Is It Time to Break Up with Your Marketing Automation Tool? 6 Ways to Know

When choosing the right marketing automation tool for your organization, is it really so different than getting into a relationship with a romantic partner? Getting into any relationship, making that commitment, can be fraught with anxiety. And being in one that isn’t working out can be really stressful.

If things start to feel off, but you disregard the signs, ignore those bright red flags, you could be wasting valuable time with the wrong partner. But how do you know when it’s time to break up? To answer those questions, let’s look at some things you might experience both in people- relationships AND in relationships with your marketing automation (MA) tool.

My dream guy, at the ripe old age of 15: Everyone knew him, and those who didn’t, wanted to. He was a star athlete. He had the coolest clothes, drove the nicest car, and had a killer stereo he’d blast in the parking lot. Hundreds of teenagers worshiper him; he basically owned the school.

I had a vision of everything I knew him to be, purely from outward appearances and his reputation. Naively, this was enough to convince me he was perfect for me.

Until I sat next to him in class my sophomore year. At first he seemed like everything I had imagined – but that was short-lived. Among other qualities I disliked, he turned out to be a lot of work. He regularly leaned over me to “borrow” answers on tests and then, when paired together on a team project, he sat back and let me do all the heavy lifting. I said to myself, “Why should I be doing all the work here?” And once he got the answers/homework he needed from me, he ignored me. Real nice.

I was smitten – but not stupid – so I wasn’’t smitten for long. While outwardly he appeared to have it all. Once I got to know him, I realized that he was, well, quite literally – a tool.

Often when choosing a marketing automation tool, brand name and brand recognition can go a long way in guiding us toward a decision. We may feel comfortable because we’’ve heard of it. If we know the name and we know the reputation, we might assume it’s a safe bet. The If everyone likes it, I’m sure I will too, mentality.

But one size does not fit all. Trust me, I tried to wear a shoulder-padded sweater dress in the 80s …

If you chose your marketing automation platform based on public opinion of the vendor – not on the specific needs of your company – and it’s turning out to not be quite the right fit, it might be time to break up.

“Buying a leader may be politically safe, but the safe choice can be the wrong choice,” David Raab, When Marketers Buy Technology: Issues, Obstacles, and Solutions.

This is a photo of a heartbroken cardboard robot. When is it time to break up with your marketing automation? Here are 6 signs.

2. High maintenance. (No thanks.)

Who wants a high maintenance partner? You know the one I’m talking about, the one who takes five hours to get ready to go out and get a cup of coffee. Their hair needs seven different products and at least three electrical gadgets to get that “natural beach wave” look. The partner who will go only to a restaurant that is solely gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, veggie-free, meat-free, uses only solar or wind power, and hand makes their tableware onsite out of recycled water bottles. This same person who usually – and unbecomingly – needs things their way.

Maybe that works for you. But maybe it just doesn’’t.

If you wouldn’’t want those characteristics in a partner, why would you want them in your marketing automation tool? Can marketing automation be high maintenance? Sure, it might take a little work to get up and running with MA, but here are a few ways this tool should make your marketing life easier:

  • Building your emails and landing pages shouldn’’t be high maintenance. You should be able to do this without any help from IT.
  • You should have responsive design already built into your templates. People view your content on all sizes of devices, so your MA tool should make this foolproof for you.
  • You should be able to design your own templates, the way you want them and not be limited to just the stock ones provided.
  • And when it comes to the stuff that is inherently kind of complicated, like building nurturing programs, your platform should make it as easy as possible, like letting you build workflows with a drop-and-drag tool.

If you are feeling saddled with a very high-maintenance marketing automation software tool, miss simplicity, and want to have the freedom to choose your own path, it might be time to break up.

42% of Marketers say complexity of the system is the most significant barrier to marketing automation success. – Ascend2, “Marketing Automation Trends Survey” (2016)

3. Communication breakdown: We just don’t speak the same language

I moved to Sweden in 2007 and didn’’t know how to speak Swedish. For me (an outgoing, never-short-of-words, human) this was a very challenging reality.

Here’s just one example of how the language barrier worked against me: At my kids’ soccer games I was spiritedly yelling “Go, Go, Go!” But it didn’’t quite have the motivational effect I intended. In Swedish, the word that sounded exactly like “go” to me actually means “walk.” Slightly embarrassed by the awkward sideways glances, I realized I might be having a little communication breakdown (it wouldn’’t be the only time that happened).

My Swedish-native husband stood in as a makeshift interpreter and corrected my language-gap errors whenever he was nearby. That was helpful, but didn’t quite work for the many times I was by myself.

Not speaking the language put me at a severe social disadvantage. Not being able to participate in the conversation was bad enough – but not even understanding it was just downright excruciating.

I realized in order to be successful, build relationships, and get things accomplished, I’d need to learn Swedish. And, since I had no job other than to learn Swedish (that nice, socialized country paid me to do that full-time), I was able to dedicate six unbroken months to do just that. And I did.

