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The Current State of Marketing Automation

What You Need to Know About Digital Marketing in 2018

The biggest change that we’ve observed in marketing automation is that it, as a discipline, is becoming less about managing campaigns and prospecting, and more about the insights that can gather from marketing data, especially they’re connected to sales data. The closer the connection between marketing and sales — and literally, marketing automation software and CRM software — the more effective your work in both areas can be.

In this episode of Expert Marketing Matters, Chris, Mark, and Holly discuss the current state of marketing automation, and pay particularly close attention to how technology and trends are blending marketing and sales more than ever before…

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below.

Episode Transcript

Chris Butler: Welcome to Expert Marketing Matters. I’m Chris Butler.

Holly Fong: I’m Holly Fong.

Mark O’Brien: And I’m Mark O’Brien.

Chris Butler: And this is episode three of the new year, Season Three Episode Three. Not that that matters to anyone, but it matters to us because it feels nice to be back. And again, back in the stars’ seat is Holly Fong.

Mark O’Brien: Special guest!

Chris Butler: Holly Fong has been a guest star of this podcast as well as Consider This recently, so Kevin …

Mark O’Brien: She’s in all of the podcasts.

Chris Butler: Is all over it.

Holly Fong: Yeah, my PR agent’s been like, trying harder.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah, really hustling!

Chris Butler: She’s very in demand right now. You know, we meet as a group to talk about what we should cover in this podcast, and we realize that, and this has come up before, but we realize that we spend a lot of time as an organization talking about and helping others understand marketing automation. And it’s the subject we cover the least, in this context. Partly because you’re the expert in it, and you’re not always at this table. But also, because I think maybe it’s just harder to talk about sometimes.
So we wanted to bring you on here to sort of catch up on what should we be thinking about, what’s changed. Partly also because, I was saying this to Mark before you came in, Newfangled got into marketing automation relatively early; when was that?

Mark O’Brien: 2011, the fall of 2011.

Chris Butler: Yeah. And a ton has changed since then, but remarkably one thing that hasn’t changed is who we’ve been using for marketing animation, our principle partner in all that time, because of how great they’ve been. But what I thought what would be useful is just to throw some questions at you about what’s changed. But like, big picture. In your time doing this, what’s shifted? What should people be thinking about now that maybe they don’t think about when they think about marketing automation?

Holly Fong: Yeah, so I think the biggest change has really been that marketing automation is becoming less about just managing campaigns and prospecting, and more about the insights that you’re going to gather from that marketing data, especially as it’s tied to your sales data. Right? So the closer connection between marketing automation software and CRM software.

Chris Butler: That’s fascinating. And I guess that probably is what has catalyzed something that I know you’ve been watching quite closely, which is the expansion of the market itself. And you know, initially there was what? I remember at a talk you showed all the players in the marketing automation space, and helped people understand the pros and cons of working with them, but there were five or six?

Mark O’Brien: At that point we were comparing, what were the most viable fix or six for the average agency.

Chris Butler: Right. And now, how many would you guys guess exist?

Mark O’Brien: There are actually hundreds. Hundreds of true companies doing this.

Chris Butler: Right. And possibly beyond that list that you had put together that year, and I know you’ve updated that from time to time when it’s been important to share, but these days when clients come to us, we’ve added a few, like two or three that we continue to hear about.
So from your perspective, who is likely in this space that you think from a true marketing automation standpoint, people should really be thinking seriously about?

Holly Fong: Pardot. The reason I say that is that-

Chris Butler: Just Pardot?

Holly Fong: Just Pardot.

Chris Butler: Just Pardot; there is no one else.

Holly Fong: It’s because of its tie with Salesforce, right? And so, you know, there’s always been HubSpot, which most people have looked to in the automation marketing space. And that continues to be a big player, but I think Pardot is going to get stronger than them because they have a stronger CRM behind them than what HubSpot has, right?
And with Act-On, with HubSpot, with a ton of other marketing automation tools, there are integrations with Salesforce, but having Pardot be, like a part of Salesforce, and having that tie be so close, is going to be a big deal.

