shutterstock_62252611-1Our reputation among inbound marketing agencies means I often field calls from desperate marketing execs who have just invested thousands of dollars on a marketing automation platform, spent a few hours with remote onboarding and phone training, and now have no clue what to do next. Many of these folks jumped into marketing automation without a clear understanding of its complexity, costs or potential dangers, and now they’ve got a disaster on their hands. We see four issues with marketing automation, all of which are avoidable.

Marketing software-as-a-service solutions have exploded over the past five years as B2B, and increasingly, B2C companies are adopting marketing automation for its real-time, relationship-oriented approach to maintaining and extending customer relationships. Empowered with these new tools, companies now can determine what’s working and what isn’t, and then scientifically re-allocate their resources to operate more strategically.

That potential has B2B executives believing that automating anything can finally put an end to lost sales opportunities. Really, how could any trendy marketing leader ignore the tweets, pokes, and pins claiming astonishing lead-generation results from a cloud-delivery model promising plug-and-play, run and done?

But hold on a minute. If you’re a small to midsize business, any purchase over $20,000 a year should be highly “considered.” If you are researching marketing automation platform (MAP) vendors, you’ve seen all the pricing tactics (based on the number of contacts in your database). They point you away from the Basic version toward the Professional, only to reveal that Pro has limited functionality too. So out of frustration over the complexity, you call the sales department for an explanation. And you hear that for all of the elements you really need, Enterprise, of course, is the only way to go. And there you are spending $20,000. What brought these executives to the brink of disaster? Four things, mostly.

1. I wanted a more robust email-marketing tool

Sure, MAPs are email centric, but the depth of the technology extends far beyond emails into integrated tools for multichannel campaigns, social marketing automation, even management, and customer data management. Just be aware that if you purchase email lists from brokers or other suspects who guarantee deliverability, you will surely get you into trouble and run the risk of polluting your entire database. If you just want to email blast, stick with your current email-marketing vendor and save your money.

2. I needed to automate because my marketing department is resource constrained

If you don’t spend the time to build out, test, analyze, adapt, and align your marketing automation solution with your sales team and/or customer relationship management (CRM) platform, you will not reap the benefits. A MAP takes resources and effort to integrate the right processes, people, content, and data. Likewise, do not buy the platform and expect to see visits, leads and sales flock in the door without a meaningful content commitment.

3. I felt pressured by top management to deliver qualified leads and measurable results

Just buying a marketing platform doesn’t by itself deliver the leads, revenue, and growth that you want. The lack of communication and shared lead management processes between sales and marketing has a direct impact on an organization’s revenue. Some of the more detrimental effects of insufficient alignment between sales and marketing include poorly qualifying leads, improperly nurturing those leads that are promising, and an inability to follow up and coordinate sales activities. A MAP is not a sole remedy for the disconnect between sales and marketing.

4. MAP vendors told me everyone is buying it and I’m Old School if I don’t

A marketing automation evaluation before you purchase can save countless dollars and precious time. Take the pressure and emotion out of the buying decision. As with any vendor evaluation, consider usability, deployment and ongoing support. Most importantly, make sure you can take full advantage of this expensive technology.

Sure, plenty of companies have made the leap, but not everyone is doing it. According to the sales and marketing business intelligence firm SiriusDecisions, only 20% of B2B companies have purchased and implemented a MAP. In a recent vendor evaluation, SiriusDecisions said 85% of B2B marketing leaders believe they are not using their platform to its full potential.

Finding Disaster Relief Means Getting the Right Help

If one of these four scenarios sounds all too familiar, know that you’ve got plenty of company and that there’s help out there. Our marketing firm offers platform-neutral marketing automation, which means we’re not beholden to any one MAP vendor. By employing InfusionSoft, Hubspot, Marketo, and Eloqua-trained developers, we can get you out of almost any bind. In a future post, we’ll tell you how.