Marketing automation refers to utilization of software and technology platforms to effectively manage and execute multi-channel marketing (mobile, web, social media, content, email, SEO) and automate repetitive tasks. Looking at the latest studies, it becomes clear that marketing automation technology has gained significant popularity in the last 5 years. Particularly if you look at CRM-related areas, it indicates robust growth. Have a look at some interesting statistics below.

  • Using the basic “Google Keyword Planning Tool” we can see an increase of 25% in searches for ‘marketing automation’ in the past one year.
  • According to Forbes, 63% companies that are outgrowing their competitors use one or more automation tool.
  • 78% of high-performing marketers indicate that automation tools have helped them increase revenue.
  • As of December 2013, 25% B2B Fortune 500 companies were using some marketing automation tool like: HubSpot, Makesbridge or Marketo.
  • Number of jobs in marketing automation industry has increased by as much as 25%.
  • You can read some more interesting statistics in a report by Capterra.

However, the same report tells another version of the story, which might sound disappointing.

“85% of B2B marketing professionals with an active marketing automation platform feel that they’re not using them to their full potential.”

This quoted statistic indicates that marketers are unable to capitalize on their investments in marketing automation platforms. Why is that so? What are the key issues that marketers facing with their marketing automation platforms?

In the following, we are sharing five key problems that we have observed modern marketers are facing despite having some a reliable automation tool.

1. Below Potential Utilization:

The number one issue is inability of a marketer to effectively utilize the platform. There are two primary reasons for this: first, many platforms are unable to provide the desired training to subscribers (free of cost) and secondly, marketers cannot take out time (owing to other engagements) to learn the product in depth and rely on basics.

The only solution to this problem is to take out some time and gain knowledge for superior performance because it is the only lasting competitive advantage. Secondly, many providers have video tutorials and features-specific blog posts/case studies; use them to your advantage. Getting out of comfort zone might be a disturbing thing initially but it can be terrific in terms of output quality and long-term gains.

2. Shortage of the Desired Content:

Content marketing is like fuel to marketing automation. If you do not have quality and customized content, what do you expect to send people? What will generate revenue by engaging people? What do you mean to use for leads or prospect nurturing? Yes, shortage of quality content is one of the prime concerns of marketers in 2014, but what’s the way forward?

Content; the king of digital marketing revolves around two key things; persona and needs. Write few but decent posts, send less but quality emails that have people-specific content. Other than hiring qualified bloggers and content creators, marketer should also grasp writing skills to improve his ability to pick up the right quantity and quality of content. While using my marketing automation platform, I addressed the very challenge with a monthly editorial calendar. This small planning exercise can help meet your monthly content needs and achieve goals.

3. Stuck in Old Practices:

Email marketing is one key element of marketing automation but it is not the equivalent term for the same. There was a time when marketers used to start with one big list and send out one big email to each contact. Today, you’ve to dig deeper, move to Email 2.0 and apply the best practices for an effective email marketing campaign. Most of the marketers either don’t use that sub-lists based approach where every recipient gets different message on the basis of a particular area or their platform just doesn’t offer the feature. As a result, they have lower engagement and click-through rates.

4. Complexities of Process Integration:

Marketing and sales are integrated processes that go side by side. In many cases, marketers find themselves unable to integrate their campaigns with the sales efforts. With a marketing automation tool, you might have the key to funnel leads to the sales team but that requires a decent process that is integrated. SiriusDecisions study has found companies with marketing automation adoption without any process in place have negative return on their investment.

5. Over-Reliance on Email as Channel:

Email is an effective marketing channel with a very decent return on investment but over-reliance on the channel is a big problem today. Experts argue that this over reliance is also a key issue in marketing automation.

Brian Halligan (HubSpot CEO) writes:

Email marketing still works, but far too many companies overestimate its power as marketing channel. Over the last decade, humans have shown a great ability to get unwanted, unsolicited marketing out of their lives (DVR’s, Caller ID, Ad Blocker Software, etc.). On the email side, spam protection put a pretty big roadblock up.”

Given the changing rules of the game, strict state policies on privacy, spam filters, and changing prospect behaviors, over-reliance on email might backfire. What many marketers are doing is over-relying on email and ignoring other features of automation platforms that may help in sealing the deals.

What’s the Remedy?

The solution is simple rules of business: people and processes matter far more than a particular technology solution. Before you employ an additional tool, do strategize a friendlier approach to process optimization and integration. We are putting few suggestions to avoid such problem at your end.

  • Study your chosen platform before subscribing. It’ll help you compare the software’s specifications and features against your needs. The best thing you can do is to ask for a “Demo Account” to get familiar with the features. At Makesbridge, we provide a Free Demo Account to help our prospects learn the platform features before getting a paid subscription.
  • Get yourself trained on the best practices and software features. Learn about the best practices for marketing automation and apply them on your drips. In addition, speak to your support representative to get you some support and training material. There are companies that charge their customers for platform training but many others offer Free Training and support. Watch videos, download user guides, and study the knowledge base.
  • Integrate your marketing channels. One of the key reason behind under-performance of sales/marketing departments is lack of integration between marketing and sales channels. By creating a greater alignment and coordination, a marketer can increase leads by 44%.
  • Use email as a key marketing channel to reach out prospects; however, don’t forget the best practices. The old practice of ‘one message for all’ needs to be left behind. Instead, use predictive analytics to your advantage and send messages to prospects as per their interest and activity.
  • Change your focus from selling to nurturing. People do not buy unless they are convinced of product/service value. Nurture leads by sending some useful information, guides, case studies, or useful content of their choice. In other words invest in relationship and trust building rather than mere selling.
  • Finally, if you don’t see results; just don’t lose hope. Marketing is all about consistent efforts. If your earlier campaigns didn’t work out, study and try a dedicated retargeting campaign. Re-targeting can be an effective way to generate leads and nurture bounced prospects.