Chris Butler: Yeah. Well they certainly have the right relationship behind them to make a big dent in the market. And I think you both said when you came back from Dreamforce this year, and this made sense but I was kind of surprised to hear it, that no one else was allowed at Dreamforce but Pardot.

Mark O’Brien: Right. Yeah, that’s been true the past few years. Which is a little bit difficult, because what I used to enjoy about going to Dreamforce was that the expo floor was just, you know, the state of digital marketing; it was so diverse and you could really do an apples-apples comparison down the row of all the companies in X category.
And that’s how we settled on Act-On in the first place, because we went and right there, on the floor, we spoke with Marketo, and Pardot, and Silverpop and everybody else and made an educated decision quite quickly. But yeah, now Salesforce is, the Dreamforce conference has changed quite a bit in that regard.
And also with Pardot too, Pardot was an accidental sort of carryover, because Salesforce acquired ExactTarget in, I think it was 2012. And that was who they acquired. It just so happened that nine months prior, ExactTarget had acquired Pardot. And so Pardot just kind of came along for the ride. And for many, many years, there wasn’t really any meaningful integration.

Holly Fong: They weren’t doing a ton with it.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah, it was the same old Pardot, right? But that’s different now.

Holly Fong: Yeah, I mean now it’s literally like a tab in your Salesforce account, if you have a Pardot account, which is pretty cool.
The other thing that I think is huge with this, is that it’s not just about the reports that it’s giving you about, you know, your marketing and your sales, but it’s about the predictions it can make based on those reports. And that’s really where marketing automation is heading, right? That’s what’s going to be big down the road for us. And, you know, all these other tools that are coming out with marketing automation, MailChimp, Drip, those are fine, but they’re not going to have that.

Chris Butler: I think that’s a really fascinating insight, that, when you think about how content marketing has evolved, initially in order to gain insight about what people were doing with your content, and what they might do next on your website, we had Google Analytics. And over time, CMSes have gotten pretty good at offering additional insight.
And then, as we moved into outbound, you know, we remembered that outbound is still a thing; for years it was like, inbound only. No no no, outbound matters because, inbound happens and then you also draw people in through email. What marketing automation is offering is sort of what analytics offered to the website, but vis-a-vis what happens in other people’s spaces. Once you get your content out into their inboxes, what could you learn about them, what might they do next?
And I guess this prompted a question I had that I think you could have a pretty interesting answer to is, is there a gap between what the average person that you’ve encountered thinks marketing automation is, and what you think it is?

Holly Fong: Yes.

Chris Butler: So tell me about that.

Holly Fong: The biggest gap I see is that, they’re really just using it as an email tool. Right? And in that case, they don’t need to spend the money they are on automation, and there’s tools that allow them to kind of just do that.

Chris Butler: Right. They could use MailChimp.

Holly Fong: Yeah. The mistake they’re making is they’re not using the information that marketing automation has because of the tracking codes and the ability to create automated programs around it, to make, you know, programs that are really working for them. To set up emails that are nurturing their prospects without them having to go in there individually and look at what people are doing and then sending those one-off emails. That should be happening at a higher level, where an individual isn’t doing that on a weekly or daily basis. That just should be happening in the back end.

Chris Butler: And it’s not an overnight a-ha moment when you start to illuminate that. I mean, it takes a while for people to grow into using that and integrate that into their own marketing processes, right?

Holly Fong: Mm-hmm (affirmative), definitely, yeah. I mean working with us helps, because that’s something that we’re constantly talking to our clients about, and making sure on a monthly basis we’re coming up with new ideas for them to implement, you know.

Chris Butler: Right. I was just remembering something that you’ve pointed out numerous times, where, I can’t remember a specific name and you might, but there have been times where an automated program has gone out that has come from you, and someone has emailed you back saying, like, “I know this is automated, or I know this isn’t you, but thanks anyway and I love it.”

Mark O’Brien: But thanks anyway, yeah.

