Automating your marketing is like putting a motor on a sailboat.

With a sail, you are able to capture the wind as it comes in (if you have any). If it’s a still day, you have to sit around and wait. But with a motor on your boat, no matter which way the wind is blowing, you can go in any direction you want.

That’s what marketing automation does for your business. It takes some time to tinker with it and get it working, but when it gets you going, you can reliably increase your revenue with minimal effort. This enables you to make more authentic decisions about how you spend your time.

(Related: See my Marketing Automation Checklist.)

But there is a risk with automating too much of your marketing. People won’t see you as a person, and will feel free to ignore you. Automation needs to be balanced with authenticity, and that’s what The Rule of Thumb can do for you.

The Rule of Thumb

The rule of thumb is simple: Give generously four times before you make a request.

Before you ask someone to schedule a call, or read your white paper, or buy your thing, give generously to them first, four times.

  1. Leave an emoji response on something they post.
  2. Subscribe to their newsletter and follow them on social media.
  3. Comment thoughtfully on something they write.
  4. Share their content with your network in a new post.

Have you ever had someone take all four of those actions in one week? Someone who follows the four steps above will be much more likely to receive a positive response, if they make a request after following the Rule of Thumb.

Relationships are built over time. Making a request is going to meet with more success if you invest some of your own time and interest first.

I’m sure you’ve had someone reach out to you on LinkedIn, ask to connect, and then demand to get on a call right away. This is like asking someone to go on a date when you first meet. It’s not impossible, but it’s much more likely to get a ‘yes’ if you warm them up first.

My son once asked if he could have his leftover popsicle before he ate his soup for lunch. The soup was simmering on the stove, and his half-eaten popsicle from the night before was in a mug in the freezer. I gave him the popsicle, and thought I was being clever by pouring his hot soup into the same mug.

Do you know what happens if you pour hot soup into a mug that has just come out of the freezer? It shatters. Makes a big mess. And then your son is laughing at you for five minutes while you clean it up.

I learned that lesson the hard way, so you don’t have to. Warm up your relationships. If you try and come on too hot while they are still cold, it makes a mess.

You can do this slowly, one painstaking relationship at a time – or, you can do it automatically. Use the pipeline board I made in Trello at to track the relationships you want to build. In the ‘Prospect’ card, list four easy actions you can take to follow the Rule of Thumb for leads you want to nurture.