So how does this relate to marketing automation?

Well, it’s quite simple, actually. Unless you have the technical language proficiency to read and/or write HTML, JavaScript and/or CSS (and more), you’d better not pick a marketing automation tool that requires you do so. That is, of course, unless you have uninterrupted time to dedicate to learning those languages or have a team of IT techies at your service to serve as your interpreter, at will.

If the language barrier is already an issue and you are about to experience a literal “communication breakdown,” it might be time to break up.

13% of the marketers said a lack of technical proficiency in their team was stopping them from adopting marketing automation. – Redeye and TFM&A Insights, “The Marketing Automation Report 2014

4. Different priorities: Playing the waiting game

Speaking of IT … proudly, around my house, my 15-year-old son is my IT department. The cable is out, call the boy. The internet is slow, Mr. O’s the guy. My laptop is freaking out, where is my whiz kid? For home repairs, it’s my stellar husband. Before you judge, there are a lot of things I can do well, and if I wanted to I could be the IT gal and the home repair gal. But I don’t. I rely on those guys to get those things done. In our house, if momma’s happy, everyone’s happy, so things tend to get attended to quite quickly. It’s lovely that my happiness is a priority and for that I am very grateful. But if they’re out playing golf or spending time with friends (they do have lives, you know) what am I to do? I’ll have to wait. WAIT. And that’s that.

Same with MA. If you chose marketing automation that requires lots of technical help to function, and if you are not particularly technical, be prepared to wait for IT support. And your IT department may not have you at the top of their priority list. You may get so fed up with waiting and/or need help so often that you’re forced to hire an outside vendor for technical support. And that can be costly.

If you’re playing this waiting game, or forking over the cash for external support, it might be time to break up.

86% marketers consider “ease of use” as the most important criterion when evaluating automation tools. – Regalix The State of Marketing Automation” (2014)

5. Money issues: Hidden surprises

Ok, in this scenario, I’m the guilty party. You may have dated or married someone like me. You may, in fact, be just like me. When my husband and I got married and were joining our finances, (his background is in finance) he asked me to gather my bank statements. I proudly handed him a stack of very organized envelopes neatly bound by a rubber band. In each of these never-opened envelopes was a bank statement. To his shock and horror (that he’d already committed to me) he realized I had never even looked at a single one. In my defense, I knew, within $25 bucks or so, what I had in my account, so what’s the point? Am I right? Agree or not, that’s about the amount of focus I had on my spending.

Yet, a happy surprise came from my financial neglect when we went to close out my accounts. The nice lady at the bank asked if I wanted to also close my CD. Huh? What CD? Apparently, I had another chunk of change just sitting in a long-term CD I’d totally forgotten about.

But what about those not-so-happy surprises? Such as those hidden fees on your cell phone bill for data overages because someone (me) didn’’t’ read the fine print when impulse purchasing that snazzy new cell phone and didn’’t consider the obscene amount of data that teens use.

Those are the unforeseen, but actually-seeable-if-you-look-really-closely things that can be avoided. The little surprises in the marketing automation world might show up as charges for support you thought was free. Or your total cost of ownership might be a lot higher than you expected once you add in the cost of consultants to help in system design and architecture.

Also: Pay attention to your database. Are you charged for how many people you have in your database or only for your active contacts? Are you warned if you are about to go over your threshold or are you just charged? Surprise!

If you are getting too many ongoing unpleasant surprises – it might be time to break up.

21% of marketers said that the cost structures were prohibitive to implementing marketing automation. –Redeye and TFM&A InsightsThe Marketing Automation Report 2014

6. Everyone needs support

Last but not least, do you feel supported? In a good relationship, you should feel nurtured and supported. If I am acting a touch sullen, moody, or withdrawn (believe it or not, it happens), my husband knows to ask how I’m doing. Not wait until I’ve hit the wall and am having a supreme emotional meltdown. He preemptively strikes, averting a marital and household catastrophe. I do the same for him and my children because we care about each other’s happiness and success. Knowing when things aren’’t quite right and being there to help navigate tough times (before the cliff-fall) is what it’s all about.

Your MA vendor should be no different.

  • You don’t want to have a vendor that comes only when called to something broken. Instead, you should have a vendor who will proactively notice and reach out when things are looking a bit off.
  • Did your vendor’s customer support help you get thoroughly trained on the product’s capabilities?
  • Did they ensure everything functioned correctly from the get-go, setting you up for quick success?
  • Does your vendor really understand your organization’s needs and goals? Are they committed to helping you be successful and see ROI on your MA investment?

If your customer support makes you feel like you’re skydiving without a parachute, it’s probably time to break up.

Moral of the story

It’s simple: If your current marketing automation tool is causing you or your marketing team stress in any of these ways (or ways we didn’’t mention) it might be time to start looking at other solutions. It might actually be time to break up.

Want to learn more about how marketing automation vendors stack up when it comes to customer service? Read the latest from G2 Crowd.