7 Common Marketing Automation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

marketing automation mistakes

Marketing automation is neither a magical solution to every company’s marketing challenges nor a failed system that produces no results. A professional marketing automation system is only as good as its designers and users.

If your company uses marketing automation for promotional campaigns, chances are you’ve run into problems before. Certainly, no system is perfect. However, we’ve observed several common marketing automation mistakes that companies tend to make, especially at first. Let’s look at what these problems are and how you can avoid them.

1) Failing to Guide Marketing Automation with Segmentation

Segmentation is not a new concept. Segmenting customers based on behavior, geographic location, and more have occurred since the dawn of direct mail. But despite its long history, many marketers to this day continue to misunderstand what the concept actually means, and how to implement it themselves.

Let’s consider a straightforward segmentation: customer vs. prospect. One has purchased from your company. The other is an interested window shopper. Segmenting these two people is perhaps the easiest segmentation you’ll ever create. You can even use the same content or assets to contact both segments in some cases! So why is this such a problem?

The problem comes from Oracle Eloqua users who try to segment by increasingly specific behaviors. For instance, segmenting contacts based on who bought the blue T-shirt instead of the red one, rather than simply segmenting them as active customers. This may be necessary long-term. However, this is not something to tackle while your marketing automation system is still in its infancy. Keep it simple for now, and save the detailed segmentation for the future.

To begin your segmentation system, we recommend asking your accounting department for a list of customer companies. Upload the list to Eloqua and flag each contact as a customer. That’s it! The first step of marketing segmentation is now complete.

2) Poor Segmentation Strategy

When the time comes to begin segmenting customers in more detail, it’s easy to fall into one of two opposite strategies: either trying to do everything yourself for personalized marketing or leaving everything to an automated system to save time. Both are significant marketing automation mistakes.

As your company grows, you will collect so many contacts and create so many segments that you will no longer be able to track everything manually. An automated system can streamline this process, but removing the human element entirely runs the risk of marketing to the wrong segment or producing robotic-sounding marketing content. What’s the solution?

Tools like 4Segments allow you to balance manual and automatic segmentation by displaying your segments visually. At a glance, you can tell how many people fall into each segment and how they overlap. Best of all, you can get as specific as you want as you segment customers and save each new segment for later review. This combination of automated work and human creativity can go a long way toward improving your segmentation strategy.

3) Weak Personalization Testing

Have you ever received an email that began, “Dear FNAME?”

Personalized emails are known to have higher conversion rates than obviously automated ones. By adding custom fields, email marketers can personalize a message down to the fine details. But unfortunately, each custom field has the potential to disrupt the rest of the message. Placeholder text or code makes it painfully obvious that the email was not sent by an individual person, and no matter how perfect the rest of the email is, your contact’s first impression is already poor. This marketing automation mistake is potentially very costly.

The best way to tackle this problem is with aggressive quality control. Create a campaign checklist that staff must review before sending off an email. Send test messages to yourself or colleagues to see if the custom fields are filled out correctly. Double- and triple-check your personalization programs that generate these emails. Don’t let a program’s mistake get in the way of your prospects.

4) No Inbound Marketing Strategy

You may have used marketing automation to generate the best email nurture in the world, but without contacts to receive the nurture, what’s the point? An inbound marketing strategy works alongside your marketing automation systems to capture and nurture leads. Unfortunately, new marketers just learning about marketing automation can get so caught up in experimenting that they forget to actually find leads.

Depending on your industry, the most effective inbound marketing strategy could consist of:

  • Determining which communication channel your contacts prefer (i.e., text message vs. email) and reaching out to them through their preferred medium
  • Creating engaging online content like blog posts to stand out in the crowd
  • Inviting possible leads to webinars and other live events that you host or participate in
  • Creating personalized offers and calls to action to generate conversions
  • Turning satisfied customers into advocates for your company

5) Missing or Incomplete Compliance Monitoring

Ever since the passing of the GDPR in 2018, governments around the world have developed and passed large-scale privacy laws of their own. Others have worked to expand existing privacy laws. And while the US has yet to pass a federal privacy law, several individual states have their own regulations or are in the process of creating them. Why is this important for you?

Because every one of those privacy laws carries significant fines for each violation, even if unintentional. And when the violation inevitably makes headlines, the court of public opinion won’t be kind.

Since Eloqua users handle an impressive amount of customer data every day, it’s important to know where the data comes from and what regulations protect it. It’s also important to know how to fully comply with those regulations. If your company currently has a very bare-bones privacy policy, now is the time to improve. Consider using an automated privacy compliance software like 4Comply to track your collected data and ensure you use it in a legal manner.

6) Too Many Marketing Automation Tools

Speaking of automated software, remember that you can have too much of it. Smaller companies don’t need the long list of platforms that Fortune 500 brands use. More importantly, you more than likely don’t have the expert manpower to effectively use all of those platforms. Some may end up falling by the wayside as your marketing automation team does its best to keep up.

In addition, think about how many of these tools you would actually use. Software still requires processing power even if you never use it—and that processing power can slow your website and harm your technical SEO score. And that’s not even considering the wasted money from unused software subscriptions.

To counter this problem, schedule regular audits of your software list. Which ones do you regularly use? Which ones show a measurable benefit for your company? Which ones do you have the expertise for? These questions can help you narrow down what to keep and what to discard.

7) Relying on Outdated Marketing Automation Approaches

The world is not static—especially not the internet. What worked five years ago may not work today. And if you’re still making the same marketing automation mistakes you were five years ago, it’s long past time for an update.

There are a few steps you can take to counter this:

  • Take note of any and all changes in consumer behavior
  • Regularly audit and update your marketing automation strategy
  • Attend marketing technology conferences to see how the industry is growing
  • Consider running a training program for your marketing team (hiring an external team is an excellent choice here)
  • Experiment with add-ons to your marketing automation platform that build on and expand its functionality

In Conclusion

To summarize, while marketing automation can and does provide an invaluable boost to many companies, it’s not a magic wand. You are still responsible for properly using your tools and respecting your customers’ preferences and data privacy. Most importantly, you are also responsible to keep up with changes in consumer behavior, data privacy laws, and technology to stop marketing automation mistakes before they start.

Sound overwhelming? You don’t have to handle this alone. Contact us today for expert help improving your marketing automation setup.