Why Do Internet Marketers Care More About Automation Than Interaction?

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The internet is obviously the most important communication tool ever created by humankind. It connects many to many. It's available globally, and even cheaply.

Not only is it cheap to access, it's cheap to publish. It's revolutionized so many aspects of life across the entire planet, but most importantly to us, it's revolutionized the way people buy things, and conduct business.

So why then do so many Internet Marketers focus on the automation benefits of an online business - and WORSE, ignore the many opportunities the web creates for us to actually INTERACT with prospects in dynamic and meaningful ways?

In fact, I'd say that there's a whole "subculture" within IM that not only ignores interactivity but actually actively shuns it. It's like there's an aversion to dealing with customers directly at all costs.

My theory is that this behavior has crept into our industry carried by dubious merchants who would quake in fear if prospects knew where they lived. If you sell garbage and use abusive marketing methods, I can understand why you might feel that way.

But I see this tendency showing up in lots of beginners online here, too. People seem to want to focus on going into pure affiliate business models, or even pure contextual advertising models. If you interact with people HERE, what's so bad about interacting with your customers in the same way?

And then as if those models don't already separate the marketer from his market enough already, there's a whole other layer, where people avoid creating real, human content, instead relying on scrapers and spinners.

Or complicated computer programs and mathematical formulas designed to "win" and marketing strictly by statistics. That's all well and good, and I know a few people that make a lot of money working that way. But it's not going to work for most people.

And yet most people still chase THAT side of IM, rather than the side MOST of us are better equipped to handle - the HUMAN side. All of us are on facebook or twitter or myspace or SOMETHING...

Heck, even here on the WF, we chatter all day long. I know I refresh, refresh, refresh... We all KNOW how to interact with people online. Why so much fear and aversion when it comes to doing business?

Now we see more and more people saying "Hey, what happened to my sales!" Well guess what? People can't spend indiscriminately like they used to. I think people used to be able to buy things on speculation a lot more readily.

People used to could buy things "just in case" - maybe they may use it eventually, or maybe it would complete a set of something, or maybe it just sounded good, so why not?

Those days are over now, and for the foreseeable future. I'm not saying that the economic downturn will last forever, but I don't know - it could get worse.

And those purely mathematical, automated ways of doing business are going to erode away as long as they continue to ignore the most potentially profitable mechanism of the internet: interaction.

It's something NO OTHER FORM of media can accomplish. Not TV, not radio, not print...

Here's a secret that all the people complaining don't realize: People haven't stopped buying at all. They buy the stuff they want to, never the stuff they need.

But almost NO ONE around in Internet Marketing in the past 10 years has EVER bothered to actually USE the interactive nature of the internet to GET PEOPLE TO WANT their stuff before pitching it to them.

Here's a hint - if your "pre-launch" talks about your product at all, you're probably doing it wrong.

You see it over and over again - launch after hype-filled launch.

I always used to think "I can't believe people actually get excited for no other reason than some NEW SHINY product is coming out". It just seemed so hollow. Eventually, I had to get over myself and realize that I was not my target market in IM. The level of quality and interaction I wanted myself wasn't really what MOST people even cared about.

But it's certainly different now. I'd say that the entire market - and the entire economy - is shifting more towards MY way of thinking about marketing as a consumer. If you're not even going to TRY to engage me, I don't want to buy your stuff.

I have less money to spend, but I still REALLY REALLY want to spend it. I'm sure you all feel the same way, right? And the person that's going to get my money is the person whose marketing is going to really engage me, and connect with me, and be centered around building a RELATIONSHIP.

Automation for automation's sake just won't work anymore. If you have an autoresponder and all you use it for is repetition - I bet that's losing ground. You can still use automation but for it to succeed now and into the future, I think a lot of marketers will need to re-think the way we've been conditioned to use this wonderful technology.

The internet is NOT a one-way modality. Use the power of automation to develop deeper and more frequent COMMUNICATION with your prospects, and not just one-way MESSAGING.

The opportunity of the internet really does remain as strong as ever. All that's different now is that the work is harder. That doesn't really bother me, because what I do as a copywriter hasn't changed for over 100 years.

In fact, I think a lot of the marketers suffering now could really benefit by looking at ads from the 30s, the LAST time the economy was really down. See how businesses engaged customers and invited them to participate.

