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6 Mistakes Businesses Make When Rolling Out Marketing Automation


We talk to a lot of companies that aren't getting the results they hoped for after implementing a marketing automation platform. There are clear and observable trends, and reasons behind them. 

Before I get into the top 6 reasons, I’d like to first define some parameters.

  • These reasons will pertain to companies that use one of the more robust automation platforms, such as Salesforce/Pardot, HubSpot, Marketo, and maybe Sharpspring.
  • Email marketing does not equal marketing automation.

Here are the top 6 reasons why marketing automation is not working for so many companies.

Reason 1: Lack of company-wide buy in

Reason 2: Lack of platform adoption

Reason 3: No clear strategy to deploy the software

Reason 4: No internal champion (or none that can make change)

Reason 5: Not enough marketing resources (money & manpower)

Reason 6: Companies live in silos (no cross-team alignment)

Let’s dive into each of these a little deeper, shall we?

Reason 1: Lack of Company-Wide Buy In


This is number one for a reason.

Buy in for automation — especially when you rely on it for tracking critical KPIs to guide decision making scenarios — should start at the top of the company. The business owner or CEO has to be in the loop, and not only as a part of the purchasing; they need to know what to expect from it. Add to that, the person at the top of the food chain must be the biggest cheerleader for the move to implement so the rest of the company will fall in line.

When the guy or gal at the top does not buy in, the rest of the company is free to not care about the success of the roll out that much either.

Once buy in happens from the top, all other department heads should follow suit. It’s a daunting mission implementing this new shiny automation system, and individual department heads need to champion the adoption process as well.

Reason 2: Lack of Platform Adoption


A full-suite automation platform will impact almost every department in a company, but I’m going to oversimplify this to only focus on marketing, sales, and customer service.

Lack of adoption happens when companies try to shortcut the process, thus skimping on deployment efforts. For example, let’s say that Sally in marketing is rocking everything she is doing, building great campaigns, pushing all the right buttons, but Mark in sales refuses to log everything in the CRM properly.

Lack of adoption can happen in each department. Two of four sales reps are rockstars and use the CRM properly, while the other two think it’s OK to be lazy to fill out a critical custom field.

No matter the adoption challenge, in the end, if everyone is not doing the work in the platform, all data points are off. You may as well market your business by carrier pigeon, and start accepting rocks as a form of payment.

Reason 3: No Clear Strategy to Deploy the Software


Software companies are so freaking awesome at selling you software. They can sell sawdust to a lumber mill and convince them to pay extra for delivery!

The challenge for the buyer is usually this: HubSpot and the like have all the bells and whistles you could ever want to play with, but just because you have a pile of wood, a hammer, and nails, does that mean you can build a house?

You see where I’m going here, right?

These systems come pre-programmed to be even more pre-programmed based on how you run your business. There is no one size fits all. And just because there are 100 things you can do in a software platform, but it does not necessarily mean you should be doing all 100 of them the moment you buy it.

The trick is to strategically roll out the software in such a way that you get to the goals you desire. Yes, there will be quick wins along the way, but dammit, you have to plan ahead.

Every company is different, and they buy automation at different stages in their business, so it’s impossible to lay out the correct strategy you should do here. The point I am trying to make is this: You must think strategically, have a plan, create a blueprint, and live and die by that strategy. Sure you can adjust as you collect data. But, don’t try to do it all at once. You eat an elephant one bite at a time, same goes for automation software.

PS, don’t eat elephants. That’s just not right. Also, what a silly saying.

Reason 4: No Internal Champion (or None That Can Make Change)


An internal champion can come in many forms. Maybe they are the director of marketing, the strategist, or the architect. But I see time and time again that even this champion, while called champion, still can’t get things done due to not being allowed to implement actual change.

This relates to my thoughts on buy in and adoption (noted above). If the champion is unable to get sales and marketing to do what needs to be done to make the world a better place, there will be problems.