Chris Butler: Tell me about that, as someone who spends most of their time making first contact with prospects, how do you feel about the automated side of it? Like, when you know an email that you’ve never necessarily touched goes out with your name on it, and what it’s going to do and what you’ve planned for it to do. Obviously, that changes a little bit when it actually gets acted on.

Mark O’Brien: It does, so to speak.

Chris Butler: No pun intended.

Mark O’Brien: It does, and we’ve had conversations about this, and ethically what’s the right strategy. For example, do you say, “Hello Chris,” or do you just say, “Hello”? Right? Because even that makes it a little less pretending, you know, a little more genuine, if you will.

Chris Butler: Sure.

Mark O’Brien: And the way I sort of got my head around it ethically from the very beginning was, well, this email I want to send out, is this the email I would like to send out to all these people individually? If I had all the time in the world, would I do that? And if the answer is yes, then okay, it’s find to send it out as a blast. Right? And that’s okay. And then those people, based on their reaction to that email, to go into different campaigns based on, you know, behavior and response, et cetera.

Chris Butler: Right, right.

Mark O’Brien: That’s okay. I think when you get a little too clever with it, and there’s a fine line, and I get really upset when I get these! When you’re really trying to pretend that this is just a one on one email, that I’m trying to engage you in a personal level. And it’s not the case when you’re one of 10,000. And all the trick that get used now, when it’s like “re:” this thing, or “forward” this thing. And, “My manager and I were just talking about your account, and we’d really like to set up a call.”
Like those types of things, like there’s some conference people are going to about email marketing, that is giving out the worst advice. Because you see these trends come down the pike, and like someone’s telling people to do these things. Just to increase open rates and click-throughs and that kind of thing, and it’s …

Chris Butler: Right. And I think we all receive those kinds of emails. But wouldn’t it be fair to say that’s not email marketing, more is it’s email sales, right?

Mark O’Brien: That’s a really good point. It’s straight sales, yeah.

Chris Butler: Yeah, now you make first contact a lot, but fundamentally it’s actually, it’s rarely first contact, because the whole point of this email marketing thing is to share expertise with somebody, and then if they’re interested, let’s start to evolve that into a conversation. What you’re talking about is the guy who says, “Hey, can we talk? Can we talk? Can we talk? You didn’t reply to this; can we talk?” And you’ll get six of those.
But I get your point, which is that there’s still a fine line. Because, fundamentally speaking, you send someone an email, that’s an intimate act. It gets into their personal space; it’s on their phone, it’s on their computer, it’s in their space. It’s not on your space anymore. And that’s a big difference.
I wanted to ask you another question though, about, you said that the difference between what marketing automation allows for and maybe just a tool that helps you send email, is you get insight, you get reports, et cetera. It seems to me like there’s two big areas of focus where, I know you and your team spend a lot of time, which is, helping people understand the insights, right? All the data. But also helping people to craft these automated programs.

Holly Fong: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes.

Chris Butler: And I would love for you to talk more about that, because I think that’s a big blind spot on this podcast, talking about what goes into an automated program, what are they used for, what should people be thinking about? How do they actually benefit a marketing team? I know that’s really broad based, but what comes to mind when you think about those?

Holly Fong: So what comes to mind is a combination of what you guys were just talking about, which is people’s initial thought is like, “Okay, I see this person came to the site. So we’re going to send an email that says, ‘Hey, would you like to talk?'” You know? And what we really try to coach our clients on is, you need to be crafting marketing messages specific to what people are viewing on your site, to get them to view something else of interest to them. You don’t need to sell to them right away. They’re going to reach out when they’re ready. Or, you’re going to reach out to them when you know they’re ready because they’ve done a lot on your site and they’re coming to your site on their own, not just through an email that you sent.
So, we talk a lot about the different automated programs that they can set up, where if someone is viewing five blogs on content marketing, you’re sending them a white paper on content marketing, because you know that they’re going to find that interesting, based on the behavior they’ve had on your site. That sort of thing.

