The 5 Most Egregious Marketing Automation Fails and How To Avoid Them

If you’re familiar with the concept of a bell curve of technology adoption, you’ll know that early adopters race to experiment with new technologies to try and get an edge on their competition. Stumbling through trial and error is part and parcel to the early evolution of any new technology. Marketing automation, while still a relatively new category, is beginning to reach the top of the bell curve in adoption.

I estimate marketing automation is roughly 50 percent of the way up the front slope. This is good news for many companies that are considering the big move into enterprise marketing automation software. The history of successes and failures is well-documented, and this can help new adopters avoid past mistakes.

Having spent more than 10 years in marketing automation – using, consulting, training, selling, and marketing it – I’ve seen firsthand many epic fails that could’ve been easily avoided with proper planning and project management. Here’s my personal list of the most common fails and how to avoid them.

Epic Fail 1: Email Setup

You’ve invested a lot of time and money for an industrial-strength email solution that has more bells than the Vatican, but you’ve failed to take the simple steps of working with the vendor and IT to set a sender policy framework (SPF) and domain keys identified mail (DKIM).

These configurations are critical to ensuring strong email deliverability. Work with your vendor and your internal email admin right from the beginning to get these crucial setup steps done.

Epic Fail 2: Blast My List

You have a list of thousands of contacts in your CRM that date back to The Great Depression. You sync your contacts with your MAP and blast your entire list of contacts. This is a most epic of epic fails and may result in unsubscribes. Resist this urge and take the time to segment and analyze your legacy contact data so that you can deliver more relevant content to them.

Epic Fail 3: Dirty Data

You don’t clean your legacy contact list.

Prior to your first email campaign, you can clean your list by running it against an email validation solution for about a penny a record. Sometimes the MAP vendor will even offer this for free. Not taking this step can result in a large number of hard-bounced emails, which can cause longer-term effects on deliverability.

Epic Fail 4: No Code on Site

One of the most powerful tools offered by a MAP is the website visitor-tracking function, which is a cookie placed on a person’s computer when they click an email or fill out a form. Some people don’t bother putting the code on their site and miss the golden opportunity to track web behavior of those interacting with their emails and landing pages. I’ve actually heard people tell me, “We don’t care about that data.” That’s insanity. 

This is crucial information used to feed lead-scoring and nurture programs. Not putting code on your site diminishes the value and power of marketing automation.

Epic Fail 5: No Content Plan

This is the granddaddy of epic fails and the hardest one to solve. Many people purchase a MAP without having a real content marketing plan in place. This is a problem – a really big problem. For all the power and flexibility of the nurture campaign functions offered by MAPs, without a content plan, they are like a sports car without gas. You need to develop a content map, calendar, and plan.

Before designing that awesome 10-step nurture campaign, hit the whiteboard. Make sure you have a good staple of educational content that is engaging and meaningful to the prospects you intend to message at your disposal. If you have no internal expertise or experience, bring in the outside help of consultants or even agencies to better assist you in developing content. Don’t skimp on this; a marketing automation platform is only as good as the content driving the programs.

Some of these common and egregious fails in marketing automation are very easy to fix. Others – like the absence of a solid content plan – are a bit trickier and can be expensive to solve. Regardless, learn from the past failures of early adopters and avoid the same mistakes. Doing so will help you see ROI on your technology investment sooner.

Homepage image via Shutterstock.  

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