Why Marketing Automation Fails (And What To Do About It)


Marketing automation is the silver bullet. It will save your failing marketing program and “auto-magically” turn visitors into leads, and leads into customers.

Or will it?

Between 10 and 20 billion dollars are spent annually on email marketing and marketing automation tools. It seems B2B marketers have bought in with the intention to leverage technology, because they have the budget to support it.

But Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs) don’t always yield the returns expected by the c-suite. Setting up a MAP can be a huge drain on resources – including people, time, money – and a poor return on your investment is a major problem.

At Uberflip we use marketing automation, integrate with several MAPs, and talk to B2B marketers regularly. This has given us valuable insight into the struggles they face to prove that these platforms are worth the dollars.

Based on that, I’ve isolated two main issues that lie at the root of the problem. First, lack of (targeted) content. And second, a weak or non-existent process between marketing and sales.

Lack of Content or Poorly Targeted Content

Forget coffee. Content is for closers. From creating awareness at the top of the funnel to leveraging content for sales enablement, your MAP simply won’t work without enough of the right kind of content.

In fact, this is the #1 reason marketing automation fails. Quality content is what encourages prospects through the buyer journey. Without it, your marketing automation tools are useless. What would you send to people via email? How would you communicate the value of your product or service so that customers are sold on it – even before they talk to your sales team?

Despite this, the common knee-jerk reaction to crank out more content isn’t enough. Content must be relevant and targeted towards each segment of your database. Resist the urge to send everything to everyone, no matter how good you think the content might be.

Take the time to properly segment your audience based on their interests, behaviors and other relevant factors to make communication as impactful as possible. Combining a targeted lead list with the right content will get results. Not only are people going to be more engaged with your company, you also begin to develop a feedback loop.

Sending the right content to your ideal customer helps you determine what kind of content moves them down the funnel. These insights can fuel your content creation strategy and provide feedback for your sales team.

No Process Between Marketing & Sales
Using a marketing automation tool without a defined process is like driving a car without wheels. You’ll get nowhere fast. According to a recent report by SiriusDecisions, companies using a MAP with a weak or non-existent process see a smaller return on their investment. And in some cases, they may even see a negative return.

Bottom line: people, skills and processes have to come first. Only then should you consider implementing the right technology to support, enhance, and simplify the processes you’ve already put in place.

Defining a Lead Management process is at the heart of the matter. There are many approaches you can take which will vary depending on your internal structure and business model. A good place to start is by talking to your sales team.

Define the sales funnel from lead generation through to customer adoption. Understand (and document) what a lead means at each stage. For example, when is a lead considered to be Marketing Qualified and what criteria should they meet before becoming a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)?

Once you’ve defined each step within your funnel, consider how this process will flow between marketing and sales. Again, this will vary depending on your organization. The idea is to thread the moving pieces together so you can install the right processes and the right technological ecosystem. Here’s what you need to consider:

  1. A process for various lead gen channels. For example, our process for nurturing leads from a webinar is different from nurturing prospects who create a free trial.
  2. A process for nurturing leads as soon as they show interest. Lay the foundation for growth over time, ensuring a steady stream of leads that can be converted to customers over time.
  3. A way to funnel “hot” leads directly to the sales team. This is where a well-optimized lead scoring formula becomes invaluable. For example, at Uberflip, when a lead hits a predefined score, a task is created in Salesforce so sales can follow up immediately.
  4. A process for the sales team to “kick-back” leads that were considered SQLs but, for whatever reason, may not be ready to buy yet. In this case, they may simply need more nurturing that is outside the scope of what the sales team should be focused on.
  5. Ensure you have an integrated technology stack to make the implementation of the above processes easy. This means that your MAP should integrate with your CRM, your content marketing software and, if you’re a SaaS company, maybe even with your application.

Like anything else, the concept of “garbage in, garbage out” also applies to marketing automation. No matter how good your marketing automation platform might be, it’s only as good as the people working on it, the skills they bring, and the processes you define.


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