How to Avoid Marketing Automation Failure

I don’t write frequently about B2B marketing automation, primarily because there’s a wealth of information already available on the subject. The marketing automation vendors (Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot, and several others) do a great job of providing resources that discuss the capabilities, use, and benefits of B2B marketing automation technologies. Understandably, these firms don’t put quite the same emphasis on describing the challenges that B2B marketers must address to maximize the benefits of these powerful technologies.

Learning how other companies have leveraged marketing automation technology to improve business performance is useful, but it can be equally valuable to learn why some companies were not successful with marketing automation. Thanks to Joby Blume with BrightCarbon, we have some valuable insights regarding what can go wrong.

Last year, Mr. Blume published a remarkable blog post that described why a previous employer failed with marketing automation. This post triggered a huge number of comments, and the “discussion” continued for about six months. If you’re considering an investment in marketing automation technology, this material should be required reading.

Mr. Blume described a dozen reasons for the marketing automation failure. His former employer was a small company – 40 employees/less than $5 million in annual revenues – so some of these reasons are particularly applicable to small firms. However, companies of all sizes can learn important lessons from Mr. Blume’s experience.

Here are some of the major reasons cited by Mr. Blume, along with a few comments by me.

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Lack of clear objectives – Blume’s company wanted to track and identify website visitors and know where inbound leads had come from. Beyond this, however, the company didn’t have clear goals for marketing automation.

Lack of marketing processes – Mr. Blume said that his company lacked a clearly defined set of marketing processes. My take:  Marketing automation will make well-designed processes more efficient and enable processes that would be impossible to perform manually. However, even the most powerful marketing automation technologies cannot overcome poorly-designed or non-existent processes. In fact, marketing automation will probably make any flaws in your marketing system more glaring and more painful. Therefore, before you invest in a marketing automation solution, you need to make sure that your underlying marketing and lead management processes are sound.

Lack of leads – Mr. Blume indicated that his company’s biggest demand generation problem was not having enough leads and that marketing automation didn’t solve that problem. My take:  The real strength of most B2B marketing automation solutions is lead management (nurturing, scoring, etc.). If your company needs to generate a higher volume of leads, your first priority should be to boost your lead acquisition marketing efforts, and most B2B marketing automation solutions play a very limited role in lead acquisition.

Lack of content – Mr. Blume acknowledged that his company did not have (and was not able to create) enough of the kind of marketing content that is required to generate leads effectively. My take:  Content is the fuel for the marketing automation engine, and marketing automation “burns” a lot of content. If you don’t keep the fuel topped off, your marketing automation system will stop functioning effectively. Therefore, I usually recommend that companies plan and create all of the content resources they will need for about three months before launching the marketing automation system.

B2B marketing automation is powerful technology, and it’s becoming more and more essential for marketing success. As with many other technologies, however, the hard part is not learning how to use marketing automation software. The more difficult challenge is doing the other work that’s required to enable marketing automation to perform up to its potential.

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Comments: 4

  • Joby Blume says:

    David – thanks for the article. I’m glad my very public admission of failure might help some other businesses.

    I just wanted to say that I *really* like your idea of planning and creating at least some content before signing with a Marketing Automation vendor. The pressure is there to just sign and get started – but I think it makes sense to wait and plan properly.

    • David Dodd says:


      Thanks for your comment, and thanks very much for writing your post. I strongly believe that all companies can learn from your experience.

  • Hi David,

    Marketing automation is not the only problem to resolve – often the inbound marketing channels are blocked or incomplete meaning a marketing ‘cul de sac’ for the customer journey.

    We are exploring these in our blog – see what you think!

    • David Dodd says:


      Thanks for your comment. I also agree with the points in your blog post. I see the same kind of thing in B2B lead nurturing content when a resource fails to point to other content resources where the prospect can go to learn more. It becomes a learning “dead end.”

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