Marketing Automation is Not Automated

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What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation is a type of software that empowers companies to manage, automate and measure their marketing efforts so they can become more efficient and generate revenue faster. It’s a multi-channel marketing approach that generates new opportunities and establishes nurturing customer relationships.

Marketing automation is most commonly used for email marketing (89%), lead nurturing (84%) and integrations with other software (Regalix). In today’s marketing world, these automated tools give companies an edge up on the competitors that still do all their marketing manually. That’s one of the reasons why best-in-class companies are 67% more likely to use a marketing automation platform (Aberdeen Group).

The top 4 benefits of marketing automation

The secret to marketing automation is the ability to send prospects and clients highly personalized content at the most optimal times. It chugs away in the background, helping companies streamline and scale their existing marketing processes.

Those who have used marketing automation say the main benefits are (Adestra):

  • Saving time (74%),
  • Increased customer engagement (68%)
  • More timely communications (58%)
  • Increased opportunities including up-selling (58%)

Properly executed marketing automation plans can improve customer satisfaction, virtually eliminate the barrier between marketing and sales, and effectively warm up cold leads.

The figurative fine print

Marketing automation has evolved dramatically over the past 2-3 years. New providers have entered the competitive landscape and improved accessibility for the smaller, niche companies. However, adoption rates still weren’t what most expected them to be in 2015. In fact, only 3.69% of the top 10,000 websites are using marketing automation (Marketing Automation Insider). The slow adoption rate can partially be attributed to the barriers to adoption that still exist.

Although many of today’s automated marketing tools boast that they improve operational efficiency and increase revenues, those solutions are often too costly and time-consuming to implement, learn and maintain. Continue reading to explore the barriers to adoption, along with the automated tools and features that companies need to overcome these barriers.

Laborious implementation

You’ll surely get amped when you see all the magical things that automated marketing tools can do for you. Well I don’t mean to crush your dreams, but Venture Beat found that marketers only use an average of 32% of the capability of each solution they implement. That could be because 61% of businesses agree that the implementation process is difficult ( and Circle Research).

The problem is that the vast majority of automated marketing platforms do not work directly out of the box. Here are some of the headaches this major inconvenience can cause:

  • Marketing automation platforms require extensive client input to get fully set up.
  • It’s agonizingly time-consuming to attend scheduled implementation meetings and complete configuration assignments.
  • They’re not easy to integrate with existing marketing platforms.

As a result, marketing and IT departments are tasked to work together to overhaul the company’s IT infrastructure, troubleshoot stubborn APIs and set all sorts of different configurations.

Even for some of the most basic configurations, companies spend a good chunk of time integrating marketing automation with their existing marketing tools. On average, it takes 59% of businesses up to six months, and 17% up to one year to fully adopt and implement a marketing automation platform (Pepper).

This almost defeats the main benefit of marketing automation—saving marketers time. Although marketers do in fact save time in the future, they’re nearly making it up in the time it takes to fully implement a platform that truly improves their targeting and betters their email marketing.

Time-consuming, yet inadequate training

If you’ve had the opportunity to sink your teeth into some of the larger platforms, you’re likely familiar with the fact that they’re so robust they need to offer training-as-a-service. This could be another reason why so few companies are using marketing automation. In fact, 86% of marketers believe that ease of use is the most important criterion when choosing a marketing automation platform (Regalix), yet 44% claim they’re not satisfied because their software is too hard to learn (Autopilot).

What’s worse is that your entire team may not even receive adequate training. You’ll pay for the initial set-up and training, but then your future employees are expected to hit the ground running and learn the complex software on their own. This is similar to why customer onboardings cost you a lot of money. 

Companies need a comprehensive platform that’s intuitive, not to mention a platform that doesn’t require so much manual work to just get rolling.

Content doesn’t write itself

The most challenging obstacle to success with a marketing automation platform is lack of quality content. This issue makes it much more difficult for companies to scale. Take a typical email campaign, for example. You need to build a content strategy to determine what’s covered in each email, and then you need a stellar content creator (in-house or third-party) to write the copy for each email.

In the marketing environment we’re in today, a successful campaign requires a tedious strategy that entails delivering relevant content at the optimal time to the appropriate audience. Predictive technology has predisposed us to expect timely, one-to-one, personal interaction with businesses and brands.

Most platforms aren’t smart enough to know whom it’s specifically communicating with and what their needs are. So even when you do create your content and then plug it into your campaign, it comes out transparently generic on the other end. You know what that means? Poor open rates, lower click-through rates, and fewer conversions.

Companies need to provide highly-personalized and relevant content that aligns with the consumer’s buying stage. That’s how to get them moving down the funnel. In the Modesto Bee Case Study, we go into detail about the difference tailored emails make in a marketing automation campaign. The 130 year-old media company executed an email campaign with pre-made content including very specific information about their prospects. The results were staggering: we’re talking a whopping 34% open rate, 49.4% CTR, 359 hot sales opportunities and over 57K in new digital revenue.

Customized content can speak volumes.

It’s not just “set it and forget it”

Once you’ve implemented a marketing automation platform, you'll need the time and expertise to continually maintain and optimize your campaigns as time rolls on. Going back to the typical email campaign example, you’ll need a:

  • CRM to handle the email recipients.
  • Campaign manager to decide when the email is sent.
  • Data analyst to report on the results and inform strategy for the next email campaign.

Or you might just add all these tasks to someone else’s plate. Nonetheless, ongoing maintenance means ongoing costs. We all know marketers don’t need extra costs.

What agencies truly need is an all-in-one solution that is smart enough to decide the content, recipients and timing.

And once the campaign is complete, the platform has to crank out the stats that matter. For an email campaign, the marketing team of course loves to see open and click-through rates. However, marketing and sales also need to monitor conversions, response times, missed opportunities and most importantly of all... ROI! That’s what it all comes down to, folks. Are you making a return on your marketing automation efforts?

Download The Rise of Niche Marketing Automation Platforms study

Blair Nordstrom

Blair is a Product Marketing Specialist at Vendasta and a connoisseur of all things digital marketing.