Chris Butler: That’s great. Sorry, go ahead.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah, it just extends the theme of true education.

Holly Fong: Yes, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mark O’Brien: And a lack of neediness.

Chris Butler: Yeah.

Holly Fong: Exactly, yeah.

Mark O’Brien: Those are the two things to be so careful of, just, are you actually helping this person? Is this campaign going to benefit the individuals on the campaign, or is it going to annoy the individuals on the campaign? [crosstalk 00:12:33]

Holly Fong: It’s a bad idea to annoy them, right? Because you’re just going to get more people to opt out, which is ultimately bad for your deliverability and then when you do get somebody-

Mark O’Brien: And it cheapens your brand. That’s the biggest thing.

Holly Fong: Oh totally, yeah.

Mark O’Brien: And that’s the biggest danger with automation, is that you can accidentally cheapen your brand. Even if you have all the right intentions, you send out the wrong program by accident at the wrong time, and it doesn’t look so good because everyone knows you made a mistake. Right?

Chris Butler: Right.

Mark O’Brien: So that the stakes are high. And we’ve done it; it’s happened to us.

Chris Butler: Right, like that automated email that is triggered by an event that you don’t have control over, lands in someone’s email inbox on Christmas Morning or some weird thing like that.

Mark O’Brien: Right, yeah.

Chris Butler: And we’ve done that, because you don’t think about those things; it’s like two steps removed from your own control. And it’s pretty interesting.
We should take a break. But when we come back, I would love to hear you talk about two other things that we haven’t talked about yet. One, the financial side of all this. What’s happening in the market? What are these things costing? Where’s the pressure coming from? And the second has to do with, what’s been tried and not worked? You know, in your own experience. What do people try naturally that they think is going to work, and doesn’t work? And you’ve only learned that from experience that you can help people head off at the pass.

Holly Fong: All right, sounds good.

Chris Butler: All right, we’ll be back in a moment.
You’re listening to Expert Marketing Matters, a podcast about generating ideal new business opportunities by creating and nurturing digital marketing systems and habits that have a measurable impact on your bottom line.
This podcast is brought to you by Newfangled, a digital marketing consultancy focused on empowering experts to do better digital marketing. You can learn more about Newfangled’s digital marketing method at
Okay welcome back. So I left you with a couple of seed questions, and the first one had to do with the finances of this. What does it cost these days, what is it costing, what’s changing? Where’s the pressure coming from? What are people freaked out about? You know, how does that all fit into this? Because this isn’t cheap.

Holly Fong: Nope.

Mark O’Brien: It can be.

Holly Fong: Well, now it is.

Chris Butler: It can be. Should it be? Maybe that’s the question. I don’t know. What are your thoughts on that?

Mark O’Brien: Sometimes.

Holly Fong: Now it’s much cheaper. So, you know, MailChimp has come out with essentially a free option. Drip is $30 a month. So there are options for creating automated messages, essentially, that are a lot less expensive than the price tag that other automation tools will give individuals.

Chris Butler: Although I’m sure you’d have a great argument for telling somebody why perhaps they should spend a little bit more than maybe one of the cheaper entry points in automation?

Holly Fong: Yeah, the argument there would be the insights that’s gathered, from an automation tool that’s of higher caliber, or that has a closer connection to your CRM. And then, to the point that I made earlier, where it’s really going has to do more with predictive analytics, and finding things out about the individuals that you’re marketing to. And an example of that would be, you know, someone that comes into your site that is a certain title. They might have a longer sales cycle than someone of a different title. And maybe you want to send messages out at different periods in time, right? That’s where I think automation is heading. And is well on its way to being there.
And that’s not the same as just saying, “That person clicked on that; here’s an automated message.” Which is what some of those cheaper tools are.

Mark O’Brien: And you brought up part of that earlier, and something that’s interesting there is that they are very significantly augmenting the feature set. But compared to a tool like Act-On, to get that feature set, it’s double the price, right? And $2,000+ a month, right?

Holly Fong: Yes.

