Marketing automation project failure: how to recover?

Our advices

10mn   Medium Level

Often poorly deployed or oversized, marketing automation tools can lead you straight into the wall, and make you spend a lot of resources for nothing. Choosing the right tool is not enough to set up an automated marketing mechanism that works… and that pays off.

The main causes of marketing automation failure

The 7 causes of marketing automation failure - placeholder


Vade retro market auto

I meet many prospects, and recently one of them invited me to discuss his problems. He gave me this speech:
“We do some marketing, push a few emails to our customer base through an emailing tool, we have a website, an in-house developed CRM. We would like to do better, listen to our customers and prospects, personalize our communications and speak up at the right time, better align our marketing and sales… But I definitely don’t want marketing automation! I have a friend who deployed a solution and it cost him a lot of money, with no return. What would be your best advice?”

I spent the rest of the interview trying to figure out what might have happened, and ended up presenting the top causes of marketing automation failure that we’ve seen on over 80 projects of all sizes.

The lack of a marketing strategy

To caricature (a bit)
Marketing automation doesn’t improve your marketing, it just accelerates an already present evolution: if you do “good marketing”, it will be even better, and if you go to the wall, you will crash even faster.

Too often I’ve seen a marketing department “buy marketing automation” thinking it will be a panacea; a bit like “buying CRM” at the end of the 20th century thinking it would be a sales strategy.

What you should do

A good marketing strategy, a clear vision of your offers, your buyer personas and their journey, interesting and well-positioned speaking engagements, and involved sales are all prerequisites to prevent marketing automation failure.

Lack of marketing-sales alignment

Too often, I still find that my clients have two departments, marketing on one side and sales on the other, working in silos and ignoring each other.
Yet, friends of marketing, your strategy should start with a good discussion with sales to describe the people they meet every day and their problems. They know the customers and prospects best (along with customer service). Without alignment with sales, your hard-earned hot leads will fall into the moat that separates your two departments.

What you should do

If you’re wondering what marketing strategy to design, you might as well start by building one that will help sales. This involves :

  • building together the profiles of your targets (the buyer personas), in relation with your different offers
  • mapping out the ideal customer journey that you would like to see them follow (the buyer journey)
  • identifying together the pain points, their problems, at different moments of their reflection
  • It’s up to you, the marketer, to produce the right content for these pain points
  • precisely define the transition process of the leads that marketing will generate towards sales: when is the transition made, what information is essential, who to pass the lead to for the first qualification…

The lack of a content strategy

The lack of a content strategy is the most common cause of marketing automation failure… And by content, I don’t mean your brochures, flyers, corporate videos or product demos.

Product ‘content’
Product content is necessary but very late in the buying process (at the decision or closing stage), when the prospect is convinced that he needs a product or service; you are then on a par with your competitors who will offer the same content.

The other mistake is to try to address all offers, all buyer personas and all customer journeys from the start, and produce content by “sprinkling” the effort. You’ll burn out and never finish any journey from start to finish.

Without a content strategy, you end up doing more and more outbound, “push” campaigns that exhaust your base and damage your brand.

What you should do

A content strategy consists in responding precisely to the irritants of your targets, all along their journey.

The lack of good marketing automation practices

Going it alone and unprepared… It’s rarer, but the consequences are usually disastrous: some customers decide to deploy their marketing automation solution alone, without putting in place the right practices.

Of course, we are not in a CRM project, the IT department does not necessarily need to be heavily involved and you can start to run your campaigns very quickly with SaaS solutions. But this does not exempt you from a little support. The most serious symptoms after one year without support are :

  • an inability to measure results in terms of acquisition or influence of marketing on revenue
  • Increasing waste of time (especially if the team is large)
  • Increasingly frequent errors: “But why do we have two “Country” fields in the database? Which one do we use?”

Errors in scoring and the lead life cycle

The scoring program is an essential part of the marketing automation solution. It is the one that will allow you to automatically analyze the huge amount of data you will collect and transform it all into a score that is easy to analyze: the higher the score, the more the lead has interacted with you, your site, your campaigns, and seems interesting or hot. One mistake on this program and you will either have too many – falsely – hot leads, or too few.

The lead life cycle program builds on the scoring program to automatically move your leads along the path you have modeled; one mistake on this program and your leads will be misdirected, mature leads will receive end-of-cycle campaigns, customers will receive lead campaigns…

What you should do

Define scoring rules precisely and refine them over time.

Capping the marketing team’s progress

I sometimes “launch” a client on their journey into digital marketing and marketing automation, conduct the initial training, which allows the first campaigns to be put into the solution, and set up the best practices. Then, in accordance with my promise, I let the client fly on his own.

I come back a year later and the client is pretty much where I left him a year before; he’s running the same types of campaigns we did and hasn’t matured, and in particular hasn’t started an inbound marketing strategy.

The typical thought is “It’s a bit expensive to do what we do, isn’t it?

What you should do

The journey of digital transformation and marketing automation is a long one… And you must not stop in the middle of the road: you must refine your campaigns over time, use your content strategy to offer expert content to your prospects and take care of the different interactions. Otherwise it’s sure to cost a bit to send 3 emails…

Marketing team organization problems

Starting a marketing automation project, or worse, an inbound marketing strategy without measuring the consequences on the team and the budget is a sure source of failure.
If you think…

  • “We’ll put an intern in charge of marketing automation, that will be enough”, or
  • “We’ll put an intern in charge of marketing automation, that’ll be enough”, or “She’ll do marketing automation in addition to her tasks, she’s still got some slack” (yes, I say “she” because it’s often women I meet for operational marketing, please don’t see here any misogynistic remarks from me)
  • “For the content, we’ll work it out between us: I’ll do some and I’ll ask product marketing/consultants/production to write some too”

… you’re in for a serious setback!

What you should do

All of these situations will eventually blow up and you’ll either find yourself unable to launch your campaigns, or with a stop-and-go strategy, or worse with serious errors and misdirected emails. As far as in-house content production goes, you’ll just get bored (if that’s not your job) and stop producing it.

Yes, implementing a marketing automation solution is not a magic wand. Marketing automation is not just a tool to send emails automatically: it is part of a new strategy and a rethought organization. There are a lot of pitfalls and ways to cause marketing automation to fail. The easiest way is to start by getting (good) support… Why not call us?

Posted By Sylvain

For the past 20 years, Sylvain has been choosing and assembling the best technologies for his key account clients, to help them create a successful end-to-end customer experience. Surely the Leonard of the team, he is a fan - and expert - of Marketo! He sits next to his clients, drives them forward and makes Marketing Automation projects succeed with his team.