Marketing automation can make your life easier, but simply having marketing automation and successfully leveraging it are two very different things. Avoid these common marketing automation mistakes to ensure that your automation doesn’t fall off track.
At this point, there are few left in the business world who doubt the value of marketing automation — and an ever-increasing number of companies are already using it.
According to Forrester’s “Marketing Automation Technology Forecast, 2017 to 2023,” spending for marketing automation tools is expected to increase from $11.4 billion in 2017 to $25.1 billion annually by 2023.
While the numbers paint a rosy picture of the state of marketing automation, on the frontlines, businesses are finding that simply having marketing automation and successfully leveraging it are two very different things. As a HubSpot partner agency that helps businesses at various stages of automation adoption and execution, we’ve been around this track a few times, and some trends have become clear.
Here are the five most common reasons we see marketing automation efforts falling short — and our tips for overcoming them.
Imagine you’re a sales associate for a company that recently onboarded a new marketing automation platform. The Marketing Director seems excited about it, the President is indifferent and the Sales VP is clearly skeptical. You’ve been given a brief intro to the tool but no real training and only about half of your colleagues are regularly using the software.
How likely are you to actually put in the time to learn, use and stick with it?
Buy-in is easily the most important factor to positioning a business for success when it comes to marketing automation. Without real buy-in, automation efforts are doomed from the start.
It’s not enough for leadership to simply tell employees to start using automation. Businesses must create a process that accounts for the following:
If your organization does have sufficient buy-in but still fails to see positive results from marketing automation, the state of your contact database might be to blame.
Remember this: effective automation relies on accurate and complete data. Mismanaged contact lists can be the death knell for any marketing effort, but this is especially true when relying on automation. If your contact lists lack consistent data like first names, company names, lifecycle stage and so on, you run the risk of sending automated emails to potential valuable leads and customers that are clearly automated and messy.
To use a common example, think of a time you’ve seen an email appear in your inbox with a subject line like this: “CHARLIE , don’t miss this one time opportunity!”
The goal with these workflow emails is to provide a level of personalization to a prospect, but with the all-caps name and odd spacing, this tells your contact that 1) this was a mass or automated email and 2) checking to make sure their name was spelled correctly/not annoyingly capitalized wasn’t a primary concern for you.
It’s essential that, from the beginning, you take the time to make sure you’re uploading clean contact lists without these kinds of errors.
Once your clean lists have been uploaded, be sure to properly manage them by performing regular maintenance. This will ensure the analytics associated with your contact lists are accurate. Remove duplicate email addresses, update or remove (if necessary) invalid addresses, ensure you’re using workflows and/or lead scoring to ensure proper lifecycle stage and delete emails with hard or soft bounces.
Failing to do so will negatively impact your sender reputation, forcing more of your emails into spam folders and inflicting global damage on your email marketing efforts.
Much has been written about the challenge businesses face in getting sales and marketing teams on the same page.
In theory, marketing and sales alignment might sound simple enough, but in reality, we’ve seen firsthand that creating and maintaining open, regular communication and coordination between these teams is a big undertaking that is much easier when established systems and processes are in place.
What does marketing and sales alignment have to do with automation? A lot. Without it, the goals of automation or mismatched, leads will get lost in the shuffle, databases will get mismanaged and bad marketing will almost certainly be a result.
For example, let’s say sales and marketing have different definitions for what constitutes a sales qualified lead, and there’s no clear process for how and when to hand qualified leads off from marketing to sales. In this scenario, there’s no way to accurately report on lead generation, which among other things means there’s no accountability. Furthermore, the teams aren’t clear on which tasks they’re responsible for, which means a good chance that leads are not nurtured or — even worse — wires are crossed and they’re getting conflicting communications from both teams.
To keep sales and marketing aligned, the teams should be in regular touch (weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings) to discuss and revisit the following:
Automation is powerful, but it doesn’t replace humans. When there’s no human touch, you run the risk of bad automation.
Returning to a previous example, let’s say that a contact downloads a content offer by your organization and then reaches out to you directly with some questions. You have a great conversation, but unfortunately, you didn’t remove them from your pre-set workflow to follow up with all downloads 24 hours after they submit their information. Instead of receiving the personal email they might expect after your conversation, your prospect gets your standard, automated thank you message with no mention of how you previously spoke to them.
Put yourself in the prospect’s shoes — wouldn’t this be alienating? While automation can help ensure you’re hitting important checkpoints with potential customers, it can also lead to slip-ups like this if you’re not paying attention.
Scale is an important factor to keep in mind here as well. If you’re launching a very targeted, specific campaign, it might make more sense to personally respond to contacts where you can do some quick research on their company, showing that you took the time to understand their needs.
In all the automation you set up, a human (who knows what they’re doing) needs to oversee the entire process. Automation is definitely a time-saver, but you don’t want to become so robotic that potential customers feel like there may not be anyone behind the scenes.
Similarly, automation can, unfortunately, be seen as something you only have to do once. Set up an email workflow to follow up with anyone who submits their info via a contact form, then walk away, considering all your bases covered.
Unfortunately, your first attempt — even if it adheres to workflow best practices — may not resonate with your audience. Like any marketing effort, automation is an ongoing, iterative process – not a one-and-done project. You need to take a scientific approach, testing various hypothesis until you land on the best layout, imagery or language that resonates with your audience.
How do you accomplish this? Split testing or A/B tests are one great way to home in on what’s most effective for your organization. Choose one variable to test, like an image or subject line, then see which version connects best with your audience. Never test more than one item at a time, this will make it virtually impossible to determine which change you made had either a negative or positive impact.
Do this regularly for all your content. Remember that what works now may be less effective even a few months down the road, so it’s essential that you continue to test, analyze your reports and then do it all over again. Rinse and repeat, in short.
Automation can make your life easier, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy – and in the wrong hands the risk for damage is significant. By putting in the time and care upfront to avoid the common missteps above, you can ensure your automation doesn’t fall off track.
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Published on 04/24/2019 by Charlie Nadler.
Charlie is the Strategic Director of Simple Machines Marketing, a digital marketing agency based in Chicago. His writing has appeared in a wide variety of publications, from Content Marketing Institute to Funny or Die. When he’s not helping small businesses grow with Simple Machines, Charlie likes playing guitar with his band and spending time with his wife and daughter.