Using a Cannon to Kill a Mosquito? — 7 Reasons Your Marketing Automation is Failing


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Using a Cannon to Kill a Mosquito? —7 Reasons Your Marketing Automation is Failing“Should we or should we not automate?” It’s a question that B2B organizations across the board are asking. There are small start-ups that have seen early and rapid results with automation. There are some large corporations that are still not automating their lead generation campaigns. Still others have invested top dollars in automation software and are sitting with their shiny new cannons, waiting to kill a mosquito! The diversity of scenarios across the full B2B marketing spectrum is clearly evident.

I talk to many CMOs in various industry verticals and I have yet to find one who is completely delighted with the results of marketing automation. More often than not, I am listening to their stories of regret and frustration because they aren’t even close to seeing the results they expected.

So what are the most common reasons your marketing automation may be failing to deliver? Let’s take a step back to the time before you decided to invest in automation.

Here are 5 critical questions you need to ask before entering the realm of automation:      

  1. Are we really prepared for automation?
  2. Have we defined our objectives for marketing automation?
  3. Do we have resources in place to create tons of quality content…ongoing?
  4. Is there already a clearly outlined marketing process that we can now automate?
  5. Is our Sales and Marketing aligned to take advantage of automation and nurture quality leads?

The problem with many organizations is that if they actually did ask these questions, the answer would be “No”. And yet, they have brought on this elephant in the room and are now struggling with what to do with it.

The fundamental premise behind automation is that we live in a perfect world. The reality is totally different. If not done properly, automation is a “make more work” project; a losing proposition.  I am not against automation at all, but you simply cannot automate everything. Tried and true marketing processes still work and you should continue to use them with a good balance of newer technologies and automation. You don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

You can automate some data capture transaction but you can’t automate progression in a pipeline. Automation is synonymous with non-human processes and algorithms. But we still live in a world where people make decisions. Is common sense common when it comes to marketing automation?

Here are some revealing statistics:

  • 85% of B2B marketers using a marketing automation platform feel that they’re not using it to its full potential. (SiriusDecisions, 2014)
  • Nearly one in four respondents found marketing automation systems too complex to be used effectively. (B2B Online)
  • 64% of CMOs have no formal process to manage their marketing automation. (Fathom, 2013)
  • 76% of CMOs list high-end lead generation as their biggest marketing automation challenge. (Fathom, 2013)
  • 44% of marketers are not fully satisfied with their marketing automation systems, the top 3 reasons being that the software takes too long to implement, is difficult to learn and is too expensive. (Autopilot, 2015)
  • 31 percent of B2B marketers rated their marketing automation efforts as very effective; while 61% rated their efforts as only somewhat effective.

7 Mistakes Causing B2B Marketing Automation Failure

The specific reasons for marketing automation non-performance will vary from one organization to another, but here are the top 7 reasons for failure across a majority of B2B companies that use automation.

  1. Assuming the Wand is the Magician: Technology is designed to make your processes simple, faster and more efficient. However, correct implementation and usage is critical. The wand without a magician’s skill is just another stick! Read “The Yin and Yang of Marketing Automation”.
  2. Thinking BIG and Starting BIG Too: You have to think big, no doubt, but you have to start small and the starting point has to be a well-thought out plan. Too many companies make the mistake of going out and buying the biggest, brightest, most fancy marketing automation tool. In the absence of a plan and a defined process of how the new tool will integrate with existing systems and processes, the investment becomes a sinkhole.
  3. Jumping In Head First without User Buy-In: The decision to bring on board a new automation system is taken in the board room, but the sales and marketing teams are not bought into the concept. It should be the other way around. If the users that should take advantage of a new system are not convinced, let alone properly trained and prepared to use automation, your efforts will not meet with much success. Remember that no automation in the world, no matter how advanced, can be a substitute for proper process, planning, preparation and people.
  4. Lacking Capabilities for Accelerating Speed to Market: The marketing landscape is dynamic and constantly evolving. Marketers have to make accurate and fast decisions. That requires a heightened alertness to new opportunities and agility to handle unexpected risks. Your marketing automation tool cannot work effectively without the capability to apply real-time business intelligence and predictive analytics. Not only that, you need a 360® view of your lead generation process. (Request a demo of the revolutionary, transformational lead generation program, MyLeads2Go.)
  5. Security is Not Water-Tight: Social marketing is a significant part of customer communications today. When you begin to automate it, are you thinking carefully about possible security risks? Does your marketing automation software follow a zero-tolerance approach to security breaches?
  6. Too Many Moving Parts within the Organization: Automation vendors woo buyers with the promise of quick install times. Most B2B organizations, however, have too many moving parts. From integration with existing systems to lead routing, scoring, measurement, testing, user training, and more, it takes a lot of time, effort and resources to implement automation successfully. The C-Suite wants marketing automation ROI immediately. CMOs and their teams run around to show quick numbers and quantity takes priority over quality.
  7. Forgetting to Ask, “What Can This Tool NOT Do?”: Marketing automation vendors will tell you all about what their tool can do. But does that list cover everything you need and expect from the tool you are buying? The important question to ask is what it cannot do.  Here is a very interesting case study about B2B marketing automation failure and a lively discussion with experts in the community.

Many B2B companies are confusing automated lead generation campaigns with marketing best practice. If you need to hire an expensive consultant to implement your lead nurturing plays, you should be worried.

If you enjoyed this post, please click here to receive updates and information about B2B lead generation and do leave me a comment. 

You can also email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.   

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


  1. Louis – I read the title your article yesterday, and immediately liked your ‘cannon to kill a mosquito’ comparison. Then, today, it really hit home when I attended a large event for a major provider of marketing automation software. They provided a real case-study example for a consumer packaged goods company that tracked a customer purchase at a major grocery retailer. The product? A non-alcoholic beverage (I won’t disclose the brand or the software company).

    I was appalled. What was once a simple, innocuous consumer purchase now has end-to-end tracking, with the consumer getting pulled into a viral media campaign, encouraged to take a ‘selfie’ next to the end-cap display, receiving a congratulatory text message for his selection, and (yes, there’s more) having loyalty points added to his account with the vendor. Seamlessly! Woo-hoo!

    While some might welcome all the hoopla, my question as I watched the promotional video was, “can’t this dude just buy himself some cold refreshment and leave the store without making this into an ongoing event?”

    What came across to me was an example of technology deployed “because we can!”, not because it’s valuable to the consumer – at least to me. Clearly, all this automation and tracking benefits the manufacturer, but the example begs one question to be added to your list of critical questions:

    6) Does the automation provide value to customers? – because if it did in this case, I didn’t see it. The consumer looked to me to be a supplicant for whatever the company wanted him to do. In short, he was a sucker.

    If the answer to Question #6 is “no,” or “we’re not sure,” I don’t think the project will be worth the effort.

  2. Hi Andrew

    Thank you for your comment, too often we see organizations adopt automation platform because everybody else is doing it. The more fundamental question they need it?


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