Mark O’Brien: Then you compare that to $30 a month with Drip, well that’s a radically different thing.

Chris Butler: It sure is.

Mark O’Brien: And so it really depends on what the individual needs. And we’ve been proponents of Act-On for so long because we feel it’s the sweet spot between pricing and functionality and flexibility. And that’s still true, unless the client has very, very, very basic needs, or they really want to be more aggressive with their marketing, and they want to be on the leading edge of the stuff.
Now, since a lot of our clients are marketing firms themselves, sometimes they’re interested in the more advanced tools so they can be on top of it as an organization. And that could be an argument for going to Pardot or something like that.
But beyond that, we’ve got this Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which can be tens of thousands of dollars per month. We’ve got Marketo, which can easily be $3-6K per month. We’ve got Eloqua, same thing. Like, we’ve got tools that are really geared towards a more enterprise audience. And neither we nor our clients need that for ourselves or themselves. And that’s really what we’re focusing on; we’re talking about automation, we’re talking about it for the SMB, basically, the small and midsize business. And it does still feel like the main players, the HubSpot, the Pardot, the Act-On, they’re still providing the most value for that audience.
The other thing that’s at play here is with HubSpot and SharpSpring; their model is more about you reselling the product, right? That’s really their angle, and so it ends up being very affordable for the core agency because you end up reselling other accounts, and that, each account you resell makes your install cheaper. And so, it depends on what you want to do. Are you getting this for your own marketing? Or do you really want to become a reseller, an extension of that company’s business? Where are you going with this?
For our objectives, and the things we’re consulting our clients on, it’s all about them and their marketing exclusive, that’s the value prop. What’s the best tool for what they need for them? And what they sell to their clients is a different story.
And the familiarity with automation, period, is very strong. So if they have a tool, a mid-level tool, and they’re really using it and they really understand it, they’re going to be able to speak quite intelligently about this other tools and consult their clients on the other tools when they have them, such going from an Act-On to a Marketo, for example.
And so that holds water. But we always look at what the best tool is for the individual firm. And if they’re going to get anything out of automation at all, and some firms won’t. And they don’t need to spend, hardly any money. You know, they could use MailChimp just fine. We find that that’s not typical, but it’s possible.

Chris Butler: Right. Yeah and again, to that point, again we’re speaking expressly about business-to-business, typically service-oriented companies. You know, what I’ve noticed is that when, and we have lots of agency clients and when they work with product-based companies, they’re way less interested in this than they are in social media marketing. And paid marketing in that space. And I think that makes a whole lot of sense.

Mark O’Brien: Right. [crosstalk 00:19:32]

Chris Butler: You mentioned something earlier about email deliverability and I think that that plays a big role in here; it tends to be an afterthought when people are initially thinking about what tool to use. But if you have an agency account, or a reseller account, and your contacts database grows and grows and grows exponentially, and you can get something like dedicated IPs, then the security of that investment grows. In terms of what you’re actually going to see with deliverability, open rates, and all those things.
I’m curious about the smaller players, and what people are seeing in terms of the deliverability in those?

Holly Fong: Yeah, my guess is, not as great. And that’s because they’re shared with much larger companies and companies who have less regulation behind what emails are being sent. I would also say that individuals who are sending spam-like emails are probably not spending a ton on the cost of their email tool, right?

Mark O’Brien: Sure.

Chris Butler: Yeah.

Holly Fong: So you could end coming from the same IP as a spammer, and that’s going to be terrible for your own deliverability. We’re really lucky with what we have with Act-On and our dedicated IP because, we have over a 98% deliverability, which is pretty much unheard of for the number of individuals that us and and all of our clients are sending to. And that’s because we’re meeting with everyone on a monthly basis about the emails they’re sending. We’re making sure they’re CAN-SPAM compliant, and when emails even have like a high soft bounce rate for the amount of images that are in it, that’s something we’re speaking with our clients about to try to bring down for them.

Mark O’Brien: Right. The way we are structured is quite unique in the marketplace.

Chris Butler: Yep.