Remember that back then, the innovation was in actually mailing marketing to people's homes and going door to door because people stopped going to the stores. The businesses that thrived did so because they went to where their customers were and INTERACTED with them.

I think very soon (and hopefully far into the future) we'll see a renaissance in that kind of marketing. I for one intend to pursue it as well as I can by myself.

But that's just, like, my opinion, man.

What's yours?

P.S. I know that there's a school of thought that says to counter consumer apathy, we need to drop the hype and just be straight with people.

I agree that's a good strategy, and it's really already the same thing that I'm saying here - that angle is actually making an effort to sweep away some of the "clutter" surrounding IM and move the marketer closer to the customer.

When I say "interact" I don't mean necessarily "message more" - I mean just that - INTERACT. Create conversations. Talk about more than just products. Talk about problems and solutions, frustrations and fears. CONNECT and THRIVE.

Remain disconnected and you'll go out of business (or never even get started).
#automation #care #interaction #internet #marketers
  • Profile picture of the author Chris Watson
    Colin,

    I agree, automation shouldn't be favored over interaction. I guess it's easy for us to forget that we're dealing with real people on the other side of our keyboards and monitors lol.

    I don't know, I guess another thing with automation is just laziness. I mean, if I could REALLY set something, forget it, and make crazy amounts of money, I (and any other sensible person, lol) would hop on that opportunity like white on rice!

    But yea, I definitely think that marketers should worry more about engaging their market; it could only lead to more profits, plus it could even be fun interacting with other interesting people while you are solving their problems (the basic function of a marketer), for money of course, lol.

    I'm definitely going to take your advice to heart and reach out to my market more.

    Thanks for the advice,
    Christian
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  • Profile picture of the author Emily Meeks
    Hi Colin,

    I think when most people talk about automation, they are talking about how to do all the little grunt-work things like article writing, backlink building, list-building, etc. on autopilot. These things aren't necessarily *hard* to do provided your product or service is good, but it does take time. We've only got 24 hours a day, and our IM efforts are somewhat stifled if we're bogged down by all the menial tasks.

    I'm not really sure of anyone who really shuns customer interaction... I do know that some of the more famous marketers are probably swamped with hundreds of messages a day. They are human after all - you'd probably be pretty backed up with messages alone if that were the case > Then of course, there are times when you really do get the occasional jerk.

    One of the best ways to build relationships is through emailing your list. You reach out to them and identify with them, you'll definitely get your interaction there. The key, of course, is to actually help them, not just bombard with products all day >
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    • Profile picture of the author Colin Theriot
      Originally Posted by moneysoapbox View Post

      I think when most people talk about automation, they are talking about how to do all the little grunt-work things like article writing, backlink building, list-building, etc. on autopilot. These things aren't necessarily *hard* to do provided your product or service is good, but it does take time. We've only got 24 hours a day, and our IM efforts are somewhat stifled if we're bogged down by all the menial tasks.
      I think you're only partially right here. When certain experienced internet marketers talk about automation, this is what they mean. I wouldn't say most, and almost no one new to IM would be able to separate "automatic money" from "automating the menial tasks of online business".

      I used the example of interaction being shunned as an extreme example, but what's much more common is that the marketing is dictated more concerns for automation and the machinery of marketing, rather than the human element.

      For example, the idea that you MUST have the offer, then the OTO, then the upsell, then the downsell... and if you can't automate it, you just shouldn't do it. I know from personal experience, I was just coaching someone who couldn't even conceive of manually responding to order emails until he could afford an automated solution.

      He was addicted to the idea of a fully automated business that would just spit out money with little or no interaction from him. And I could tell where he got the ideas, because he sends me links to things via IM all the time showing me the courses and articles he's interested in.

      And it's nothing that's necessarily blatant and overt about it - it's kind of an undercurrent that IM is all about using computers to sell stuff, and you just set it up and kick back and wait for the money to roll in.

      Originally Posted by moneysoapbox View Post

      I'm not really sure of anyone who really shuns customer interaction... I do know that some of the more famous marketers are probably swamped with hundreds of messages a day. They are human after all - you'd probably be pretty backed up with messages alone if that were the case > Then of course, there are times when you really do get the occasional jerk.
      I mean the entire "business models" that are designed to avoid customers altogether. PPC direct to affiliate offers, for example. Or using autoblogging tools to populate sites with AdSense.

