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Winning Strategies

Why Marketing Automation Fails (and what to do about it)

The right content, delivered to the right person, at the right time... it sounds like a dream come true. Unfortunately, that is not the typical marketing automation software experience.

Whether you are using Marketo, HubSpot, or another marketing automation product, the initial learning curve can be steep. Couple that with unclear marketing priorities, and a software capability list a mile long, and you have a recipe for overwhelm.

If you have recently found yourself in such a position, we're here to say:

  • Yes, companies do increase leads, revenue and repeat customers with marketing automation.
  • No, the marketing executives using the software don't constantly want to quit their jobs.
  • No, don't throw in the towel.

In this article, we'll outline the most common reasons why marketing automation fails. We'll also give you some ideas to get back on track.

Why Marketing Automation Fails (and what to do about it)

1. Technology Overwhelm

More isn't always better (unless you're ordering a Texas-sized iced tea). Most marketers purchase more marketing automation capabilities than they know what to do with. All of those bells and whistles they sold you on sounded great until you actually opened the instruction manual.

While you may have bought the software for ten general marketing capabilities, each of those capabilities likely contains dozens of features within it.

Premium marketing automation software typically covers the following overarching categories:

  • Blogging
  • Building Landing Pages
  • Managing Social Media
  • Segmenting Email Lists
  • Building Email Campaigns
  • Marketing Automation Triggers
  • Tracking ROI Analytics
  • SEO Planning
  • CTA Personalization
  • A/B Testing

These are essentially the building blocks of modern inbound marketing campaigns. Technologically executing each of these categories with a high degree of mastery will take time. The biggest mistake automated marketing software newbies make is jumping into everything all at once without a clear plan.

Nothing deflates a person faster than the feeling of jumping from one thing to the next, with little to show for it. Trying to target several different buyer personas (with a ton of unique triggers/IFTT logic/email campaigns), while trying to learn the basics, creates a jumbled mess. Not only does it create unnecessary stress for your marketing manager, but it also leads to an unsatisfactory customer experience. '

The last thing you need is someone getting bombarded with tons of emails that are completely irrelevant to them. Or, conversely, a highly interested lead accidentally getting "opted out."

Solution: The best way to avoid technology overwhelm is to start small--even smaller than you think is small! Choose one category to master in the background, as you work on your primary marketing goal.

2. Unfocused Marketing Goals

If you're like most businesses, your primary goal is to convert more leads into paying customers and to drive more revenue. That's why you invested in marketing automation in the first place.

But what are your secondary priorities?

You know, the individual tasks that must be accomplished in order for your primary goal to become a reality. If you have a list a mile long, you have a problem. Conversely, if you don't have a list at all, you have a problem!

You can organize your organization's marketing automation into three different levels: Top of Funnel (TOFU), Middle of Funnel (MOFU) and Bottom of The Funnel (BOFU). Each level plays an important role in a well-optimized marketing campaign. With that said, different levels will be more important to your organization at different times.

Even though the entire funnel is important, if you are just starting out, with a small list, TOFU may be your most important focus point. You can't ignore the other stages, but you can focus the majority of your effort to TOFU to get the most impact for your effort.

Here's a quick summary of what each stage of the funnel entails:

TOFU (Awareness) – Building the top of your marketing funnel is all about attracting prospects. Content marketing, SEO, and social media are effective ways of attracting visitors to your website.

MOFU (Consideration) – Once you have built up a sizable list (the definition of which will depend on your industry and goals), you're ready to focus on the middle of the funnel.

How do you nurture your contacts from awareness to consideration? This is where email series and list segmentation become very important.

BOFU(Decision) – Finally, you’re ready to turn those prospects into customers. That means asking for the sale and maintaining the relationship over time.

Do you immediately need coverage at all stages of the funnel? Probably not. We've seen brands with tons of lead score settings, random numbers applied, and dead-end workflows. In every instance, they would have been better off taking their time and starting small, rather than rushing to "sell, sell, sell!" In this case, the common aphorism "less is more," couldn't be more accurate.

Solution: Completely map the entire funnel before trying to build it. This will allow you to understand how each piece fits, and what needs to be built in order to turn strangers into customers. This understanding allows you to build one section of the funnel without making errors associated with building them in silos.

3. Incongruent Emails

Can you imagine opening an email from Nike that sounded like Martha Stuart? Better yet, imagine when your best friend talks, you hear your mother's voice instead.

Though these are far-fetched examples, we see this kind of thing all of the time: companies releasing content and emails that sound completely incongruent.

Language is a funny thing; shift some words around, change your tone, use this metaphor instead of that one, and you’ve got an entirely different interpretive experience.

Your brand is more than a logo--it's your voice.

Elements like tone, subject matter, and word choice all contribute to you sounding like YOU.

Solution: Develop a brand voice that guides your content, from the emails you write to the copy of your website. It will help your audience connect with your brand and always feel a consistent experience.

4. Irrelevant Emails

This is so common - many brands think effective marketing automation is doing something - and that's where it stops. They think blogging is the secret, so they pump out as many posts as possible. They think automated emails will help them, so they create a lot of emails and schedule them out.

But if the email you're sending isn't one your contacts want to read, it's just a waste of time.

I once saw a limousine company blogging about cookie recipes. It's great they were creating content, but it was so irrelevant their contacts were confused and disengaged.

Solution: Map your content to your funnel - every email, every blog post, every scrap of content should map to one of those stages, have a clear purpose, and a clear next step. If you can't connect those dots, you may be better off not creating content at all.

Simplify Your Marketing Automation

As you now know, there is no magical spell when it comes to online marketing. It is a creative art of knowing what to say, how to say it, and the best time to say it.

However, marketing automation does work when you:

  • Know your target audience (at least, as well as your favorite TV show);
  • Create relevant content for each stage of the Buyer's Journey;
  • Communicate in your brand voice; and
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify!

When properly utilized, marketing automation both makes companies more money and save more time. Like anything else, it just takes a little patience getting started. And, if you are still hitting a wall, engage us, and we can help you move the needle.

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Written by Ashley Gwilliam / July 11, 2017

Ashley is a content writer and brand developer. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from the bizarre world of on-camera acting to the practice courts of NBA basketball players to the virtual meetings of inbound marketers. Today she specializes in building memorable brand voices online, with a focus on the travel & tourism, e-commerce and tech industries.

Articles by Ashley Gwilliam