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April 30, 2012


How to avoid your marketing automation failure?

by Tom De Baere

Many marketing organizations are looking into marketing automation.

Why? Because year after year they need to do more, with less.

By automating tasks, and by adding a number of intelligent marketing techniques, they think that their marketing operations will be easier to manage, and in the end their lead generation will run better.

But one should not jump into this technology too quickly.

What is the promise of marketing automation?

The promise of marketing automation sounds great.

  • integrate your website with your e-mail engine
  • automate the registration, confirmation and post-processing of webinars
  • set-up lead nurturing campaigns
  • get to know your prospects better and better through progressive profiling
  • automation of e-mails (website, webinars, events, …)
  • decrease manual segmentation, manual lead input, manual lead management, etc…

It cannot go wrong, or can it?

When considering marketing automation you should not jump into this technology without being ready, because you can fail at it.

In a great blog post on BrightCarbon, Joby Blume talks about what he considers the lessons learned after “his” marketing automation failure.

I always compare marketing automation with an engine. It’s a great engine that can drive your business forward, but without the fuel (your organization) it just won’t run. Initially you might be able to keep it running because you are still motivated, and enthusiastic. But when time goes by and you do not have the right processes, workflow and resources, your engine will start slowing down, and maybe eventually come to a full stop.

But doesn’t automation give me more time to focus on what we should be really doing?

To a certain extent, yes. Automating a number of tasks will certainly give you more time.

But the real benefit of marketing automation is that it drives your business forward through better targeting, lead nurturing and lead management. Going into this type of automation can only be done if your organization is ready for it.

So what should I do to get ready for marketing automation?

It’s nice to have a tool that does all of this. But if you are already having a hard time generating leads today, these technologies are not going to help you.

First you’ll need to get your “fuel” ready, and that fuel is content. There’s a lot of hype around “content marketing” today. But when you have a process and workflow to make relevant content for your buyers, you will be able to move your prospects through the buying cycle. They will look at your products, because the content you provide them will help your prospect to make better business decisions.

When do I know that I am ready for marketing automation?

These are some clear signs that you are ready for marketing automation:

  • you have a clear understanding about content marketing, and how it can help your business.
  • you have a clear understanding about marketing automation, how it works, and what it takes in terms of resources (budget and people).
  • you have made content marketing a part of your marketing strategy, and you have linked it to your business strategy.
  • you have re-organized your marketing department to adopt new workflows and processes that generate relevant content for your buyers to move them through the buying cycle.
  • you are already producing enough content that can be mapped to the different stages of prospects in the buying cycle.
  • you have put your marketing automation objectives on paper (this one is often skipped, but I have found it very valuable).
  • your CRM market and contact segmentation is set-up correctly to interface with marketing automations’ progressive profiling functionality.

In a nutshell

Although the high promises of marketing automation are high, first you need to get your organization ready for this type of technology.

Do you agree that this is the way to go?

Warm regards,

Tom De Baere

  • Marketing Automation is not just technology but also about process and people. Process needs to be fairly repetitive, stable and high volume. People need to change, to set-up the process, to provide content and to handle the outcomes. Those who succeed will have an advantage.

    • Tom De Baere

      Thanks Mark. Absolutely, companies adapting and embedding marketing automation into their operations definitely have a competitive advantage. It’s not only the simple automation of event registration, opt-in / opt-out or download confirmation. The true value is in functionalities like lead nurturing, progressive profiling and lead management.


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  • I have to agree with you that social media is mesabraule and ROI can be tracked in terms of numbers. Now, the toughest part that may have lead ( just an assumption ) to not tracking perhaps is the difficulty of converting these numbers into sales/customers. Simply put, if someone don’t trust you on the Social Web, they won’t be compelled to make a purchase. So, how can you make sure that they do? I guess, this is the missing link.