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Avoiding common marketing automation mistakes

Nothing makes us feel older than new technology and marketing automation is no exception. While the idea of a computer firing off your emails and scoring leads on your behalf may sound amazing, it can also be a bit, well, scary.

Making a seismic shift in the way you work is never easy and frustration is inevitable. But just like teaching Mum to change her profile picture or explaining the Internet of Things to Grandpa (we don’t quite get this one either, to be fair), mastering marketing automation is worth it – even if it does make you feel older than the time the social media guy referred to Jay-Z as ‘old school hip hop’.

As someone who’s been there, we thought we’d lend a hand. Here are five of the most common marketing automation blunders and how to avoid them.

Mistake 1: going in without a strategy

Strategy is essential whenever your business wants to grow in the market. Whenever you use a digital channel you should be guided by clear, measurable goals that serve to manage resources and keep your organisation on track.

Often, however, businesses fail to revisit their marketing strategy when getting started with automation, leading to a disconnect between critical business objectives and what the software is actually used for. If you only take advantage of lead generation tools, for example, when that’s a minor goal for your business, you’ll end up writing the program off when the real issue is a lack of strategy.


You don’t need some massive plan – simply checking in with a few questions can keep you on track:

  • What do I hope to achieve with marketing automation?
  • Is this possible with the software I’ve chosen?
  • What will success look like and how will I measure it?
  • Is this in line with the overall goals of my business?

If any of these raise an issue, take a step back. Getting started prematurely will only lead to wasted money and a whole lot of frustration.

Mistake 2: relying too heavily on a few tools – and ignoring the rest

‘Not seeing the forest for the trees’ may be the mother of all cliches but hey, it’s got a lot of applications. In the world of marketing automation we often get stuck on the first few features we learn and never use the full suite of tools available. As many as 85 per cent of B2B marketers using marketing automation admit they aren’t familiar with every feature, according to SiriusDecisions.


Train, train, train. If you want to enjoy the benefits of marketing automation, you must know how to use it. Powerful platforms will include tools for CRM, lead generation, sales, lead management, social media, email marketing and more. Make the most of what you’re paying for by holding routine training sessions and staying on top of updates and added features.

Mistake 3: software in a silo

If you want the whole business to benefit from automation, the whole business needs to be involved. While marketing and sales benefit most directly from the features of automation software, everyone should have access to data, including IT, customer service, management, administration and other departments.

This isn’t always the case, however, and many organisations operate within a single team or silo – never taking full advantage of the power of the software. Often this equates to wasted time missing targets and a disjointed, not-so-great customer experience.


Start with buy-in. Before purchasing marketing automation, get the whole gang involved. Poll different teams about what they would want out of a platform. If they don’t know, educate them about the suite of tools out there.

If you’ve already brought the program in-house, go to work breaking down those barriers by:

  • Holding regular company-wide training sessions
  • Meeting regularly to collaborate, share successes and troubleshoot
  • Publishing your reports
  • Working together to create crucial definitions, like your sales funnel or what counts as a qualified lead

Mistake 4: TMI, as the kids would say

Here’s the thing about customer data: just because you can now collect and store mountains of information doesn’t mean you should. If a lead is required t0 tell you everything from their first name to the hospital they were born in and their favourite breakfast cereal, they will get irritated. Using marketing automation software requires a fine line between gathering data and overwhelming potential customers.


Slow down a bit. You still want to collect as much information you can about leads – particularly around things like age, industry and location – but that doesn’t mean you need to ask for it all in one go. Instead, work the information out slowly throughout the buyer’s journey. Also,  make sure the request suits the reward. Are you creating a newsletter sign up,or a marriage certificate?

Mistake 5: mistaking information for action

We’ll close with a mistake that’s all too easy to make: assuming that collecting a lot of data is the same as using it.

Over time, marketing automation software will leave you with a comprehensive, spot-on render of your target customer – and that’s great! But only if you use it to reshape your marketing strategy, resegment your audiences and personalise your approach. All too often, businesses get stuck in data collection, assuming that’s ‘good enough’ – or worse, thinking they’ve already made a difference.


Never stop experimenting. One of the great things about marketing automation software is the ability to test things. So put on your lab coat, pull out the data and see what inferences you can draw. Then test them!

If you aren’t using software to continually A/B test content, segment your audience and make tweaks to campaigns, you’re wasting your time and money. Sound a bit intimidating? Start with something small like email subject lines. Every time you send an email, use two different subjects and see which performs better. It might sound small, but your insights could lead to a major shift in how your business talks.


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Natalie Fortier About the author