Why Marketing Automation isn't a Panacea

Marketing automation has made the proverbial leap from trendy tool to programmatic mainstay. But that doesn't mean it is a panacea for marketing teams.

At best, automation can help increase and speed-up lead conversions while providing critical insight into the efficacy of marketing programs. At worst, automation can be a prohibitively expensive email engine that amplifies poor marketing practices.


"Even though automation is still an evolving tool, traditional marketing rules still apply," says Mairi Burns, Vice President of Client Services at Dunthorpe Marketing Group. "You still need to bring together all of the elements that contribute to a successful campaign: a clean and targeted list, relevant content, sound email practices, compelling call to action. And that's just scratching the surface."


According to research, a whopping 85 percent of business-to-business marketers employing automation platforms feel they are not using the technology to its full potential.[1] That's because they are using the technology as a discrete tool, says Burns, and not an integrated and pervasive element of their marketing operations.

"Maximizing automation requires much more than technology adoption," she explains." It often demands organizational and process change."

Before automation tools can be adopted, configured and employed, marketing teams must have a firm grasp on their prospect and customer base as well as their own marketing and sales operations. They must clearly understand the buyer journey and realm of possible touchpoints. They must identify the technologies in place, from marketing databases and sales enablement platforms to CRM, ERP and e-commerce systems. They must consider the processes that dictate how leads are scored and when they are handed off from marketing to sales. And they must organize an often incongruent collection of content, messaging, media and campaigns.

"Automation can help bring all of these things together so marketing activities are more targeted and more effective," says Burns. "But it requires upfront work to identify and align all of the elements in play, determine a strategic course of action and optimize processes and technology tools accordingly."


Burns recommends a strategy and planning workshop to:

  • Validate business objectives and create a marketing roadmap for achieving them
  • Identify the buyer journey, relevant personas and customer touchpoints
  • Decide how leads will be scored, managed and tracked
  • Bring marketing and sales teams together, aligning processes, tools and handoffs
  • Determine the criteria for success and how to measure progress
  • Identify behaviors that indicate sales readiness, and map out automated trigger programs to leverage that interest


Doing so helps pave the way for effective marketing automation, campaigns and operations.

"We have deep experience with Marketo, Eloqua and other automation platforms, and can help manage ongoing marketing operations," says Burns. "But the seeds of success are often planted before platforms and campaigns are even considered."


[1] SiriusDecisions, "Increasing Adoption of Marketing Automation Platforms," 2014.