      I feel like there's this strange interest in those pursuits - almost a preoccupation with the possibility of doing business without having to deal with people. And my question is, why? What's so wrong with dealing with people?

      I think maybe the anonymity of the internet paired with the "easy money" dream of the internet draws some people to IM that can't actually do it. You can't really do any form of real business if you're unwilling to engage in a relationship.

      Certainly not in the economic climate we find ourselves in. And yet, the obsession persists with hands-off online businesses and people wonder why their customers have gone away.

      I had a client losing his mind because he's actually climbing in the SERPS because his competitors can't afford to build backlinks anymore, but he's still losing sales.

      Hobbyist forums in his niche are BOOMING with people talking about ways to continue indulging in their hobby but they're looking for ways to save, or for some vendor to go the extra mile on the support side.

      But he never knew that because he's so busy tweaking his SEO and PPC that he's not paying attention to the human element of his business and engaging his prospects and customers.

      He's telling me "I can't move product X even though I have the lowest price" and I check the forums and people are whining about how no one is selling X with the Y option and how they would pay more to get them together. He bundled them with an assembly charge and now makes more on BOTH parts X and Y, too.

      And that info was on a forum that he advertises on with his automated PPC ads, but he doesn't bother to go and read it and thank the people who recommend his business or even respond to criticisms.

      The PR opportunity he's missing is huge.

      Originally Posted by moneysoapbox View Post

      One of the best ways to build relationships is through emailing your list. You reach out to them and identify with them, you'll definitely get your interaction there. The key, of course, is to actually help them, not just bombard with products all day >
      Well, yeah. That's kind of my whole philosophy. But like I was saying, it seems to be a hard sell. The people for whom bombardment has been working are saying - CRAP! Better try more bombardment!

      And it doesn't work, and they publicize that, and I think it might actually be discouraging some talented newbies that would otherwise just do what came naturally and build a business by engaging clients. But instead, they get seduced by the allure of "total automation".

      I mean, so many talented and motivated people are losing jobs or are scared to rely on the one they have - they turn to IM and I look at the landscape of products and services there are for them to choose from and to be honest, I kind of despair.

      So much of what's "hot" right now is just short term, burn out marketing. Because people would rather do the "shortcuts" than build a following and create value, and interact with people.

      I mean, I shouldn't complain, because crappy marketers losing ground in their markets is just an opportunity.

      Maybe I should quit observing so loudly about the problems and just focus on sharing ideas with the people who are going to fill in the gaps as more and more so-called "marketers" find that they can't succeed without caring anymore.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Moffatt
    Some people just suck at dealing with other people.

    While I think it makes more sense to interact and be a public figure, it's terrifying for others who want nothing of the sorts.

    Then there are others that just don't give a rats #ss about what others think.

    I'd say there are all types and "Internet Marketers" is too broad of a term to get a real accurate answer.

    Personally I'd like to automate more stuff so I had more time to interact with people I like. Not the other way around.
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    • Profile picture of the author Colin Theriot
      Originally Posted by Jason Moffatt View Post

      Some people just suck at dealing with other people.
      I know, and what I think I'm proposing is that while it maybe used to be true that those kind of people could succeed at IM, the environment is making it less possible.

      I think in the next few years, possibly longer, dealing with people is going to be the most vital component of any business. ESPECIALLY the info-product/"guru" model businesses that I work for and want to have myself eventually.

      I know I see a lot of people who do things like list-building and don't see past "automated ad delivery system" when what they should see is "automated customer interaction system".

      Originally Posted by Jason Moffatt View Post

      Personally I'd like to automate more stuff so I had more time to interact with people I like. Not the other way around.
      Me too!

      And that's exactly why I think you will continue to succeed. Maybe it's a matter of being able to see the distinction - you know to stop the automation before it encroaches on the interacting part. It seems obvious to me too where the line should be.

      But just from looking at my inbox and at IM products that are coming out every day, it's not obvious to everyone. Or maybe it's just that it's being sold because it's something people WANT to believe.