Mark O’Brien: And you compare that to a HubSpot, and you look at what our policies are and what their policies are, they’re incredibly different policies, and it’s because of that … You know, HubSpot is a scale-oriented, publicly owned company. They have hundreds of thousands of clients. There’s no way they can do what you just said, Holly. There’s no way they can have the oversight on every single account, and so they simply prohibit purchased lists. They have to; there’s no way for them to allow purchased lists without their domain and their deliverability reports and everything getting completely trashed. There’s just absolutely no way. Just because of the volume.
But for us, yeah as you mentioned, we’re actually in many cases doing a list purchase for out clients. Discovering where to get them, who they’re renting to. We’re also working with them on a weekly basis about the content and the crafting for that, like we couldn’t be exercising more care and control over the situation. And so our clients have a great deal of success with buying names. But it’s only because all those things are happening. And Act-On’s very flexible with that. And it looks like Pardot’s getting more flexible with that, which is interesting. They’ve changed their tune a little bit from where it was a few years ago.

Holly Fong: Yeah, definitely. I would say with HubSpot and Pardot, they’re not actually regulating how those names are getting into the database.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah, they can’t flip to that; there’s no way to.

Holly Fong: So ultimately what they’re looking at is just the spam rate at the end of the day. And if you have an extremely high spam rate, and they see that you have purchased a list, which they would basically have to do forensic analysis to figure out, right?

Mark O’Brien: Well no actually, the way that they handle that, oftentimes is when there’s a high spam rate, they go to the organization that sent the email and they say, “Show us the opt-in.” And if you cannot show the opt-in then they shut the account down.

Holly Fong: That’s how they getting in it, yeah.

Mark O’Brien: And that’s the big risk. You know, like are you going to make all this investment, to have your account shut down?
Worse yet, if you did adopt say, HubSpot or [inaudible 00:22:48] or something on behalf of your client, and it’s your client’s campaign that gets called out, and that gets shut down, then there’s major trouble.

Chris Butler: Sure. But that’s an interesting development. I can recall at one of our seminars a few years back, one of the big cons of Pardot was that you couldn’t market to a purchased list. And we’ve been operating under the assumption that that’s been true until very recently.
And I asked you about lessons learned, things that we didn’t do right or that we’ve changed our minds about. And this is a great way to tee that off because I think we’ve given a lot of advice over the past few years about how to weigh the options, and this was a major issue. And the fact that’s changed is great because, you know, we’ve been believers in purchased lists for a good while now. And we’ve done lots of discussions about why that’s not evil.
But what else do people sort of assume is going to work, or assume won’t work, that either works or doesn’t doesn’t work when they assume the opposite? Is there anything that comes to mind there?

Holly Fong: I’m trying to think; it’s slightly different from what we were originally talking about, which was mistakes that people make when they get automation.

Chris Butler: Well you could go that route.

Mark O’Brien: I’ll go there; I have one, actually.

Chris Butler: Yeah?

Holly Fong: Oh, go for it.

Mark O’Brien: I was in a meeting with a tech consultant, basically this morning. A local meeting; I never get to do local bizdev meetings. But we had one in Cary with this really wonderful firm. And they were pushing back on our recommended number of emails sent per month.

Chris Butler: Oh really?

Mark O’Brien: Yeah.

Chris Butler: They thought it was too much or too little?

Holly Fong: They thought it was too many?

Mark O’Brien: Way too many.

Chris Butler: Too many.

Mark O’Brien: Way too many. So a recommended send is two to four emails sent out to the entire list per month. So either, weekly or bimonthly. So, that sounds like a lot.
And, when I first saw that, when we did our first data pull across our client base, about 80 organizations deep, that’s what it said and I was surprised and I didn’t really believe it, and I pushed back on it pretty hard internally. And everyone basically said no, this is it.
And it is true. And what we see is that, when people are emailing more regularly, there’s more familiarity and the chances of them marking it as spam or unsubscribing go down, as long as the content’s strong.

