A marketing automation system is a big investment and it can be a powerful tool that supercharges your b2b marketing and pays for itself. But some of you out there are probably not quite as enamoured with the marketing automation platform you’re using in your business. In fact, you might be feeling how I felt after buying a sous vide machine only to find out I’m still not a gourmet chef. Dang it.

You see, the thing about technology is that it will never replace strategy, skill, experience, technique, common sense, and all the other components that go into great marketing - and great cooking, for that matter. But it can help you powerfully leverage and scale a solid marketing strategy and team.

Now, I did eventually learn to make a perfectly medium-rare, juicy steak with my fancy French contraption, but it took some training - it took me figuring out the right equipment for my purposes. And it took the right recipe. Marketing automation systems are much the same.

So don’t give up on your platform just yet. We’ve identified eight common marketing automation mistakes that often lead to Marketing Automation Disappointment Syndrome (MADS). But here’s the thing, often it isn’t the system that’s the problem at all. It can be, but actually a lot less frequently than you may think.

It’s not your system that’s the problem

The first five mistakes have nothing to do with the system at all:

Mistake #1: You lack a solid marketing strategy

I bought a FitBit to help me lose weight. I bought the top-of-the-line model with heart rate tracking, stairs tracking, a step counter, and several other features I rarely use. It arrived in the mail with a photo on the package of a super fit hottie sporting 6-pack abs and I couldn’t wait to put it on and get thin. But then a week or two passed and I saw no progress. In fact, all it did was track my bad habits. Then, I sat down and planned out a strategy for weight loss that included healthy eating, daily activity goals, and target heart rate ranges for my workouts, I started to see success and my tracker helped get me there.

Marketing automation is the same. Suppose your idea of a marketing strategy is to send out a few emails at the last minute and launch a few PPC campaigns in the hope that something will stick. In that case, your automation platform isn’t going to do you much good other than prove that you’ll finally need to get your act together and document your marketing strategy. But if you get a strategy in the place first, then your marketing automation system will supercharge it and give you the feedback you need to continually improve it.

As Bill Gates warned:

"The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency."

You can’t automate a process that doesn’t exist, and you don’t want to automate a process that is ineffective. So start with your strategy and then implement it with the help of your technology; and don’t make the mistake of making the technology your strategy.

Mistake #2: You invested in a system, but not in training

My grandmother bought the latest iPhone. She paid nearly $1,000 for it and she only uses it to make calls. What do we call this? A waste of money.

Some of you out there act like my grandma. You foot the bill for a marketing automation platform, but you skimp on training. Every tool you buy is only as good as your ability to use it. To get the full value out of your marketing automation system (and it will pay for itself if you use it correctly), you need to up-skill your in-house team or hire an agency that knows your system and how to leverage it.

Mistake #3: You bought prematurely

Marketing automation software is not for every business. It’s hard to believe this sometimes. We attend tradeshows and conferences and there is a lot of hype around marketing automation right now. It’s easy to see why a case of FOMO may trigger an impulse buy.

But some companies just don’t need marketing automation, or they don’t need it yet. Size plays into this, but more important than size, I’d say ambition. If you are a small company with under a couple million dollars in revenue and you have no intention to grow and scale, you probably don’t need marketing automation. If you are small, but want to scale aggressively (i.e. a funded start-up), then you can still benefit greatly from marketing automation, even early on.

Once you have your marketing strategy defined, you will know if and when marketing automation is necessary, and which capabilities and features will best suit your needs.

Mistake #4: You tried to use all the features at once

Systems like HubSpot and Marketo have loads of cool features, enough to put any marketing nerd into a state of ecstasy. It’s like Santa came early! In all the excitement, don’t log in and start turning knobs and pressing buttons and using all the features without any real intention behind your actions.

This is the equivalent of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Instead, follow the guidance of suppliers and agencies and try taking a staged approach. It requires a little more self-control, but we promise that you will be more successful and avoid getting overwhelmed early on. If you feel like you are doing everything, but nothing is working, you are probably making this mistake. Look for a little coaching on how to use the system methodically.

Mistake #5: Sales and marketing are not aligned

With inbound marketing, the line between marketing and sales has been blurred. For marketing automation to work, you need agreed upon sales goals, a common understanding of what a high-quality lead looks like, a closed loop reporting system, and a service level agreement between the departments that defines how many and what type of leads marketing will provide, and how and when sales will follow up with those leads.

A really common marketing automation mistake is when both functions operate in a silo and doesn’t speak with sales CRM. This means that you will not get the full value out of your system. When marketing and sales are aligned, and their systems talk, you’ll find that both departments get value from automation.

Maybe it’s not you. Check your system.

Now, if you are sitting there shaking your head, saying, “but I have a solid strategy, I invested in training, I took a staged approach, I’m not too small, I want to scale, and my sales and marketing are aligned” and yet you are still feeling some heartache over your marketing automation system, then maybe it isn’t you after all. Then, you should keep reading.

Below are three common mistakes relating to the system itself:

Mistake #6: Your system is either too simple or too complex for your team

When shopping for a system, don’t just shop benefits and features. Make sure you have the resources necessary to maintain and manage the system you choose. For example, do you have a robust development team? Systems like Eloqua and Marketo are powerful tools, but they do require some dev skills to run them. If you are a large company with sufficient dev resources in-house, then that’s okay. But if you're a growing company with a lean team, you may find yourself relying on an outsourced dev team, and it can quickly get expensive.  

On the other hand, if you go too simple, you may miss out on key features that you need to make the whole purchase worthwhile. At the end of the day, you need to find a system that meets the right balance between simple enough to use, but complex enough to deliver the value and features that you want.

Mistake #7: You’ve outgrown your system

Perhaps you started your marketing automation system with one of the more simple tools, like Infusionsoft. It is great for a smaller company as you are getting started. But if all goes as planned, your company will grow and so will your needs for marketing automation. We often see companies that aren’t happy with their system because they’ve simply outgrown it.

Mistake #8: You stick with a system just because you already purchased it

What if you put half your savings into a stock and its price drops significantly? Would you then think, well I’ve already invested so much, I might as well put the rest of my savings into it? No way! Yet we’ve seen companies do this exact same thing with their marketing automation system.

Companies buy a system. They realise it isn’t what they wanted or needed, but they refuse to switch to a new system because they feel too heavily invested in it. Often, they wrongly assume that buying and implementing a new system will cost just as much as the first one. Economists call this the sunk cost fallacy, a phenomenon that saw investment in the Concorde spiral out of control.

The fact is that there are some systems out there, such as HubSpot, that are agile and transition easily. We helped IRD make the switch from Marketo to HubSpot. The transition was seamless, took less than a month, made no disruption to their content marketing activities, and (best of all) no data was lost.

To find out more about how we can help your business avoided these marketing automations with a stellar strategy, system and co, get in touch with us

Brand chemistry is a b2b marketing agency winning your customers' hearts and minds through inbound, brand, content, lead generation and digital strategy. Our marketing specialists achieve stellar results with the latest lead generation techniques.

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