Marketing Automation: Overcoming the Challenges [Survey Results]

01.12.2017 1

Marketing automation has slowly but surely crept into every marketer's mind. Over a third of marketers already utilize automation in their work and the topic is hyped in blogs and events of the industry.

Getting more and better leads and improving targeted messages are some of the major pros that the new technology offers. 46 % of the marketers that have experience with marketing automation are thrilled to announce that it greatly improves customer experience.

Even though marketing automation has the potential to make a marketer's job more effortless and enjoyable it also has its pitfalls. New technology always requires resources and challenges might scare the marketer and the whole organization.

The pitfalls, however, can be avoided and the pros of marketing automation are so much greater than the assumed cons. So get to it, marketer!

Grand survey: Marketing automation challenges and benefits

To find out what the current situation in adapting marketing automation is amongst marketing professionals we conducted an international survey in May 2017 about the challenges and benefits of marketing automation.

The survey was answered by 421 marketing and communications experts from three different continents. The survey branched into two depending on whether the respondents already utilize marketing automation or not.

We dived into the key benefits of marketing automation in a past article. Now it's time to focus on the challenges faced by those that already use automation. The best part is that in this article we offer you great tips on how to overcome these challenges.

Marketing automation challenges

Five obstacles in marketing automation clearly stood out: lack of expertise and know-how, lack of appropriate content, lack of human resources, lack of marketing automation strategy and usability issues / difficulty to use systems.

Image: Five challenges stood out from the rest among the respondents that utilize marketing automation.

Lack of expertise and know-how

Lack of expertise and know-how were seen as a challenge for doing marketing automation in almost half of the answers (40,3 %). The same challenge rose to the top of the reasons why a company hasn't started utilizing marketing automation yet. 

The result is not thoroughly surprising since the technology is relatively young and few people have actual experience of implementing automation projects. The urge and interest to do marketing automation are there but marketers don't know what exactly to do yet.

The thought of inadequate know-how might stem from how marketing automation perceived overall. For a marketer, it may sound like a massive and stiff system that requires comprehensive IT skills and in which all marketing actions are automated at once. 

Do this: Take an agile start. When starting with automation you don't have to jump straight into the deep end of the pool. Instead start small. Begin with simple trigger messages and learn the basic principles of automation through them. Analyze the results and plan your next steps according to them. You'll learn and understand by doing.

Lack of appropriate content

As much as 40 % of the respondents mentioned that content production is one of the biggest challenges in marketing automation. This result is interesting because also in our own experience the misconceptions of marketing automation include the one about bits creating content.

The truth is, however, that marketing automation doesn't decrease the amount marketing material that is needed but actually increases it. Instead of one marketing message that is sent to a mass of people, you need diversified and targeted – in other words more – content.

A lot of content is needed, but there's no need to panic. The same content can often be used with small alterations, by targeting content to a new audience and by refining to a new target group.

It could be intrepreted from the results that marketers still have their work cut out for them in really fleshing out existing content.

Do this: Put some thought into building a content calender and commit to it. A documented content plan is proven to correlate with successful content marketing.

Lack of human resources

Human resources were seen as a challenge in marketing automation (38,2 %) almost as often as content production and lack of know-how.

Starting with automation always requires committed people and in an ideal situation this commitment reaches the highest management level as well. Take into consideration that making the management level committed takes its time. That is why it is essential that you start small and can demonstrate tangible results from the get-go.

The need for personnel resources can especially be seen in the beginning. Try to convince others about the importance of the subject and also remember that the old has to make room for the new.

Later you will notice that the automation projects also guide the team's actions. It is no longer about needing new personnel resources. It is enough that the current staff is doing the right things.

Do this: Start from a few simple automation chains that produce results easily. This way you get the people involved committed to what they're doing and you get closer to your most important target numbers.

Try these:

  • Bring your customer back to the shopping cart they abandoned with an automated reminder.
  • Offer a free guide in return for your website visitors' contact details which you can then automatically transfer to your sales team for lead nurturing.
  • Grow your event visitor numbers by scheduling reminders to be sent for those that haven't registered for your event at the same time as you schedule your invitations.
  • Transfer new customers automatically from the CRM system to the newsletter mailing list and welcome them with an informative message. 

Lack of marketing automation strategy

35,4 % of the respondents stated that lack of strategy is one of the key challenges in marketing automation. In our experience automation is often, mistakenly, seen as a project even though it is more like an ongoing process and new goals are set along the way. The same thought should be extended when planning a strategy. 

Go about it this way, for example: when you start with an automation project, think which of your or your team's tasks are currently time-consuming and hard. Could automation save you time and effort? Many of our customers have taken automation further team by team and noticed tasks that require automation along the way.

Do this: Don't think about marketing automation as one, huge project with a beginning and an end. This way your strategy isn't set in stone either. Be prepared to revise your strategy and modify it as you go.

Usability issues and difficulty to use systems

Usability and complex automation tools were also viewed as a significant challenge (31,0 %). This shows that the challenges are not only about the skillset of users but about the immaturity of the available solutions. The tools haven't yet been developed into their full potential in user-friendliness, agility and meeting the target group's needs.

Do this: Choose a qualified technology partner that, in addition to a user-friendly platform, offers training in using the tool and guidance for planning the whole project. Be bold and ask to see how the automation chains are done in practice and evaluate whether you as a marketer can master the tool. Never sacrifice usability for fancy features in the tool. Always get truly familiar with the tool before you commit to it.

Download the full summary of the survey results.

Guide: Marketing Automation in a Nutshell

Are you interested in marketing automation but just don't know where to begin? To relieve you of your troubles, we have created an informative guide about marketing automation to demonstrate its possibilities. Download it from below.

Comments (1)

Apr 18, 2018
Great article guys!

Automation has become a controversial topic these days, and I’m so glad you’re writing about it.

I work at a performance marketing agency, and clients ask about this a lot. Wanted to offer my $0.02:

On the paid marketing side, we certainly try to automate as much science as we can, i.e., black and white tactics, hard truths, certain elements of bidding, and so on. Those things don't change, but the context around them changes. And true marketing experts understand context better than most machines do.

Our job is to have deep empathy and perspective. To understand the context regarding what the tools are doing and how we're using them. That's more of an art, i.e., creative writing, image assets, testing, etc. And it takes a human being to understand why campaigns achieve (or don't achieve) certain results.

We wrote about this on our blog, if you want to read more: https://bit.ly/2JSbO3r

Anyway, hope that adds to the conversation. Keep up the great writing!

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