Beware of marketing automation working against you and your customers

Just the other day, we received an email from one of our competitors mentioning they had read our blog (referencing a specific post) with a request to consider her as a guest blogger, with a very kind invitation to trial their technology for free, if we wanted to. Funny story, but when you think about it, you begin to realize just how often such automation goes wrong (when they really shouldn’t). In light of April Fool’s day, it felt like marketing automation fails are a perfect subject to discuss.

The email in question had at least three big mistakes. The article it linked to was a feature article for the Sendible social media dashboard (a pretty random one given that the description of the article in the email did not actually match the article itself) and she also linked to another article highlighting their tool and its superiority over the competitors (our tool). So quickly, what did this person do wrong exactly?

  1. Not checking the company they were sending the email too (our guess, we did a sneaky trial and they used a random database without cleaning it) ✅
  2. Not reviewing the blog post referred to in the body of the email (our guess, this was just a random field in the email, automated of course) ✅
  3. Not bothering to even set up the automation properly (our guess, the automation creator was another person) ✅

These are all pretty embarrassing on their own, but hardly harmful since we received it from a competitor. But what if we take these error principals and apply them to an email we send to our own customers. Or worse yet, an email sent to a potential customer (not even signed yet, still being nurtured)? Personalised marketing is at its peak at the moment and customers certainly do value receiving the right message at the right time. We all agree that sending the message when they are not ready can harm your strategy. But what if the message is fine but everything else is wrong? We all know automation exists, but let’s not prove it time and time again in our communications.

Here are our top 5 marketing automation fails that prove you are not only using automation but that you are using it poorly:

1. Automated emails to the wrong people

(this is the email we received)

Email automation fail from one of our competitors

  • If you are looking to guest blog for a website, always check their guidelines and whether their audience is relevant to your business
  • If you are using custom fields such as First Name and Last Name in any messaging (even email marketing), make sure your list has the relevant data. It is always awkward when you send an automated email to Head of Lettuce because the company field and the name field got mixed up.
  • Always test the journey your reader goes through – sign up for the trial, subscribe to the blog or register for the webinar and see what your customers are receiving. And how it makes you feel…never underestimate the power of the actual experience.

2. Automated sharing of content

(we have shared articles by our competitors and articles praising our competitors…oops)

  • Content curation is incredibly important for your social media marketing strategy, but always make sure the content you share is relevant to your business and overall message. If you are going to automate RSS feeds with keywords, make sure you add some exclusion ones too, otherwise “Social Media Tool” may promote some unhelpful content pieces.
  • Irrelevant, or worse yet, inappropriate content automatically going out through your account. Sometimes terms like “Social Media” can accompany some unsavory stories or absolutely unrelated content. It is awkward to have to explain why you are asking for comments on the fact that a young boy died, even if we knew him through social media.

    Sendible Dorian Murray, 8-year-old who captured hearts on social media while battling cancer, has died – Comments? – and believe us when we tell you, this is nothing compared to some of the content you can find with the term “social media” in it.

3. Automated sharing of tweets

(retweeting the wrong message with the right keywords in it)

It is not just the automated sharing of content that can go wrong if not monitored properly. Take automated retweeting for example. It does get a bit awkward (there is that word again) when you retweet a tweet that was less than positive about you, your product or your company or is simply not true.

  • Happens to the best of us! Make sure your automatic replies (if public) have really good keyword filters set up.
  • Private auto-replies (for example direct messages on Twitter) are a great time saver and way to greet new followers, but spelling errors and broken links are not permitted, so make sure they work (simply follow your company’s account with your personal one to test it).

4. Following an inappropriate person

(without even realising it via Auto-Follow tools)

If you have a large audience to engage with on a daily basis, or your aim is to connect with relevant leads as soon as they follow you, make sure that you have the parameters set up right. If the tool you use offers status updates of follower count changes to be posted directly to your newsfeed, it’s considered best practise to turn these off.

  • Remember, it’s quality over quantity. There is no real benefit to having thousands of inactive users you follow who don’t engage with your content.
  • Some users on Twitter abuse auto-following tools, so they will add you and remove you in a matter of days (even if you added them).
  • Always check whether it’s worth following that particular user account and keep your Twitter list clean by unfollowing inactive users in bulk. You can also set up lists to segment your followers or keep track of those you don’t necessarily want to follow (great for competitor research, taken the list is set on private)

5. The main pitfall of all – becoming lazy

It’s really easy to let automation tools develop a life of their own by losing control of them and not supervising or testing them for weeks on end.

  • Avoid this by carving some time out on a daily or weekly basis and analyse the effectiveness of your automatic messages and whether they need improvement. This can be done by looking into response rates and testing the messages from the user perspective.
  • Using automation tools to your advantage can be the greatest time saver for a number of marketing activities but especially nurturing leads and personalising the customer journey.


When using marketing automation tools to save time and even more, to enhance your marketing strategy, it is important to learn how to control such tools and make them work for you and not against you. One piece of advice we can surely give is to always test your automations and also consider how the member receiving it will benefit from it because at the end of the day, it’s all about your customer and how you, as a business, can improve their experience.

We have learned a number of lessons over the last few years and don’t rely on automation as our main tool, but rather as a way to support our overall strategy. While the above 5 types of automation failures cover quite a lot of ground for these errors, we would love to know what kind of automation fails you have encountered in your career as a marketer and also as customer of your favorite (or not so favorite) brands.