Don’t worry; I’m not going to ask you to give up your content marketing automation — that would be like asking me to give up air conditioning. Or Diet Coke wine. Today’s marketing world is too big, too complex, and too immediate for that. But I am going to beg you (pretty please?) to look at your automated messages from the receiver’s perspective — and to be really honest about what you would think if you received that message.

Full disclosure here: I don’t use much in the way of marketing automation, partly because I’m focused less on lead generation right now than on thought leadership. But it’s also because I keep seeing mistakes that make me cringe. Writing this blog post wasn’t even on my agenda for today (which is why it’s so short), but this business is tough enough without making content marketing automation mistakes that undermine your best efforts. So please bear with me while I point a few things out.

Are you guilty of these content marketing automation mistakes?

Twitter DMs

I’m not a huge fan of “Thanks for following” Tweets, but only because they don’t really mean anything. They’re the equivalent of saying “Nice to meet you” to someone you know you’ll never see again. As a southern girl, though, I’ve got to give them points for manners and graciousness.

But when those automated DMs try to sell you your own services, you know the sender is running purely on autopilot. I follow people who do what I do so that I can learn from them (and scope out the competition), not because I need their services. It’s a mistake that just screams automation: “I have no idea who you are or what you do, but please buy my stuff!”

We can do better, y’all.

I ignore most backlink outreach emails anyway, because they’re obviously scripted, even if they specifically mention a couple of my posts. (If I can tell the sender actually read the posts they mention, I always respond.)

But then there are the ones that make no sense, asking me to add their link to an article I never wrote or a site that I have no control over (like Copyblogger!). I have no idea how this happens, but I’ve received enough emails like this that it has to be some kind of marketing automation glitch.

Acting like we’re best friends when I have no idea who you are

Maybe I downloaded a white paper years ago when I was doing research for a client. Maybe I applied for a business checking account and ended up going with a different bank. Maybe I sent my son to your Superhero summer camp once, but now that he’s a teenager he’s more interested in Fortnite. Maybe I signed up for your meal delivery service a couple of years ago, but now I live 1,000 miles away.

My point? Don’t assume that the people on your email list remember who you are or why they gave you their address. I expect that the GDPR will put a stop to a lot of these emails, but if you’re going to email people who haven’t had a recent interaction with your business, take a sentence to re-introduce yourself.

Giving prospective customers more information than you want them to have

This is the one that sent me over the edge this morning. I’m not going to call out the sender, but here is the offending content marketing automation tmiparagraph:

I came across Marketing and Advertising company and noticed a few things you could do with your marketing that could easily double your business in the next 30 days.

There are only two conclusions I can draw from this:

  • The fact that the sender referred to “Marketing and Advertising company” rather than my business’s name strongly suggests this is an automated message and that he has never visited my site. In that case, his claim to have noticed opportunities is obviously false.
  • If he did visit my site and note opportunities, not going back and personalizing the company name is a pretty big miss for somebody who claims he can double my business in 30 days.

Neither of those options makes me want to work with him.


I know that the various marketing automation platforms offer a wide range of features, from the very basic to the highly customized. And I know that the ones with the most features can often be unaffordable for SMBs. Don’t spend more on marketing automation than you can afford. But please read your own automated marketing content for unintended messages that could be harming your business and reputation.

What if you find a problem?

If you can fix it, then fix it. If it’s not fixable with the marketing automation platform you’re using, give some thought as to whether it could be doing more harm than good. Then either stop sending that message, or continue and keep your eyes open for negative reactions.

If you’re a marketing automation pro and know of a solution or workaround for any of the problems I mentioned, please get in touch. I’ll add your solutions to this article and give you credit as well as a backlink.