How to Fail with Marketing Automation

It never surprises me the way people think. Marketing minds have been preaching 1:1 marketing for years, yet businesses and marketers still can’t understand the idea. Marketing automation increased the popularity of 1:1 marketing because it made it technically possible — and because it was personal, it greatly increased engagement rates. It has changed the world of marketing the same way SEO did 10 years ago.

But even though the popularity of marketing automation is rising, there are still some people who are failing at their implementations for one reason or another. I’ve compiled a short list of the top reasons that this can happen — take a look and make sure you’re avoiding these common #fails.

1. Have No Clue: These are the easy ones to spot. They say they “know it all.” Recently, there was an article from Harvard stating that the people who have the least amount of education are the hardest to convince they are uneducated. This is a massive plague on companies implementing marketing automation, because when people are not aware of what they don’t know, they don’t take steps to learn.

“Having no clue” begins when people start jumping on the bandwagon without knowing how to ride. They buy a tool because someone told them to, but do not understand the basics of how to execute automated marketing programs.

The good news is that this is easily solved. There are plenty of great minds giving away all of their knowledge for FREE! For example, you can follow people like Joe Chernov or Nolin LeChasseur and peek into their heads for the cost of nothing. Those who take the time to read third-party content and understand what marketing automation really is and can be (not just what they want it to be), can easily be cured of this “cluelessness.”

2. Pure Insanity: I’m not talking about your bosses’ demands, but rather a desire to recreate bad processes with a new tool. This is the second largest problem companies face. Even if you know what you need and how to use marketing automation, you still need to revisit your programs before you automate them.

I’m referring directly to the programs you’ve been running for years. These programs, campaigns, processes, and workflows can usually be put through the LEAN process to remove an excessive amount of work. This is because many of the workflows, processes, and steps we now use are just workarounds that marketing automation solves. Now, even though those processes are defunct, many people still feel the need to recreate them.

“Insanity” is easily cured as well. Simply map out all of your processes before you automate them. Understand why you do each step, and ask your vendor if there is a better way to do them. Start with the biggest goals, like your lead pass process, then work your way down to smaller things, like how you qualify a lead.

3. Thinking Existing Content Will Suffice: Marketing automation doesn’t run without content, and this is the next stumbling block most companies face. Many people have been doing content marketing since 1999 when Seth Godin promoted it in his book Permission Based Marketing. Since then, 98 percent of companies in the Fortune 500, all the way to small businesses, use content marketing. This is great adoption, but this is only the starting point, not the end.

Once you begin to understand the need for content, your content should be crafted to fit the buyer’s life cycle. Your content strategy should grow and become more effective over time. This is especially true once you start using an automation tool. Marketing automation allows you to begin to learn about your leads in real time, which can help you understand which content is perfect for them at any particular moment — allowing you to nurture them with the correct content at the correct time.

The problem most people face is that their content isn’t specific to a place in the buyer’s life cycle. Most content you have before marketing automation will combine early-stage information with mid- and late-stage intel as well. The only reason we haven’t had to differentiate content before is because there was no way to tell which stage a buyer was in, so it wasn’t even an issue. Marketing automation and lead scoring solve this, so your content needs to change with the tool.

This is easy to solve as well. I’ve written about the buyer’s journey and the stages involved in it, and I cover how to make sure your content is correctly mapped to the buyer stages.

4. Unwilling to Try: The other reason many people fail is because they never begin. Marketing automation is not a massive project unless you make it into one. Many companies bite off too much with their implementations or delay their use due to the seemingly endless work involved in getting started.

Marketing automation is made to help ease your workflow, make it fun to do your job, and make campaigns that you thought were impossible, possible. It’s being used by 75 percent of the world’s leading software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, and is creating large competitive advantages for early adopters.

If you have a hard time starting, consider these simple fixes. You can start small. This is what I suggest for many large companies, and small ones, too. For large companies, I suggest starting with a small division and doing a divisional rollout first. This lets you see what works, scale up the good ideas, and learn from the bad. For smaller companies, I suggest just automating anything. Start with something simple like lead scoring, website tracking, or connecting your forms to your CRM. Pick a small tool to do just one automation before you go to a full platform. Doing one thing easier and well will help you make the case to automate more things, and possibly grow to a larger tool to do full automation sooner.

The main reasons people fail with marketing automation are very similar to the adoption of any brand-new technology. The only difference is that there hasn’t been another technology like this before in marketing, so the disparity between the haves and the have not’s is quickly turning into a landslide. See if you can learn from these mistakes to find your way into the race for marketing superiority.

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