entire career building software for marketers, I’ll be the first to admit:

We messed up.

The tools marketers use today were built for a world where companies had all the power.

Instead of identifying actual customer problems, we’d start with a company problem and then build software around it.

As a result, we inflicted a terrible customer experience on our customers.

But now that the balance of power has shifted, and customer expectations have evolved, the old marketing automation software tools are starting to show their age.

In this on-demand, real-time world that we live in, people expect results immediately. So if they want to ask you a question about your product, they expect an answer immediately. And if they’re ready to buy, they expect to be able to buy immediately.

Today, on my phone, I can order a can of soda or a bottle of Scotch or a pair of socks or underwear or a computer and have it delivered right here, right now to this office. So why should buying B2B software be any different?

Forget about sales and marketing for a second. If you just think, as a person, about the on-demand, real-time environment that we live in now, it’s clear that the old way of doing things — filling out forms, getting emails, waiting months, weeks, days or hours for someone to even acknowledge me as a human — is batsh*t crazy.

These days, if you can’t help people buy when it’s convenient for them, they’re going to Google your competitors and find a company that can.

Putting Customer Experience First

The companies that we see that are disproportionately winning in their industries (e.g. Airbnb, Amazon, Apple) are the ones that really own the customer experience. That’s the thing that matters.

That’s why we, as consumers, put such a premium on companies like Apple: because of the customer experience they deliver.

It has nothing to do with the software or the phone individually — it’s the totality of it. It’s the software, the phone, the service I get when I go into the Apple store, the Genius Bar, the way they announce products, the website, the messaging, the copy … it’s everything.

When you add all those little pieces up, that’s customer experience. And providing the best customer experience is how Apple has continued to own their category despite being around for a long time.

Apple did something that other companies didn’t do, which is to own every piece in the chain. They own the manufacturing, they own the chips, they own the stores themselves, they own the fulfillment, they own every single thing.

Now we see Amazon doing the same thing. They own fulfillment, they own the stores, now they own Whole Foods, they own delivery, and so they own that entire customer experience and can continue to make it better and better.

So, what matters today and what helps companies win? It’s the customer experience.

Whether you’re a B2C company or a B2B company, it doesn’t matter anymore. Everyones sells to people.

It’s B2P. Business to people.

As a marketing and sales organization, your job is to make the buying process as simple as possible, and to make it enjoyable for people to learn about your product.

Why the Future of Marketing Will Be Powered by Conversations (Not Forms)

If I were to build a new marketing and sales platform and wanted to make customer experience a priority, my first step would be to look at what matters to our customers today.

And when we do that, we see that our customers (as well as our end users) are spending a disproportionate amount of their time in messaging apps and in video. These are two hypertrends: messaging and video.

Where people are not spending a disproportionate amount of their time is reading ebooks, filling out forms, answering emails from people they don’t know or answering phone calls from people they don’t know.

It’s not that there’s something wrong with those technologies, they’re just not where attention is today. And they can’t provide the experience people want.

According to a 2016 study by Twilio, 9 out of 10 consumers want to be able to use messaging to talk to businesses.

With messaging on your website, you can stop forcing leads to fill out forms and start engaging them in conversation. And until recently, that’s the way that everybody did sales: via one-to-one conversations. So we’re really going back to basics.

Back in the day, when you bought something from somebody, you had a conversation about your needs and what you wanted to buy with a person-to-person dialogue. Whether it was the guy walking around knocking on your door or you walking into a store, you were developing a personal relationship when it came to buying.

Unfortunately, instead of building software that made it easier for buyers to have those conversations and to build those relationships, the marketing automation tools we built were designed to game as many people as possible into clicking something or filling something out — doing something that was easily measurable.

Now I’m trying to save everyone from this data-driven insanity, this over-optimization, where you have to measure everything: every click, every event, every marketing attribution model that you can come up with. And what I find interesting about this data-driven world is that it can’t track the most important information your business needs.

Sure, using today’s tools I can measure all of the clicks that someone’s done, what channel they came from, which sales rep they’ve interacted with, how long it’s taken them to go through the process, how long they’ve been a customer, how much they pay us, how much they’ve upgraded, what LTV to CAC looks like …. I can do all of those things today using tools that are out there.

However, these are the questions I can’t answer with today’s tools:

  • Why did this person buy?
  • Who did they compare us to when it came to us vs. looking at competitors?
  • What features are important?
  • How will they define success with our product?

With all of those things, I can look at all the data available today and still have no idea.

The way that it’s built today, that type of stuff only gets there if a rep enters it into a field. “Here’s why this person decided to buy.” And in that case it’d be totally anecdotal, assuming they even bothered to do it.

So in this world where people feel like they can perfectly measure everything, they can’t measure the true reason why someone decided to buy your product, and more importantly, what was the pain that they had and the job that they were trying to fulfill.

And that’s where messaging comes in. It allows for an actual conversation and dialogue that the sales rep can have with an individual. There’s meaning there that’s missing from all of those traditional data points.

With messaging, you can look back at the actual conversations that happened between salespeople and customers. You can look within that data (which companies have ignored so far) and you can answer those deeper questions and understand the real meaning behind a customer’s purchase and what will make them successful.

As a marketing and sales organization, what matters most are the actual conversations you have, not the buttons people click or the forms they fill out.

Contributed By David Cancel, CEO & Founder, Drift