Chris Butler: Right. But there is a sweet spot. It’s like a Goldilocks sweet spot for the amount of emails sent.

Mark O’Brien: There is, yeah.

Holly Fong: Yeah, I was going to say, I looked at that same data, and I looked specifically at clients who are sending less than three, versus the clients who are sending three to four to five, right? And it was about 10% difference in open rate, which is huge, right?

Mark O’Brien: Meaning, the people sending fewer than three had a 10% worse open rate?

Holly Fong: Yes, exactly. On average.

Mark O’Brien: Gosh. Crazy.

Holly Fong: I mean that’s on average out of all three.

Mark O’Brien: Fewer than three, though. Okay, so three or more. Got it.

Chris Butler: I mean, you could interpret that as every other week, which doesn’t sound bad.

Mark O’Brien: No, it sounds pretty regular, you know. And this came up in our podcast from last week, which is this idea of frequency, and familiarity. And it’s strange. It’s just strange that that would be the case. But yeah you have to show up regularly in the inbox in order for you to be relevant and familiar.

Chris Butler: But I think you said something really important, which is, that frequency works well provided that the content is correct. And I can map this to a B2C experience quite easily; I just went through this morning and unsubscribed from a bunch of emails. And I had been meaning to do, I think we all do that at the beginning of the new year, like “Ah, I’ve been meaning to do this.”

Mark O’Brien: Yeah.

Chris Butler: And there are a few consumer product companies, mostly clothing where I have received emails. And there’s one where I get the email maybe once a month from that company. And what annoys me is like, it’s never anything new. It’s the exact same thing.

Mark O’Brien: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

Chris Butler: Every, once a month. And I just say, “Well why am I getting this?” Whereas the people that email me every week, their business is evolving and I generally do want to know what they have to say. I might buy something once a year from them, but I’m staying in because their frequency is telling me that they have something new to say. So I guess it’s the frequency plus the content. They’re not saying the same thing every time. And so I think that sweet spot makes a big difference provided that it’s being utilized well, provided that there is something to say.

Mark O’Brien: And the CEO at the table this morning pushed back pretty hard on this; he actually opened up his phone and he started rattling off all these emails, he’s like, “This is junk, this is junk, this is junk, this is junk.” And he was right; it’s all junk-

Chris Butler: But it’s all product stuff, right?

Mark O’Brien: It was all, yeah, promotional sales. But his argument was, my phone is so littered with this that there’s no way a relevant email’s going to be able to come through.
And this is also what we were talking about last week, like, the noise. Everyone complains, whenever someone doesn’t want to do something, when they want an excuse to not market, whether it be content marketing or social media, or whatever it is, they’re saying there’s too much noise, it’s too cluttered. But again, our answer, as it was last week, now is, positioning, expertise, relevance, empathy. That’s all you can do. If you’re going to market yourself. Which you don’t have to. But if you decide you have to market yourself, outbound is a key element of this, and the volume ends up mattering. Which is odd. And I hate saying it; I wish it weren’t true, right? I still have some misgivings about it, like in my heart, you know, it just seems odd. But it is the truth.

Chris Butler: I think that fundamentally, signal to noise ratio has nothing to do with the amount of noise. Whenever anyone encounters that problem, whether in their own personal life or in their business context, their initial instinct is to do something about the noise; I have to correct the noise, or I have to not participate in the noise. No, strengthen the signal.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah!

Chris Butler: That’s the point.

Mark O’Brien: Yes, yes, that’s great.

Chris Butler: I mean, I can speak personally and I know that I’ve bought things because I saw ads on Instagram, where the noise is abundant; it’s all noise.

Mark O’Brien: It’s all noise, yeah.

Chris Butler: But the signal is good enough. Same thing in our context.

Mark O’Brien: Right. I love that, strengthen the signal. Yeah, that’s really nice.

