The 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing Automation

How B-to-B Marketers Can Avoid These Common Pitfalls

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Marketing automation holds great promise for b-to-b marketers, offering the potential to create a powerful marketing engine that drives activity through the sales funnel -- turning leads into prospects, prospects into sales and sales into customers.

But there is often a large gap between this potential and reality. Many companies implement marketing automation platforms only to find that they haven't delivered the results they had hoped for -- winding up with nothing more than an expensive email service provider.

Below are seven critical areas commonly responsible for the failure of marketing automation initiatives to reach their full potential:

1. Insufficient Knowledge of Your Audience
The value of a marketing automation system is in its ability to help you engage your prospects in targeted content journeys that will lead them to become customers. In order to do this effectively, you'll need to identify the content and messaging that will resonate with your audience. How well do you understand the key issues in their industries and the dynamics involved in their purchase decisions? Unless you do the work necessary to gather meaningful insights about your decision-makers and influencers, you won't be able to use your platform to connect with them.

2. Misaligned Sales and Marketing Teams
Your marketing and sales teams need to jointly own your marketing automation initiative -- with full buy-in and participation from both teams at all levels. To start, you'll need agreement on what constitutes a qualified lead. This may seem like an easily resolved issue, but few companies have actually established a globally accepted definition of a lead.

It's critical to align your messaging and processes across the marketing and sales functions, and answer the following questions: How should leads be scored? How will they be distributed once they hit a certain threshold? What types of follow-up materials will the sales team use? What will happen to qualified leads that don't become opportunities? How do you leverage the information gathered through the sales process to enhance a prospect's journey?

3. Insufficient Content

Content is the fuel that drives successful marketing automation programs. If you are not willing to invest in content creation, you won't succeed. You should be thinking about developing a deep set of content resources and tools. But remember: It's about relevance, not quantity. If you have spent time gathering meaningful insights about your audience (see Deadly Sin No. 1 ), you'll be able to create assets that will engage them.

4. Lack of Dedicated Resources
For many marketing departments, part of the promise of automation is that they will be able to work more efficiently and have more available time. The truth is, getting real value from one of these systems requires dedicated resources -- people who truly understand its capabilities and can leverage them through the planning and execution of nurturing journeys as well as process development, testing and reporting. If your in-house resources don't have the bandwidth, consider partnering with an outside firm.

5. Poor Integration
The integration of your marketing automation platform with your CRM system and your marketing database is vital to the success of your program. You'll need to plan this integration process in detail: How will the systems sync? What process will you use to launch new campaigns? How will reports be developed? You will definitely want to address these issues when you implement your platform, as it will be much more difficult to tackle them later.

6. A Low-Quality Database
If your database is full of poorly structured, inaccurate or incomplete data, your marketing automation initiatives (and your entire marketing program) will underdeliver. No technology can substitute for quality data. If you haven't put together a plan to develop an actionable and scalable marketing database, now is the time to do it.

7. Failure to Act on Metrics
A good marketing automation platform can provide huge amounts of information about your prospects, as well as the performance of your tactics and messaging. However, if you are not committed to using that information to take action, you won't be getting the most out of the system. Do your metrics show that your VP-level prospects are more responsive to a particular type of offer? Consider making changes to your content strategy for that segment. Are some prospects not responding to white-paper content? Consider building a web or mobile application that might engage them.

Ultimately, successful marketing automation initiatives involve the right alignment of technology, processes and people. If you avoid the sins above, you'll be able to unleash the power of your platform to engage your prospects and customers and drive ongoing sales.

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