How to be part of the elite 7% of marketers successfully implementing automation

Automation is the number one area for email innovation and focus in 2016 according to this year’s Email Marketing Industry Census.

However, achieving successful implementation appears a near impossible dream. So what can marketers do to make it a reality?


Similar to 2015 results, only 7% of marketers experience very successful implementation of automation programs, with a further 55% citing them as ‘quite successful’ and 38% ‘not successful’.

The responsibility is not solely on the marketers’ shoulders however, vendors might need to up their game here too.

It’s not always true that automation tools are easy to use or to set up. I hear too many stories about platforms being selected by marketers that then require a lot of time and resource to on-board and start using.

Or at the other extreme, some vendors hand over the keys to the car and don’t teach you to drive it – it looked very exciting in the demo, but doesn’t prove to be intuitive or flexible when you are trying to get the most out of it. That’s not the same as blaming the tools for the failure, but marketers shouldn’t beat themselves up too much.

What’s holding marketers back?

The survey found the Barriers to implementing marketing automation are still lack of time (43% say this) and lack of resources (40%).

Integrating data also seems to be a growing problem year on year (37% in 2016). Citing lack of time or resources can be overcome once the business case and proven benefits are seen, however a tech issue such as integration may need a bit more expertise from your provider.

If we look at specific uses related to automation, the census showed that two-thirds of marketers plan to innovate using behavioural triggers.


While these types of campaign can achieve great results, don’t feel compelled to start with the most complex triggers. The top two choices are ‘Subscription or sign-up to website’ and ‘Automated response to website visit/sign-up’, which are quite straightforward to implement; tick those first before you move on to more advanced ones.

The study also showed that a further 46% of marketers plan to use automation to enable one-to-one communication. A marketing dream, but what does it mean for your company? Break it down into digestible (and achievable) goals so you can mark your progress along the way.

Some innovation is better than none

While there is a tremendous desire for more automation, and likely pressure from higher up in your organisation, clearly marketers have difficulty getting it to work successfully.

The key is to start small and work up. Brands that are employing automation successfully, even in a small way, are seeing significant gains.

Similarly to what Ryan Phelan was saying recently, small changes can add up to something big so you shouldn’t feel bad for implementing incremental innovation. It will help you get ahead of most marketers with a ‘radical change or nothing’ attitude.

For example, Beachcomber – a luxury travel company – decided to extend their welcome emails to a three-part automation program and track their performance regularly to inform the personalisation of future campaigns. This small change resulted in not only great engagement, but also increased their email-driven website traffic by 15%.


While on the face of it, automating your email marketing sounds like a big undertaking, one that only a few percent of your peers have mastered, even starting small can deliver impressive gains.

Rather than saying I haven’t got the time for automation – an oxymoron in itself – take a longer term view and make incremental steps to build it into your strategy now.

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