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9 Little White Lies about Marketing Automation Platforms

Are you in the 44% of marketers not fully satisfied with your marketing automation systems?

In a 2015 report, the top three complaints from marketers were the software takes too long to implement, is difficult to learn, and is too expensive. Sound familiar?

While Marketing Automation Platforms (MAP) open up new frontiers, the little white lies that vendors employ to make the sale – and that we believe – are an expensive source of confusion. Success in marketing automation goes beyond just choosing the right vendor.

To help clear the air, here are nine little white lies about marketing automation platforms:

1. Implementing a Marketing Automation Platform is “set it and forget it”

The term marketing automation is a little misleading and while it is true that you set up a campaign and it “runs” automatically, it isn’t that simple. Any marketing technology you implement requires dedicated human interaction to be successful. No MAP will analyze the pageviews vs opt-ins vs qualified leads and adjust the campaign accordingly, or monitor which email sequence converts the best and explain why. Once sales identifies a new bottleneck, who is going to generate the new content to drive leads to complete the opt-in form? Who is going to generate content to re-engage older leads, especially if your company has a longer sales cycle? Who is going to adjust the email subject line if no one is opening your emails?

Be wary if your MAP Vendor alludes to a “set it and forget it” approach, as it isn’t true.

“It takes longer every year!” – Scott Brinker,

2. Marketing Automation will save you boatloads of time

Do not be fooled by this statement. Unless you are performing every single task a marketing automation platform can perform on a daily basis – and trust me, you aren’t – it won’t save you time. Getting a MAP up and running is not a quick and easy task. Choosing and making the move to Marketing Automation requires buy-in from all stakeholders. Prior to launching your first campaign, your team will put dozens of hours into buyer personas, data analysis, campaign design, copywriting (landing page, email, social media, paid ads), email sequences, and data configuration to personalize and segment messages. Don’t forget the alignment of your sales/marketing systems and processes – a difficult piece of the puzzle for many organizations.

3. All it takes is a team of one

C-suite execs and MAP Vendors are equally guilty of perpetuating this lie. Getting C-suite buy-in for new software is hard and MAP Vendors use statements like, “We make our software so easy a 12-year old can setup a campaign” or “It only takes 5 hours a week to manage” to help expedite the C-suite buy-in. Unfortunately, what often happens is the company doesn’t have the proper resources in place to correctly execute the setup, management, analytics, and A/B testing necessary to make marketing automation pay off in the long run. Marketing Automation platforms are multi-channel, involve different segments, engage sales and marketing, and activate prospects at different points in the funnel. Marketing automation should touch every part of your organization – customer support, sales, lead generation, lead cultivation, marketing, recruiting, after-sales, etc. It isn’t something that can be added to your VP Marketing’s to-do list. It requires dedicated focus and special skills.

4. You need to hire a MAP rockstar with tons of experience to ensure success

Looking for a rockstar with 5-10 years of MAP experience may not be your best bet. Platforms have changed, technologies have changed, and there are dozens of new channels to engage prospects. You need to find someone who understands your brand voice, buyer personas, and culture; who has experience launching and managing the technical and creative aspects of personalized marketing and/or email automation campaigns; who knows the channels in which to reach your target market. In today’s Marketing Automation world, you need someone who knows conversion and understands the value of a real lead. 

5. Marketing Automation doesn’t require any technical skills

Has your marketing team segmented email lists by event details and/or user attributes? Do they know how to correctly configure what attributes need to be sent to the marketing automation platform – and how to map that information? Do they have experience with domain configuration, email authentication, DNS, and A/B testing? How is personalization added to your marketing messages – merge vars, liquid logic, etc? In 2015 it was reported that only 38% of those that have marketing automation use advanced tactics like progressive profiling. Progressive profiling requires a technical understanding of how data is gathered and how to best segment this information. You are seriously limiting the potential of your platform’s ROI by overlooking the technical skills necessary to successfully execute a lead generation program. Beyond the technical skills, an understanding and experience in email deliverability, email list best practices, and reengaging old leads are valuable assets to keep your emails out of the spam folder. 

6. The more I pay for a platform, the more likely my emails are to reach the inbox

When was the last time you asked a MAP Vendor for their email deliverability rate and statistics while researching platforms? Did you, like most marketers, assume that was just “part of the package”? After all, the hefty price tag should guarantee email deliverability, right? Wrong. One of the most overlooked considerations for a MAP Vendor is email deliverability rate and email list policies. Marketing Automation is complex enough, and the nitty gritty details of email deliverability are rarely covered in the sales process – specifically, that it’s the marketer’s job to follow email best practices, only send email to opted-in contacts, and remove invalid email addresses proactively. Talk to your vendor about this up-front to avoid serious deliverability issues that can wreak havoc on your lead gen program.

7. It’s just an email marketing platform with some fancy features

Don’t confuse an email service provider (ESP) with a marketing automation platform (MAP). While ESPs like MailChimp and have entered the automation field with some fancy features, they are lacking major functions of a robust Marketing Automation Platform. For example, MAP Vendors offer a unified customer view, multi-channel functionality, buyer persona mapping, landing pages and forms, lead scoring, sales/marketing integration, and can even go beyond the digital realm to trigger direct mail pieces based on actions performed by users.

8. The vendor with the best publicity is clearly the top choice

MAP Vendors are not one-size fits all, and it is not a decision to be made lightly. Your systems and technology must match your business needs. It’s important to understand fully what you are purchasing and ensure that it is the right platform for your specific business needs. It should be aligned with your overall sales and marketing strategy, and you should secure the necessary resources prior to adopting and launching a new MAP Vendor. As you navigate through the thousands of articles comparing vendors, remember, you are reading marketing by other marketers.

9. Implementing a Marketing Automation Platform will automatically generate tons of qualified leads

Implementing a MAP will generate leads, but if your content isn’t aligned with your buyer personas/target market segments/target accounts – or if these are completely inaccurate – the leads aren’t going to be qualified. You first have to understand your audience and speak to them in a way that compels them to want to engage with your brand. If anything, an unsuccessful Marketing Automation campaign may reveal if the audience you think you are targeting is indeed the audience engaging with your brand.

Source: Marketing, Interrupted, Chapter 16: Exposing the Little White Lies About Marketing Automation [Infographic]


“Martech is going mainstream – and actually, that’s the theme of this year’s MarTech Conference. By now, everyone has had a CMS and a CRM. But in terms of other marketing technologies – whether it’s personalization, content marketing or social media management software – we’ve crossed the chasm from Early Adopters to now the Early and Late Majority. Executives at “Main Street” companies are now acknowledging the need to adopt these tools.” – Scott Brinker

In summary, implementing a Marketing Automation Platform takes lots of work, consumes time (more every year according to Brinker), requires teamwork, and ongoing support.

There are plenty of other Marketing Automation myths: it’s cold and impersonal, businesses with long sales cycle aren’t ideal candidates, and it doesn’t work. What’s important to keep in mind is that it’s just a tool.

Successful transformational marketing begins with a deep understanding—backed by some real scientific rigor and creative magic—of your market and your customers. Only then can you powerfully develop your brand’s story, strategy and enabling systems to create profitable customer experiences.

What other little white lies do you hear about marketing automation platforms?

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