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The problem with marketing automation

Mar 20, 2019 | Insights, Marketing

There’s no question that vendors of marketing automation software are very good at selling their wares. Forrester estimates that by 2023, the global marketing automation market will surpass $25 billion, at a 14% annual growth rate. Indeed, many of our clients have embraced marketing automation as a way of lead nurturing.

However, does that mean that marketing automation is an unqualified success? It presents many challenges to be overcome, and if you do not have the infrastructure within your company to address them, you may find your marketing automation investment does not deliver the returns you were expecting.


Marketing automation takes time to set up and to manage

Marketing automation comes in a number of shapes and forms, but the main areas where business are implementing it are:

  • email marketing
  • prospect nurturing
  • inbound marketing

While there are a plethora of platforms, the market is dominated by Campaign Monitor and HubSpot for SMEs and agencies, and Salesforce Pardot, Adobe Marketo and Oracle Eloqua in the enterprise class. However, they often don’t talk about one of the significant roadblocks businesses face when setting up these systems – not knowing how much time and involvement they require.

Depending on the size of your business, it can take a large organisation over a year to get these systems in place and integrated with the CRM and other applications you are already using. And then there is the task of compiling and formatting the data and learning to program.

Once you’re past this obstacle, it doesn’t get much easier.

Marketers are often duped into the “set it and forget about it” mentality, thinking that automation means they aren’t required to do anything. While marketing automation can speed up your work, you still need to show up to the office and maintain the processes you put in place. It will require constant adjustments based on your business analytics and should always be looked at as a work in progress, iterative. This means managing your marketing automation can be a full-time position for one member of your team.

Do you have deep pockets?

While the cost of marketing automation is indeed coming down, it can still take up a considerable chunk of your marketing budget. Marketo estimates that this cost can start at $1,000 a month but quickly roll into the six figures per month.

Chances are your team isn’t rolling around in extra cash. So it is no easy task getting your investment board to approve spending for implementation and licensing these platforms. When setting up automation and investing in new platforms, you need to be confident that it is the right choice for your marketing team and you will see a good ROI.

Smaller segments require more accurate customer profiles and more content

While a broad-brush approach to marketing is not recommended, jumping to the other end of the scale has its downsides too. Separating your audiences needs to be carefully thought through, as when creating personalised marketing, your audience can only be segmented by the data you already have on them.

If you don’t have a large amount of data (on both demographic and behaviours) or high confidence in the data, then your segments become ineffective and difficult to replicate. It is also difficult to make assumptions about a person based on a few actions they take online, by creating smaller segments you can end up over-customising your messages and lose clarity on what you are offering.

B2B markets have the added challenge of more complex decision-making units, usually made up of multiple people. Segmenting a multifaceted audience is a tough task and when done incorrectly will render your marketing automation ineffective.

Creating content can also become an issue. If you don’t have a large enough audience, creating smaller segments means you can end up spending more time and resources in creating personalised content for just a few people that won’t see you generate a ROI.

Learn More: How You Can Measure The Effectiveness of Your B2B Content

There is also the danger of sending content out to the wrong audiences. When you have small segmented audiences, it can be difficult to know which one to target next and can cause your marketing team to send out content to the wrong one because of internal bias.

Marketing automation is complex

In an ideal world, the problems we face at work every day would come with simple and easy-to-implement solutions, but this is not often the case.

Most marketers, even those working in the tech industry, have little to no knowledge of any programming languages. According to a Marketing Week poll, 75% of marketers don’t think it is an essential skill for a marketer to have so that probably won’t change any time soon.

Pardot and Marketo, for instance, are very powerful tools with extensive features that can seem appealing to enterprises but come with the caveat of demanding involvement of IT admin to set up tracking codes, domainkeys, adding SPF and DKIM records, setting up forms and so on. You will also need an web admin with HTML and CSS experience.  Here is example of a technical implementation guide by Salesforce Pardot. It’s no surprise there are a plethora of integrators that offer marketing automation services.  If you don’t have the time, money or willpower, consider a simpler tool like Campaign Monitor.

Don’t blame the tools

Marketing automation can undoubtedly be beneficial for B2B business but, ultimately it is just a tool. It can help you reach your marketing goals but defining those goals and adding a monetary value to them can help you ascertain whether marketing automation is the best solution available to your business problems. It’s also important to ask the right questions at the research stage and get clear answers for things like time of set up and learning curve. Automation is certainly going to be the way forward for many businesses but don’t expect it to fix all of your problems.

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