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Why You're Still Struggling with Marketing Automation

I just read this article from Salesforce on Jay Baer quotes and he so eloquently summed up the issue with the ever-changing technology burst in marketing: “it’s not about the wand, it’s about the wizard.”

I wholeheartedly agree. Here’s my take, specific to marketing automation.

Our content manager asked me a simple question last week, “Our consultants make marketing automation look easy. So, why are so many people still failing at it?”

It starts with a poor name. Marketing automation as a term is misleading.

Automation implies that a system or application works on its own, with little to no human involvement. Take that term, prepend marketing in front of it, and suddenly people think the job of a marketer requires little to no human involvement. False.

In fact, this human interaction is the primary driver of marketing automation failure and success.

Working with hundreds of marketers, I’ve had many heart-to-hearts where clients confess marketing automation is harder than they thought and straight up difficult to use. That’s unfairly oversimplifying a complex issue.

Marketers and business owners left with the perception that marketing automation is challenging to implement or optimize are diagnosing the symptom of software failure instead of focusing on the disease. The ease of use of marketing automation software today makes the concept of the software being at fault a joke. Here are some examples of what I’ve gone through to manage marketing database throughout my career:

  • Pre-Eloqua 10 user, half my day was spent troubleshooting why emails didn’t deploy to who they were supposed to
  • UNICA user, which meant learning to write SQL queries to get at my data
  • Access database user, where I built my own database from a Rolodex to send my first emails through Send Personally (essentially an almost free mail merge Outlook add-on that a quick Googling shows is still a thing!)

Trust me, those processes are hard. By comparison, today’s marketing automation systems are seriously simple to use. Plug Marketo in on top of your existing Salesforce instance and, if your Salesforce org isn’t a total heaping pile of bad data, you’re ready to roll.

So, if I’m sitting here saying it’s easy, while marketers are leaving platforms everyday saying the opposite, what gives?

Remember this…

Sometimes, it comes down to mindset. I expect marketing to be work and I know great marketing needs a great marketer (likely a whole damn team of them) behind it.

Without a marketer to set it up, marketing automation doesn’t do ANYTHING. Further, without a marketer constantly tinkering and optimizing, it will run with diminishing returns.

So, in a nutshell, if your marketing automation isn’t getting you the results that you know your competitors and friends are getting out of it, the first place to look is at the resource(s) running it.

If you’re hiring a marketing automation specialist, hoping to fill the largest and least talked about problem in marketing automation, check out these top interview questions. You don’t just need a marketer who has great, creative ideas, you also need a technician and someone who understands data.

Beyond the people, there is a smörgåsbord of articles on ensuring there’s a process and of course that’s important. But, without the smarty-pants marketer to create, tweak and monitor that process, you’re still hosed.

Get yourself a great marketer and things will just simply start coming together.

OK, great, you say. But what do I really need to know to move the needle with marketing automation? Check out our eBook: The Super Awesome Totally Wicked Definitive Manual of Marketing Automation for a strategic overview of marketing automation success.

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