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A Marketer’s Life Before Automation: Hell on Earth or a Blissful Paradise? You decide.

A Marketer’s Life Before Automation: Hell on Earth or a Blissful Paradise? You decide.

“Oh, the good ole’ days”, as so many say… but were they really ‘good’ or do we, as a society, just use that phrase to reference a time in the past when things were simply done differently? When I look back on some of my early marketing memories, it’s a little bit of both – thankful that that era is over now, but also bitter, in a way, that things can’t be the way they used to.

Let’s dive in:

Conferences and Tradeshows

  1. Life before leadscanners was pretty rough, let’s be real. Even when business card scanning devices came out, it was still a pain – you had to scan them all, pushing business cards in one by one, then correct any errors since the scanner didn’t get every single card accurately. And lastly I would always take a knee and pray that these contacts don’t leave their jobs, like, ever.
  2. Nowadays there are applications for events that show you the attendees, the sessions, the times, locations, and some of them even have lead scanners built in (shameless shout out to DoubleDutch). Before those apps and before LinkedIn, you just had to hope and pray that your prospects would be attending. This means a lot of phone work and email work to ensure you could connect with them before the event. However, in a way, that old method forced us to have real, meaningful conversations with our prospects. There was no ‘easy’ button; you had to put in the man hours and settle with quality over quantity. But that quality is arguably better than the ‘quality’ we talk about now.

Email Marketing

  1. Life before email service providers (ESPs) and marketing automation platforms (MAPs)…woof. That is a time most millennials can’t even remember. The solution was using mail merge. That’s when you use Microsoft Word to somehow deploy a similar email but with a unique greeting specific to the recipient such as their name. Its a complicated process that no millennial has the patience for.
  2. Before email automation there were no templates. Yikes. I remember I used to create multitudes of email signatures, which were actually just my own templates, and when a prospect exhibited a certain behavior or trigger (only things as basic as a call-in), they would then receive a specific email signature from me.
  3. Dealing with only business card data adds another challenge. All you know about someone (unless you had an amazing and self-disclosing conversation with them) is what is on their business card. There was no LinkedIn back then. Again, the only solution is what I feel is an area we have forgotten today – and that is to create deeper, more meaningful relationships with your prospects.

Data Cleansing

  1. Without automation, data cleansing had to be employed manually. Yes, manually. Meaning someone would have to dig in and clean the records one by one. Employees were less transient back then, but still, by the time they finished the project it would be time to start over again due to data expiration. This horrid process mostly just resulted in ignoring the process entirely. A “deal with it later” attitude. No bueno.
  2. There is literally nothing good about not having automation when it comes to data cleansing. The fact that millennials these days are changing jobs every 2 years or so speaks to why automation is essential to making sure data is accurate and up to date. Automation allows us to keep up with every professional move they make and that allows us, as marketers, to be armed with accurate and real-time data for our marketing campaigns. We won’t have to worry that John Doe worked at Company X one week and the Company Y the next.


  1. Before automation, advertising was really just a guessing game. Marketers could only be held to sales/revenue for attributing the efficacy of your ad programs. If sales are sucking and you get blamed for an ineffective ad – that is just plain whack. How can you say the ad isn’t working just because sales are low? Because that’s all we had back then.
  2. Not to mention, back then most ads were print so its hard to track that anyhow. The only sort of tracking I can think of is call source phone numbers. You put a specific call source number on each ad and track how many call ins you get from each one. There really wasn’t any other way to track.
  3. Automation made advertising for marketers simple. Digital ads and the analytics that go along with them give marketers an inside look to see how their campaigns are doing and proof that we’re the ones doing our job and we shouldn’t be blamed for poor sales. We can analyze the data and then make better ad decisions moving forward – no more guesswork.

There are parts of the old world that seem better, like being forced to have more meaningful relationships due to a lack of automated communication, but for the most part, being a marketer before automation was pretty rough. I may have missed some pros/cons so feel free to chime in in the comment section below 🙂