      Another observation is that there are whole subsets of IM that have thrived previously ONLY on "new" and "hot" as selling points. People just aren't buying that way anymore and those businesses don't have anything to fall back on because they built no relationships other than being the guy with the new stuff.

      Originally Posted by Rob Whisonant View Post

      That was one long post. Cliff notes?

      Re's
      Rob
      Short version is: Lots of people are crying about how customers are disappearing, except for the businesses that use the web as a way to interact with prospects and customers, rather than as an advertising and sales mechanism only. The connection between interaction and continued business seems obvious to me. And yet the most popular topics and products in IM continue to be the ones that sell the dream of totally hands-off businesses. It's a dream that lots of people still believe in, but I don't think it's feasible anymore (if it ever really was). And then I asked what other people thought.

      Sorry, I can be pretty verbose when I'm up too late and can't sleep. I don't edit nearly as much. LOL.
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  • Profile picture of the author Scott Million
    Interaction costs money. Intermediate to advanced marketers will "strategically" communicate via open platforms such as a prelaunch blog or personal blog, where it has the most power, but when it comes to one-on-one interaction... that can get overwhelming even with an email list as small as 200.

    Once a customer or prospect knows you're willing to reply many will probe with more questions trying to extract 'free coaching' / tips...

    The customers that buy the most and refund the least tend to be the most precise with their questions (in my experience) and do not need constant interaction.

    Interacting with the tire kickers doesn't do much unless you look like a 'nice guy' by responding to all of them via an open platform where there are 'eyes' on your offer, and hence, you get paid for your time with a nice presell.

    I do my best to answer personal emails, but outsourcing customer support is crucial. We can only be stretched so far...
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    • Profile picture of the author Colin Theriot
      Originally Posted by Scott Million View Post

      Interaction costs money. Intermediate to advanced marketers will "strategically" communicate via open platforms such as a prelaunch blog or personal blog, where it has the most power, but when it comes to one-on-one interaction... that can get overwhelming even with an email list as small as 200.

      Once a customer or prospect knows you're willing to reply many will probe with more questions trying to extract 'free coaching' / tips...

      The customers that buy the most and refund the least tend to be the most precise with their questions (in my experience) and do not need constant interaction.

      Interacting with the tire kickers doesn't do much unless you look like a 'nice guy' buy responding to all of them via an open platform where there are eyes on your offer.

      I do my best to answer personal emails, but outsourcing customer support is crucial. We can only be stretched so far... which is why I really only do one-on-one's with higher end clients.

      My view
      Well Scott, you make my point for me because here you are, interacting with us, the people in your market. I don't necessarily mean one-on-one when I talk about interaction. I mean interaction, period.

      Visibility, personality, participation, approachability. Everyone agrees that these are ideal qualities in an online business, and I don't think anyone would argue against. But then I look at what people actually DO, and it tells a different story.

      People still try to make lists hard to unsub from, they still try to make high pressure sales funnels, they still try to fully automate even low-volume customer support functions just for the sake of avoidance and aversion.

      But there are a few people who are setting an AMAZING example.

      Case in point, Mike Filsaime has made a couple of posts here personally recently. And people were kind of shocked that it would be THE Mike Filsaime. Of course it is - because he's smart, and he knows that while his customer base may not be on Google searching for IM stuff to buy, they've all retreated in here.

      So the wise business owner would follow them here, just to remain visible. He takes it a step further and participates and adds value. What do you think that does for his business?

      Does he have automation? Yeah, most of the tools he's created and sold are strictly about automation. Huge business, lots of employees, tons of JVs and super affiliates at his command. But where is he? Here. Interacting with his customers.

      And that's why HIS business will weather whatever the economy does.

      Hope I explained myself a little better, thanks for helping me clarify.
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      • Profile picture of the author ktmurf
        Automation Vs. Interaction, to me: I prefer my sites to run themselves, I.E. if my offer is digital in nature, auto-linking after checkout, etc for immediate download. This allows me to spend my time on trolling the forums and making new connections/leads.

        I'm not sure that a complete "automation" of the process, in any capacity is going to yield any results unless you have big corporate pockets backing the project. I rely heavily on SEO but the majority of my sales are generated through good old fashion leg-work.

        I'm also pretty fond of Magazine articles, but that's a whole different conversation.
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  • Profile picture of the author jazbo
    Automation = living the passive income dream.
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