Holly Fong: And to your point, you know, it’s the content that you’re sending. It’s going to cut through if it’s to the right audience and if it’s positioned well enough.
And to your original question, you know, what you had brought up, I would say the same thing, it’s people just not using the software; that’s the biggest mistake. Or waiting to get it perfect. It’s never going to be perfect; you have to start somewhere, right? People purchasing a list and then waiting six months to email it. Like, that’s another huge thing we see. People getting automation software and waiting a year to use it; that’s the biggest thing. So it’s really a matter of just getting going and then making sure you continue to use it on a regular basis.

Chris Butler: It’s amazing the themes that come up over and over.

Mark O’Brien: Right. It’s odd.

Chris Butler: Like, you know, in our last episode, the idea of not waiting for perfection came up in regard to when to start a podcast. And it’s so true in almost everything we do.
And I’m guilty of that. I always want something to be just right, and it’s so hard to let go and let it be a little unformed, or half-baked. But I think that’s actually how it gets better because getting that feedback when it’s not quite there and you know it, and experiencing that, experimenting, it is so important.

Mark O’Brien: You learn so much.

Chris Butler: Especially, I mean, there’s no other place but marketing automation where that experience is so critical. The trial and error, cause and effect, understanding the input and output is so critical.

Mark O’Brien: Because it’s so finitely measurable. You know, opposite of podcasting and last week’s topic, it’s we can measure every single thing in automation, which allows for just hyper growth.

Holly Fong: And even the mistakes you’re making in automation, like you were saying you learn something; sometimes you learn something good, right? Like an automated program goes out on a Sunday that you don’t intend, and then you’re “Well we had a higher conversion rate than we expected.”

Mark O’Brien: Ah, that’s a true story unfortunately. That happened to us recently by accident. And I just really don’t like getting marketing emails on a Sunday, or a Saturday; I just don’t like weekend marketing emails. I just don’t like it, conceptually.
But yeah we sent one out by accident on a Sunday, and yeah, it was our best performing email in a while, which is really annoying to me!

Holly Fong: It wasn’t necessarily the best performing open rate. But the people who opened it actually downloaded the asset at a higher rate than other emails that we’ve sent out.

Mark O’Brien: And that Monday, we had at least one actually surface inquiry.

Holly Fong: I think it was two.

Mark O’Brien: I think it was- [crosstalk 00:30:31]

Holly Fong: Sorry.

Chris Butler: And if you do the research on email marketing, which tends to be more colored by the consumer experience than this, they’ve been saying that for years, that the weekend gets the best attention, or after work time. So yeah I hear you.
We’ve got to wrap up but I want to ask you one last question before we end, which is, you’ve been working with clients, some of them are brand new, some of them have been doing this for years, and I wonder what’s the appetite and tolerance for experimentation among your clientele? Like, who’s willing to try something new and then measure it, as opposed to this idea of like, no it’s got to be proven, and tried and true before I do it?

Holly Fong: I would say, 10% of our clients are pretty experimental, and the rest really want to know what we’ve done and how they can learn from that. And you know, I think that’s fine and that’s great and we’re happy to provide that advice, but a lot of people don’t want to be the first ones to try something and see how it goes. And I can understand that. That being said, usually if you’re the first one and it works out well, you’re ahead of the game.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah, you get the bounty. And that’s a typical, I think, early adopter percentage right there, for anything.

Chris Butler: Yeah. So I guess as a closing admonition to our audience, would you encourage somebody to consider taking a risk, being intrepid?

Holly Fong: Yeah, definitely. When you can take a chance and try something a little new, you know, worst case scenario, maybe you get a few opt-outs or something like that. Generally it’s not going to be from an individual who would ever end up working with you in the future anyway. Especially if you have a big enough list.

Chris Butler: Yeah. I like that. All right well I hope that it’s been helpful. If anyone has any questions about this, you should just reach out to Holly directly; she’s our resident expert on this. You can always reach us at You can reach out to the podcast over Twitter if you like, at @Newfangled_web. And you can find Holly’s face among our employee set, our team members on the site, and reach out to her directly if you like.

Holly Fong: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

Mark O’Brien: Thanks Holly.

Chris Butler: Thank y’all.

Mark O’Brien: Bye.