The Problems with Marketing Automation

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If you are a marketer, you’ve likely heard of, or been assigned the task to research marketing automation. For marketing and sales departments, it’s been branded as a game changing technology to help win more business, keep costs down, track ROI and other wondrous ideals.

And it’s true.

These things can be done with marketing automation. And, as a current practitioner and former Director of Marketing Operations for a marketing automation software company and marketing automation agency, I should be quick to tell you about how great marketing automation is.

But not today.

Instead, I’m going to give you my expert fair warnings on the problems with marketing automation that I’ve encountered so that I’m living up to the principles I set for myself of honesty and integrity in marketing. Yes, there are such things.

Here are 6 problems I’ve encountered with marketing automation that you need to be aware of:

  • The promise of efficiency and effectiveness is in no way “automated.” You still have to create great content to plug into your campaigns. You still have to plan smart nurturing campaigns. You still have to get sales and marketing to work together to create collaborative programs. None of this comes straight “out of the box”.
  • Implementation is complex and you’ll need lots of support. There are not enough marketing automation specialists available for the current demand so you’ll want to get friendly with your respective marketing automation provider’s support team. Read all the support materials and best practice guides you want, you’ll still be submitting tickets.
  • “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and neither will be your marketing automation program. It takes significant planning, coordination, content, testing and teamwork to get your first iteration of a marketing automation program out the door. Don’t expect it to be perfect the first time, or ever. Continuous improvement is the name of the game. Set realistic expectations for yourself, your team and your executive sponsors.
  • It is not a panacea for all of your marketing challenges. You may be led to believe (with some of the marketing content out there) that marketing automation is a silver bullet. Measure ROI, decrease the sales cycle, increase revenue, bake the most delicious apple pie you’ve ever had…Those are some lofty expectations for a software (as an industry) where currently “almost 70 percent of marketers are either unhappy or only marginally happy with their marketing automation software.” (Source: “How To Buy Marketing Automation…without buyer’s remorse”, VentureBeat, March, 2015 by David Raab – @draab).
  • It’s still a young, developing technology. There is little predictive technology in any of the current marketing automation platforms. “Predictive systems can learn, adapt and improve on their own with every customer action.” (Source: “The Future of Marketing Automation”, TechCrunch, April 2015 by Vik Singh – @zooie). This is the next frontier but we are not there, yet. I wouldn’t stand by waiting for this before you invest, though. Just find a good company that already has powerful segmentation and a solid API. Predictive campaigns will follow shortly.
  • Lastly, sometimes it just fails to work. Like all software, from time to time it will have bugs and just not work like you planned or hope it would. This is not unique to specific platforms I’ve used, from billion dollar to bootstrapped, every marketing automation technology I’ve used has failed me on at least one occasion.

Those are my fair warnings to you as your venture into the world of buying and using marketing automation. It is great technology that can create awesome results for your company, but not without bumps and bruises along the way. No marketing automation provider (big or small) will make you immune to these problems and if they suggest otherwise, be wary. But remember, you can’t improve if you can’t measure your progress.

If you’re considering marketing automation, check out our big list of marketing automation requirements and features.

Michael ShearerThe Problems with Marketing Automation

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