Communities and Advocacy Outperform Marketing Automation: Focusing on Humans in the Age of AI

March 7, 2024

In the fast-changing world of digital marketing, I’m seeing a big shift from traditional prospect nurturing via marketing automation to the nurturing of communities—customer-only communities, or prospects and customers interested in niche topics, brought together by solution vendors that want to position themselves as thought leaders.

The way people purchase products and services has changed drastically over the past decade. People who are in the market for anything don’t want to speak to a sales rep. They want to speak to real people who experience the brand offering and culture and can provide advice. Fortunately, more and more brands realize the limits of marketing automation and the incredible impact that real community engagement and support can have on their marketing efforts.

Rethinking marketing automation.

Tools like HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua have been at the forefront of digital marketing strategies, automating routine tasks to reach potential customers efficiently. However, this method often falls short on creating personal connections and genuine interactions.

At any given time, a nurture message that goes to 100 people who visited your website will reach at least 80 people who are not at all in the market for what you sell and 20 who may be interested but are in different phases of their journey. No matter how much personalization and segmentation you leverage, chances are your email will be useful to maybe 5% of the recipients, be ignored by many, and completely annoy some. Is it worth it for your brand to end up in junk folders / promotion folders of many to reach a few?

Many companies end up having deliverability issues even with their customer base due to excessive automated nurturing that gets them into junk filters over the years. While marketing automation tools serve a purpose, they don’t always line up with the goal of building real relationships with specific groups of people.

The power of building communities and breeding advocacy.

By focusing on building a community for niche audiences, a brand can fill a significant void, offering a platform for sharing insights, challenges, and solutions unique to their field. This approach not only helps in addressing the immediate needs of the community members but also positions the brand as a leader and advocate for their cause.

Advocacy goes hand in hand with community building. When members of a community feel valued and supported, they naturally become advocates for the brand, sharing their positive experiences and the value they’ve received with their networks. Current customers share their wins, and sometimes their frustration (that was hopefully addressed properly) with potential customers. This word-of-mouth marketing is incredibly powerful, as it comes with the trust and credibility of personal recommendations, something that can’t be achieved through automated marketing messages, no matter how well meaning, educational and personalized.

Why communities and advocacy outshine automated nurturing.

  • Personalization and relevance: communities allow for deeper personalization and relevance to members’ needs, fostering an environment where they feel understood and supported.
  • Engagement and loyalty: engagement within communities often translates into loyalty, as members develop a sense of belonging and a connection to the brand that goes beyond transactional relationships.
  • Genuine voices and experiences: advocacy driven by positive experiences is far more impactful than any form of paid advertising. It builds trust and expands reach organically.
  • Feedback and innovation: communities provide a direct line to customer feedback, offering invaluable insights that can drive product development, improve services, and innovate marketing strategies.

Even though marketing automation is still a useful tool, the ability to build communities and encourage genuine support offers a more complete and human approach to marketing. By focusing on creating spaces for niche groups to come together, share, and grow, brands can reach a level of engagement and loyalty that automated systems just can’t match.

When brands dedicate efforts to building communities, they create environments where individuals with shared interests or challenges can connect, share experiences, and offer support to one another. This sense of belonging and shared purpose is something that automated emails and social media posts, no matter how well-timed or targeted, cannot replicate. Real conversations, shared stories, and mutual aid within these communities deepen the relationship between the brand and its audience, turning customers into passionate advocates and collaborators.

Embracing communities and advocacy over marketing automation: Focusing on humans in the age of AI

This is a blog by Diana Gabroveanu, founder of the Advocacy Mavens Coalition.

The Advocacy Mavens Coalition is an association of open for contracting customer-led professionals, each with extensive industry experience. We’re experts in building advocacy and community programs, designing experiences, running advisory boards, creating content, managing and migrating platforms, and more.

Our members are experienced advocacy marketing strategists, community and customer success managers, educators, designers, video producers, analysts, and technical consultants. Whatever your program goals, this coalition has you covered!

Want to hear more about our services? Drop us a note!