The Paradox of Marketing Automation


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Marketers at most companies choose their campaign management tool in one of two ways. The first approach is to feel a pain around their ability to execute multiple, increasingly complex campaigns. They then figure that the right software can help ease this pain and go pick a software tool, have it implemented train their people and hope for the best. Not the best approach but one it is a road taken by many. This approach usually leads to regrets and recriminations, but that is to be expected.

The second way is a little more thoughtful and deliberate. This approach takes the time to identify business requirements, develop a business case not only for the purchase and installation of the software but also for any other related changes in process, organization and skill upgrades that may be involved in this transformation. See my colleague Joe Kelly’s blog on selecting a marketing automation tool for more on this.

Regardless of the approach, however, even marketers who successfully build a well designed and implemented system sometimes find that life does not get any easier. Therein lies the paradox. Good marketing automation systems allow skilled users to do what they could only dream of before. Run many more campaigns, more finely targeted. Create specialized landing pages and personalized or customized messages finely tuned to insights you may have about the customer’s preferences. Synchronizing and sequencing communications based on customer actions and triggers. There is a cornucopia of possibilities. There is also the demand of high expectations. Everyone, including the executive sponsor now expects miracles. How do you manage this? The answer is, very carefully.

Remember that just because something is possible it does not mean it is worth doing.

Make sure that the neat new things you are trying out have potential business value and are also in line with your strategic objectives.
Be sure to measure the incremental impact of most campaigns, so that you can stop doing things that don’t work.

Automate ruthlessly. Wherever possible try and make the campaign process a “lights out” process that requires as little human intervention as possible.

Focus your efforts on learning and tinkering with business rules that drive the automated campaigns rather than on the individual campaigns themselves.

Don’t let the blessing of a successful marketing automation program morph into a curse of longer hours. Make it work for you by doing more of the things that interest you and challenge you, as well as having a bit more time to yourself.

Naras Eechambadi, Ph.D
Dr. Naras Eechambadi is the founder and CEO of Quaero, a world-class data management and analytics platform empowering enterprises to integrate, discover and democratize their customer data. He is a life-long technologist and entrepreneur with over three decades in the software products and services industry. He has been awarded numerous distinctions as both a marketing executive and entrepreneur. Naras is also the author of a critically acclaimed book, High Performance Marketing: Bringing Method to the Madness of Marketing.


  1. Naras,

    Thank you for elevating the topic of marketing automation and making the point about the work that should be done up-front before selecting a tool. With the growth in the space, there are new “tool” providers that underscore the need to do the up-front business process work that is necessary for success.

    Marketing automation is the approach by which marketers harmoniously blend technology development with strict process management to significantly enhance marketing efficiency and

    If a vendor is telling you that marketing auotmation is EASY, you are getting pitched. Run!

    SiriusDecisions recently conducted a webinar The State of Marketing Automation and concluded with the following points:

    • The demand waterfall helps to determine which processes are worth your time to develop, refine and automate.
    • Marketing automation is critical to achieving best-in-class conversion rates.
    • Services become an important differentiator in a commoditized technology market.
    • Leveraging the full potential of a MAP relies on a vendor’s experience in driving organization adoption.
    • Only when proper skills and processes are wrapped around technology will meaningful results be realized.
    • Organizations that use technology alone to solve demand creation issues may experience a negative ROI.

    The DMA Marketing Technology Council discovered

    “A significant skill gap continues to divide the “marketing” and “technology” factions within organization, impeding faster and more successful marketing automation implementation.”

    “A shortage of trained marketing automation professionals – capable of addressing challenges relating to marketing process as well as technology – will drive marketers and technology developers to aggressively cultivate these capabilities in-house: organizations that already recruit and nurture these resources will enjoy a significant competitive market advantage.”

    At Eloqua, we say Marketing is HARD.

    Technology doesn’t make it EASY

    Our Expertise helps you solve your challenges by developing your HUMAN RESOURCES. Our product enables the solution that marketers develop.

    Check out our approahc at

    Keep the conversation going, please!!!

    Jill Rowley
    Elouqa (for seven years)
    [email protected]

  2. Dear Naras,

    In todays lean economy, would you think there are marketers willing to spend on expensive tools for Marketing automation? In our conversations with prospects/customers, there is seemingly more interest in carrying out campaign operations (of course, with sufficient data security measures built in) as an offshore model thereby not taking up costs on IT infrastructure, TCO, etc..


  3. Raghav,

    Yes, I know of several clients who are investing in marketig automation at this time. It makes sense, if there is a clear business case.

    Simultaneously, many clients are also outsourcing their campaign implementation, whether to onshore or offshore providers. The two are not mutually exclusive, but can both be useful components in a strategy to increase efficiency and effectiveness.



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