As for the other side of this coin, we've witnessed companies spend $20K–200K a year on their automation software, and then “save money” by hiring an intern or a junior person with zero to little experience. In the long run, this is not a savings!

And that brings me to my next point.

Reason 5: Not Enough Marketing Resources (Money & Manpower)


Oh boy, is this almost always the case. We all know the drill, right? Marketing is almost always the most underserved, or under budgeted, department.

Companies will spend big money on bodies and software for sales teams, BDRs, and the latest guru sales director. And then there’s the marketing team, who rarely gets enough budget to hire qualified people to make the marketing engine give sales better leads. It’s baffling.

This is always at least a 2:1 scale, if not worse. I see companies with 8–10 sales reps, with 1–2 marketing folks all the time.

And yes, this is why a company may hire an agency to pick up some of the workload, but even then, it’s often for the lowest priced vendor with the biggest, most unrealistic, promises they choose. It’s even more baffling.

Marketers — the good ones — are a finite resource. Marketers burn out at a very high rate because they are tasked with more than they should be, and they have these unicorn job descriptions that no one can really live up to.

So, when launching a marketing automation platform, either hire properly to have an internal champion worth every penny you pay them, or work with an outside consultant or agency that can help you get the platform set up properly the first time. Work to create an atmosphere of structure that an eventual new hire could come in and assimilate well into.

When planning this, the rule of thumb for a minimum spend on a good automation platform is this: For every dollar you spend on the software, plan on $1–2 for implementation and maintenance.

Reason 6: Companies Live In Silos (No Cross-Team Alignment)


I briefly hit on this above, but this is the one that always gets a business in hot water.

The sales team is doing their thing all day.

And the marketing team is doing their thing all day. 

If companies don’t align, and work toward the same goals, like:

  • greater efficiency
  • increased productivity
  • increased profitability
  • reduced costs of customer acquisition
  • opening more locations
  • delighting customers
  • hiring more people
  • doling out bigger bonuses
  • giving to charity

The, why even buy the marketing automation software in the first place?

Marketing and sales departments need to work together to get the job done and stop being in defense mode all day and blaming each other for whatever went wrong with this lead or that sale.

Service needs to align with marketing to provide better “after the sale” support and maybe even onboarding.

All departments need to align to be able to report on the overall health of the company, and be able to relay that information to the boss, who signed off on all of this (in a perfect world), and tell him/her:

  • where you best leads come from
  • what source brings in the best customers
  • what source of leads provides the highest lifetime value to your company
  • your lead to close rates
  • your estimated cost of customer acquisition is (CAC)
  • how you plan to reduce CAC

Yes, there has to be measurement that is in place, and it will be on display for the entire company to see because the data lives in a your automation platform. There is no hiding from data points and results you do, or do not, get.

Sure, this could cause indigestion for someone in the organization who may be the lazy guy who does not want to put the data in the box (and does not want to be called out). But, this is how we learn and grow.

Automation does not equal easy. Automation needs to be programmed, and you can only do that with the right inputs to get great outputs.

Automation For the Win


Marketing automation does not always fail, nor should it. I have seen a lot of companies do wonderful things. But, as in life, the failures are the ones we remember and focus on. And for good reason.

If we can understand what NOT to do, and combine that with the best practices that so many people and companies tend to skip, then maybe, just maybe, marketing automation can and will work for your business.

Speaking of the win. In future posts we will focus on how to turn around these challenges I just described, and get you on your way to success with your marketing automation platform.

The Obvious Offer for You


If you are in the market to purchase a marketing automation software for your business, or if you have one that is just not running like it should, 97th Floor is here to help.

Darin "Doc" Berntson

Darin "Doc" Berntson is out VP of Marketing Automation. With 20 years of Digital Marketing experience, he has spent the last 7 years focused on automation and inbound marketing, specifically servicing and selling HubSpot as a Certified HubSpot Partner. He is also a HubSpot Certified Trainer. To connect or learn more, hit him up on LinkedIn.

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