So You've Bought a Marketing Automation Platform and It's Not Working...


Imagine if improving your marketing were as simple as purchasing software and letting it magically fix every flaw in your strategy. Cue the record scratch -- this is far from reality. And much like all software programs, marketing automation platforms are only as good as the infrastructure that exists below the software. If you find that your platform isn’t delivering the results you dreamed of, take a look inside and make sure you’re set up to get the most out of your system.

Cover the Basics

Before you can even hope to see any positive returns on your marketing automation investment, at a minimum, you should have the following:

  • Buyer personas, to ensure you know who you’re marketing to
  • The buyer’s journey, so you know what to expect along the way
  • Conversion funnel metrics, to see how you’re really performing
  • Software, to facilitate the right kind of automation

The absence of any of these four factors will make it impossible for you to truly improve your marketing. Even the best marketing automation systems are useless if you don’t know where you’re starting, who your customers are and how you can use an automation strategy to improve your metrics.


Prove Your ROI

Marketing automation software is a true investment, with the overall worldwide spend on marketing automation expected to exceed $25 billion by 2023. However, when the finance office sees a monthly bill for subscription fees in the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars — not to mention a hefty onboarding fee — clearly, the pressure is on to show management that this purchase was worthwhile. The best way to do this is to calculate your ROI to show exactly how your automation software helps the bottom line.

This mentality isn't commonplace in the marketing industry, though. A CMO study shows that 60 percent of marketers are under pressure to report ROI to management, but just 25 percent of marketers are able to do so. This is especially true of marketing automation ROI.

The vast majority of marketers (82%) believe marketing automation software will help them become more efficient, but nine of the fifteen most commonly found features are used by less than a third of businesses that utilize marketing automation. Interestingly enough, it’s these features that help you to really drill down on the ROI of your software, justifying cost and instilling confidence in your strategy.

For example, half of all businesses use email marketing automation. But how many use it to its fullest potential? Automation software goes well beyond simple demographic segmentation and scheduling. In fact, you can use marketing automation software to conduct A/B splits on your emails, including email subjects. Your ability to track this one factor has major implications for your ability to compute ROI, not just for your software, but for your entire email marketing operation as a whole.

There's also this — three-quarters of email revenue is a direct result of a personalized email marketing strategy, something that's next to impossible without automation. A tested, personalized email marketing strategy will drastically boost your revenue, and with marketing automation software, you can tie ROI back to the platform.

Added email functionality is just the tip of the iceberg for proving the ROI of your marketing automation software:

  • Take advantage of social listening to determine what people are really saying about your company, in addition to ROI-driving tools like post scheduling, automated chatbots and enhanced metrics to see what content drives the most engagement and track the activity of engaged followers as they make purchases and recommend your business to others.
  • Get the most out of paid search by dropping underperforming ads and identifying -- and statistically proving -- your best call to action.
  • Landing pages and email sign-up calls to action can be tailored to the exact point at which a given individual falls in the buyer's journey, reducing the sales cycle and decreasing conversion costs and increasing conversion rates. An Aberdeen Group Study states that conversion rates increase by an average of 53 percent thanks to marketing automation.

While the particular ROI of your business will vary from nationwide averages, you can definitely prove your ROI by using the tools your software gives you to demonstrate how each helps you increase revenue, decrease inefficiency and widen your customer base.



Align Sales and Marketing

Even if you’re using every tool your software provides, marketing automation won't solve all of your problems by itself. In fact, one of the chief inhibitors of the effectiveness of automation has nothing to do with software.

More than half of marketers believe that they are responsible for the best leads that their salespeople have. Salespeople state that marketing leads are actually the worst leads they get. A productive working relationship between sales and marketing would seem to be a requirement for success, yet this type of relationship is all too common in businesses around the world.

According to a Hubspot study, just 26 percent of participants had a formal service-level agreement between their sales and marketing teams. A service-level agreement, also known as a SLA, aims to clearly define the roles, responsibilities and objectives of both the sales and marketing teams. The SLA also lists what both parties should bring to the table, as well as next steps in the event that either side doesn’t meet their goals.

Incorporating a formal document into the inexact sciences of sales and marketing might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s proven to work very well -- 85 percent of marketers who utilize SLAs believe it’s a good arrangement. The process of creating the SLA also helps bring up underlying issues, clear up misunderstandings and address and remedy any bottlenecks.

This alignment leads to the implementation of key decisions regarding marketing automation. Together, sales and marketing can determine how long product and customer life cycles should last, which feeds the automation machine as it nurtures leads in an efficient manner. They can also identify the main touchpoints and triggers that lead to consumer activity, helping the automation software to produce the right materials at the right time to entice the consumer to take action.


Automate the Right Things

Marketing automation software allows businesses to do some amazing things with their marketing. However, if you try to do it all at once, especially at first, you won’t get very far before it gets out of control. Taking a measured approach allows you to better understand the nuances of your software and how it intersects with your marketing strategy and your customer journeys, which will reveal opportunities for worthwhile automation over time.

Marketing automation is all about giving the software what it needs to execute, and it’s much easier to do when the company itself understands what it wants to do. Fully understanding the buyer’s journey helps to make automation a much more helpful tool. Knowing what the buyer needs at each step in order to take the next step allows you to set up automation that responds to their pivot points.

At the same time, your own internal needs become more evident as you work with your marketing automation software. Using metrics tracked in the software, you’ll notice if your emails or blog posts are losing effectiveness. Fortunately, this knowledge allows you to act immediately, creating new content that better speaks to your buyer personas.


Marketing automation isn’t a plug-and-play endeavor. It requires a thorough knowledge of your company, your internal processes and above all else, your audience. Staying on top of the relationship between sales and marketing, as well as tracking ROI and internal metrics, will help you increase efficiency. Understanding these factors will help you get incredible results from your automation.

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