3 Reasons Your Marketing Automation Platform Became a Glorified Emailer – and What to Do About It.

Share this article...

I can’t begin to tell you how many companies I’ve walked into that were using their expensive Marketing Automation platform (MAP) like an Email Marketing tool – think MailChimp*, for example, a lower-priced tool focused around email.
(*all due respect to MailChimp, which is great at what it does!)

Marketing Automation platforms offer much more. However, did you know only 15% of companies actually use marketing automation features, like lead scoring? We invest in platforms like Pardot, Marketo, and Net-Results for their features – so, then why aren’t we using them?

Why do some organisations struggle to look beyond email marketing features? This post will cover 3 reasons I that I have seen marketing automation ending up in this state of affairs, plus, how to fix the use and perception of this technology, in order to use platforms to their full potential.

Reason 1: You don’t (really) understand what Marketing Automation is for.

If you ask a lot of marketers what marketing automation is for, they’ll say: “to automate things that are repetitive and boring”.

And this is true, to an extent. But if that’s your whole answer, you’re probably missing the real point.

By the words of Net-Results CEO Michael Ward, Marketing Automation software is about one thing: timing.

At its core, your Marketing Automation platform should be helping you:

  1. Identify prospects whose purchase timeline (when they will buy) is changing to your advantage, and
  2. To build a relationship with prospects whose awareness timeline is yet to change – yet to tip beyond a threshold.

If you’re using your platform correctly, it can tell you which prospects are showing signs of “buying intent.” Most of your prospects won’t be ready to buy when you first encounter them. How will you know when their timing changes?

The sales reps at Net-Results know exactly when a prospect returns to the website. We’ve set up alerts based on triggers like “looked at the pricing page for more than 5 seconds.” If a lead returns to the site, we’re ready for them.

And what about all those prospects that aren’t yet to buy? How do you make that when their timing changes, they think of you? You build a relationship with them; you send them relevant content, based on their behavior and persona characteristics as a lead.

But this isn’t what I hear marketers talking about. Which leads me to…

Reason 2: You don’t have a plan or a vision for Marketing Automation

Marketers sometimes forget that marketing isn’t about making things pretty. It’s about making money.

I’m involved in many sales conversations. A lot of them start with a list of requirements. Don’t get me wrong, you should definitely have a grasp on what you think you need – yet, from experience, I know that marketers focus too much on features.

It’s like picking out a new computer. If you’ve ever obsessed about this (as I have), you know that you can get really specific and anxious about making the right decision. In the case of a Marketing Automation platform, there’s a lot of money riding on it – you will be determining the vendor that your team and wider organization will have to deal with for the next year plus…

…Which leads marketers to try and please everyone and get all the features. They don’t stop to think: why am I really buying this platform?

It should be: leveraging timing in order to generate revenue.

And so, you should be shopping for something that best helps you do that, with your situation and set up influencing the requirements. Instead, marketers obsess about this or that feature, pay extra for it – and then never use it.

As I said in a previous article I wrote here it doesn’t do to just dive into Marketing Automation without thinking about your goals and use case. When you make a plan for it (as you should be doing), try to be specific about which problems you’re solving and which functionality you’ll really need.

If you have no experience with Marketing Automation, get outside help. You will be grateful later (so will finance, when you didn’t buy the 3 extra modules you ended up not needing).

Often, people do have certain specifications they need to fulfill their use case – but most of the time, you should be picking a platform that integrates easily with your business systems, and comes with great support. The core functionality will likely be very similar across the board.

Reason 3: You’re not learning how to use marketing automation

The last reason why Marketing Automation adoption suffers is plainly simple: that marketers don’t know how to use the platform.

Many vendors are at fault here. Marketing Automation is often portrayed as easy to implement, use and admin…and it’s just not. All Marketing Automation platforms targeting the mid-market segment (and bigger) are complicated.

Furthermore, software licenses are soft. Vendors often rely on partners to get the actual implementation going. Support is either an add-on or users have to make do with a knowledge base (sometimes it’s both — you pay for support and still have to rely on documentation).

My first boss would always say: “If something’s too much trouble, you won’t do it.” This rings very true for Marketing Automation: you don’t know what you don’t know, and with the complexities of Marketing Automation, it’s near impossible to know everything right off the bat. If someone hasn’t explained to you what you could be doing with the platform, you won’t think of it when strategizing.

Don’t just buy the platform: also budget for onboarding and training, whether that comes from the vendor, or from a partner consultancy. I highly recommend having a champion on the team, a “superuser” that owns the internal training and documentation of the platform you’re using.

If you don’t, you will end up (again) with a very expensive emailer.


So there you have it: 3 reasons you’re using your MAP like a glorified emailer. Why some organisations struggle to look beyond the email marketing features on their MAP, I believe comes down to: the misconception of the ‘automation’ in marketing automation, obsessing over ‘shiny’ features, and a lack of training and accountability from a ‘superuser’. If you have ended up in this state of affairs, you now have some direction on how to fix the use and perception of this technology, in order to use your platform to its full potential.

Now that you know, what are you going to do about it?

Add Comment