What Star Trek Can Teach Us About Marketing Automation

Posted by: Steve Brown

“Sometimes a feeling is all we humans have to go on.”
Captain James T. Kirk

My brother and I had a ritual every day after school.

We sat in front of the TV watching reruns of Star Trek while we ate big bowls of Borden’s ice cream. We were endlessly enthralled by the cool gadgets, spaceships, and interesting characters on the space adventure series.

Every single episode the crew of the Starship Enterprise flew around the universe at warp speeds solving challenging problems on alien planets.

Before beaming down to a strange new world, the characters always made an important choice:

Do we set our phaser to stun or kill?

In order to make that choice, they had to quickly determine whether they were in danger and who they were dealing with. Is there a trap laid for us on the planet below? What are the rules of the local culture? Where do we go? What are we looking for?

But more than anything else, they had to depend on their instincts, wit, and ingenuity to make their choices.

While you may have never watched those same reruns, you can relate to Captain Kirk, Dr. Spock, and the rest of the Enterprise crew. Because you have probably experienced the same challenges on countless websites, every day.

The difference between a website that causes you to set your phaser to stun and a website that causes you to set your phaser to kill is the quality of their marketing automation.

Internet Trek: The Final Frontier

You’re traveling through the internet universe at warp speeds, trying to find a worthwhile planet to explore, when you suddenly receive an email or social media distress signal. You “beam” yourself down to a strange landing page.

Before anything else, you have to quickly discern whether you landed on the planet you were expecting to or if you’re in danger. You have to discover where to go next and what the rules of engagement are, all while keeping your trigger finger on the back button in case you run into signs of danger.

Your brain, like the commander of a mission, has told you, “Set your phaser to kill!”

But other times you get lucky.

You discover a beautiful website with clear signage, tons of educational information, and helpful indicators of what to do next. You’ve possibly been greeted by helpful robots working to ensure your time spent with them is as fruitful as possible, often assisting you in connecting you with someone of your own species.

The leaders of these advanced environments even send helpful information directly to you, in anticipation of your needs. They offer you the luxury of evaluating and researching in the safety of your own world, all at your leisure.

What you may not have realized is that your brain has told you to “set your phaser to stun” in these environments, because you are not in danger. You’re not looking for the exit—you’re just enjoying the experience.

You’ve actually been on this planet many times. You just haven’t realized it. Companies like Uber, Amazon, Pizza Hut, and others are delivering this exact experience. People are not only getting used to it, but they’re also expecting it from your business—even though you’re not an international brand name.

What a Website Is Really For

Many people relegate marketing automation to email marketing, but it’s so much more than that. In short, the whole goal of marketing automation is to help you create a new contact record.

A contact record is the gold nugget you’re mining for––the whole reason you have a website in the first place. In short, contact records are virtual business cards that open up the path to a new relationship and, ultimately, new business.

The beautiful thing is, marketing automation technology (such as chatbots and high-quality landing pages) is widely available and affordable for small businesses just like yours. But most entrepreneurs don’t utilize them.


Because most people get hung up on improper expectations of their website.

They don’t see their website as just one of the components of an integrated stack of technology, messaging, and strategic initiatives. So they pour a lot of time and resources into it with very little to show. If they knew they could take a better approach—one where they diversify those resources to build a more focused system—they would enjoy the competitive advantage that they worked so hard to build.

A website’s success is not determined by its design or pretty features.

Its success is predicated on its ability to work as a content management system (commonly referred to as a CMS). In other words, your website should serve as a virtual library of useful automation.

Your goal with marketing automation is to lead your customers and prospects to the right information as smoothly as possible.

Without marketing automation, your website is just a digital brochure.

Set Your Phasers to Sell

Marketing automation is going to rapidly become more and more ubiquitous as time goes on. You may not be using marketing automation yet, but the day is coming. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the numbers:

  • Marketing automation spending for marketing automation tools is expected to reach $25.1 billion annually by 2023.
  • 79 percent of top-performing companies have been using marketing automation for three or more years.
  • Marketing technology represents 33 percent of the average marketing budget.
  • Mapping the customer experience and use of personalized content are deemed the most effective tactics for optimizing marketing automation. (Ascend2, 2018)
  • Marketing technology spend is now higher than advertising spend for companies.
  • Marketers say that the biggest benefit of automation is saving time.
  • Nearly 90 percent of agencies say their marketing automation strategy is successful.
  • 67 percent of marketing leaders currently use a marketing automation platform.
  • In the next two years, an additional 21 percent of marketing leaders plan to use a marketing automation platform.

Marketing automation is the answer to what we as a society have communicated, so loud and clear for years:

  • You use spam filters
  • You register for national “Do Not Call” telemarketer blockers
  • You’re all familiar with how to unsubscribe, block, and report spam
  • You watch Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube, and listen to XM Radio all because you want to avoid being interrupted by commercials

In other words, you set your phasers to kill.

The common theme here is: don’t interrupt me. I’ll come looking for information when I’m ready, and when I do come looking it had better be easy, fast, and valuable, or I’m gone.

Marketing automation makes your customers feel comfortable exploring your website, and therefore your products and services.

If you accommodate their trigger-finger mentality with marketing automation tools such as a helpful library of content, chatbots, and quality landing pages, you’ll be more likely to pick up their contact records and get more clients.

To learn more about marketing automation, read my book The Golden Toilet.

Buy The Golden Toilet