Today, Marketing Automation is an essential part of any progressive company’s demand generation, sales and marketing program. It’s helping marketers (especially B2B) in humanizing their relationships with customers. There is no doubt that prospects are more responsive to brands that care and we all can agree on the value of personalized messages, value based quality content, multi-channel marketing, etc.

But despite these benefits, a relatively small portion of marketers using marketing automation have struck gold. They are not using the systems to their full potential and are unable to achieve revenue contribution goals. In most companies marketing automation is nothing but a glorified email automation tool. They use it to send batch email campaigns and entry level nurturing campaigns where the same people are “nurtured” time and again because they struggle to fill their funnel with qualified prospects.

Studies show that only 13% of marketing automation programs are successful. There are multiple factors for that – undefined lead management processes, lack of content-customer life-cycle alignment, friction from sales and marketing stakeholders and so on. But at its core, who is to blame when marketing automation fails? Hint: It`s not the software, it`s us. It’s we marketers who set ourselves for doom by making the following mistakes.

1. Not establishing marketing automation objectives

Have clear objectives in using marketing automation, think them through and document it for your team and the organization. Don’t be vague and write, “we want to increase leads and engagements”. Be specific about it, as it will help you understand the scale of your needs. You don’t want an expensive sledgehammer to crack a walnut, do you?

2. Not having an explicit understanding of your buyers

Buyer personas. Create them if you want precision in your Demand Generation strategy. You need to know who are the decision-makers, influencers and gatekeepers within the organizations. Find intricate details about their interests, challenges, pain points, gain points and values. With this data you can create relevant content and make sense to your audience.

3. Selecting the wrong marketing automation platform

With 50+ marketing automation platforms in market and more being added to that list, selecting the right tool which will help you in achieving the marketing/demand generation goals is very hard. Most platforms will enable you to perform the core functions – nurturing campaigns, analytics, lead scoring, CRM integration and connectivity to other software. But instead of focusing on features and added benefits of a system, you should as the following questions:

  • Does this platform satisfies my current needs and objectives?
  • Can it scale based on my growth plans, if yes then what could be the challenges in doing so?
  • Do I have the internal resources to fuel this particular platform? [Do you have a dedicated team?]
  • What is my marketing mix? There are some platforms (HubSpot) which are absolutely great for companies which are heavily invested in inbound and content marketing. While platforms like Marketo, Pardot and Eloqua would fit an enterprise company’s needs fairly well.

Shortlist top 3 platforms based on the questions above and do your due diligence in comparing them against your requirements, your team’s ability to manage the platform and identify the areas of improvement – content creation, building customer personas or anything else which can become your Achilles’ heel.

4. Lack of a marketing process

If most of your marketing is dispersed without a set process, I’m sorry, marketing automation is not for you. You need a strategic marketing process – from attention, acquisition, conversion and delight to retention – for it to be automated and improved. You may acquire a list through Hoovers/ Data.com, have customer data from your CRM or leads from trade-shows but that`s just tactical.

5. Not enough top of the funnel activity to generate active prospects and qualified leads for nurturing

Marketing automation can help qualify and nurture leads but it needs a healthy and consistent dose of cold leads and prospects with active intent to buy. Many companies depend on involve using web crawlers and database capture tools to fill their funnel with copious amount of leads. Most of that data is useless due to poor quality. Then there is getting leads from trade-shows, Google AdWords campaigns, depending on your website’s contact page and request a quote forms. But you are still dealing with tire kickers.
A better way of generating leads is through Inbound Marketing. Create valuable content which will help your audience, gate it to collect their information and continue to nurture them with quality content based on their interest till the time they are ready to buy from you. It works extremely well. The challenge is that it takes a lot of resources to create that much content to fill the funnel and to build online reputation to attract people to your content.
Combining Inbound and Outbound (with strict quality control) in the right measurements based on your audience types, sales and customer life-cycle, marketing mix can help you generate healthy top of funnel activity. Also, you can use tools like Survicate to give your website’s lead generation capacity an extra push and also discover customer insights you might be unaware about.

6. Content misalignment with demand generation

First step is to create content based on your customer’s persona which address their pain points. Second, have that damn good information packed into whitepapers, eBooks, self-help tools so that your website visitors are enticed to give up their anonymity and give you their contact details (also helps in building a database).

7. Overestimating your Marketing staff’s capacity

Don’t be delusional in thinking that marketing automation will help you overcome the lack of staff problem – just because you’ll be able to “automate” things and sing kumbaya. You need to dedicate a lot of time to make it work and without dedicated people on the team; it will affect your lead time with the system. Marketing automation is an insatiable beast which will devour content and prospects – you need the internal resources to keep it kicking.

8. Your sales and marketing people don’t agree

You need to build a common understanding of what are the buying processes. Agree on what makes a lead Marketing Qualified (MQLs) and Sales Qualified (SQLs). Map out processes and responsibilities when it comes to customer communication. Don’t create your nurturing campaigns without input from Sales. Remember, you may be the expert in marketing, but those folks have the front-line experience with your audience and can tell you a lot about them. Get a service level agreement in place between the two departments if necessary and establish the sentiment – that you are there to help sales reps close more leads.

At the end, marketing automation software is a tool. Have the right goals in mind, select the platforms which makes most sense to your business, stay focused on your buyer’s needs and create content worthy of your audience’s attention. Be prepared to handle this beast by its horns.

Author: Yash Abhishek Chaurasia