The 3 Most Common Barriers to Marketing Automation Success, Solved

Every day, marketers are tasked with attracting, nurturing, and converting leads into great opportunities for Sales, which can be extremely difficult for one-person marketing departments. Traditionally, hitting these goals and getting real results required significant time and resources, but marketing automation is helping us alleviate these pain points. 

In addition to helping marketers do more with less, marketing automation software offers three main benefits to users:

  1. Conserve resources by consolidating campaigns in a single platform that automates dozens of processes and tactics.
  2. Increase the quantity and quality of leads with better, more personalized campaigns that are easier to track and optimize.
  3. Align sales and marketing departments to give them both better insight into how leads are generated and where those leads are in the sales funnel.

When everything is firing on all cylinders, those three bullets can have a remarkable impact on an organization’s efficiency and ROI. Yet, many marketing departments fail to get the most out of their investment. Sometimes this is due to poor onboarding. Other times it’s because the software intimidates marketers who are used to doing things a certain way. And still other times it’s because the software just isn’t very intuitive or effective.

If you’re struggling to align your marketing goals and strategy with your marketing automation platform, you’re not alone — and all is not lost! Today, we’re going to examine the three most common barriers to marketing automation success and provide a solution to help you and your team overcome these obstacles.  

1) Adopting Marketing Automation Software

Many organizations purchase marketing automation software believing that it will somehow magically solve all their problems right out of the box. While it’s true that marketing automation can drastically improve your marketing efforts, marketing departments often face an uphill battle when the right resources and expertise aren’t in place. This is especially common at smaller businesses, which is ironic because it’s these companies that have the greatest need for marketing automation, as well as the most to gain from it.

So, what gives? Isn’t the whole point of marketing automation to reduce the need for more resources and expertise? Well, yes, but it’s complicated.

Most Act-On users work for small- to medium-sized businesses or agencies (although we’re also the platform of choice for dozens of enterprise-level companies), which means their marketing teams usually only consist of a handful of full-time employees. And based on the consistent positive feedback we receive, we know that marketing automation makes it easier for these professionals to streamline tasks and conserve resources while delivering more productive campaigns that generate higher ROI. However, and here’s the thing, these marketers are dedicated to learning how to use the software the right way from the outset.

When marketers (especially marketers who are new to marketing automation) aren’t properly onboarded after purchasing their software, they spend more time setting up and troubleshooting their automated campaigns, tempting them to revert to creating each new tactic from scratch. This lack of mastery leads to a severe misallocation of resources, which subsequently leads to a general distrust of the software.

So, to avoid this problem, make sure you choose a marketing automation vendor that is committed to your team’s success through successful onboarding and sustained support throughout your quest to marketing automation maturity.

This should include:

  • An online customer community and support forum
  • On-site bootcamps to provide intensive training
  • On-demand learning that is instructive and readily available
  • Customer success teams that are available when you need them
  • Consistent check-ins and success reviews
  • Help with marketing strategy and marketing automation alignment
  • Technical configuration and CRM integration assistance

If you’re considering a marketing automation vendor that doesn’t offer each of these services, you could spend months struggling to get up to speed with your new software — some organizations that lack the proper support never get there at all. So make sure your vendor of choice is willing to go the extra mile to help you succeed and that they are committed to providing the right training and support at every turn on your journey to marketing automation mastery.

2) Difficulties Around Email Deliverability

Excellent marketing automation platforms like Act-On are built to improve your organization’s email deliverability and maintain that success over the long haul, but marketers still have to follow best practices when crafting their emails to ensure quality inboxing. Unfortunately, many marketers aren’t very familiar with the concept of email deliverability, which means they have no idea if they need to improve or how.

In simplest terms, email deliverability is the overall health of a sender’s email, which includes delivery rate, inbox rate, click rate, perceived email channel health, and ROI from email — among others. As email marketing remains one of the most successful digital marketing initiatives (and probably always will), we cannot understate the importance of email deliverability. If your messages are being delivered to the Spam folder or, worse yet, not being delivered at all, you have a serious problem on your hands that you need to fix as soon as possible.

According to Return Path — a popular email deliverability company — roughly 20% of sales and marketing emails fail to reach the inbox (1), but how do you know if you have a deliverability problem on your hands? Three tell-tale signs of poor email deliverability include poor engagement rates, more frequent email bounces, and being blocked by one or email service providers (ESPs) — such as Microsoft Outlook and Gmail.

Check out our additional related content:

Making Marketing Automation a Reality

And while there are dozens of factors that could be impacting your email deliverability, there are a few simple ways to improve your email reputation for better inboxing.

Make Your Email Template Mobile-Responsive

More than half of all email is now opened and read on mobile devices, which means mobile optimization is essential to improved email deliverability, especially since engagement rates are such an important part of optimal inboxing. In fact, as more and more people are now checking their email on mobile, ISPs have become more likely to send non-mobile responsive emails directly to the Spam folder.

That’s right, if your emails aren’t optimized for mobile, they will not get delivered.

At Act-On, our easy-to-use responsive email templates simplify the process without any HTML knowledge required. Our platform also includes Litmus, which allows marketers to preview how their email renders on desktop and mobile (as well as in different email readers), so you can rest assured your message has the perfect look and feel before sending to your prospects and customers.

Optimize Your Emails for the Inbox

The overall aesthetic of your emails also has a significant impact on your email deliverability because your emails are first screened by ESPs. This means you need to develop smart, succinct messaging that offers real value to the recipient, as well as modern image-based design that makes emails feel more like web destinations than traditional text-based emails. Your subject lines should be clear and explicit, your preview text should relate directly to the subject line and what is included in the body of the email, and your body copy should address an issue and provide a solution in the form of a prominent call to action.

Before you send each email, make sure you’ve accounted for the following:

  • Your recipients are part of your target audience and have actively consented to receive your messaging
  • The email is part of your larger holistic marketing strategy
  • All links work properly and redirect to secure sites
  • The email is mobile responsive (see above)

Following these few simple steps should help ensure consistent inbox placement, which will gradually improve your overall email deliverability.

Use Quality Data and Clean Your Lists Regularly

First and foremost, never purchase an email list. You’re not fooling ESPs, and even if you do manage to get your emails to these recipients’ inboxes, the lack of engagement, unsubscribes, and Spam complaints will decimate your email deliverability. Instead, use your marketing automation software to create landing pages and forms that result in promising leads. From there, curate a targeted list of prospects and customers and then segment those audiences to deliver the right messaging at the right time to produce the intended results.

As more regulating bodies are instituting more sophisticated compliance laws (such as GDPR), it’s important that you’re sending only to recipients who have actively consented to receive your messages and those who are regularly engaging with them. Regularly review your email lists to check for interaction level and remove recipients who aren’t clicking on your emails or who have higher bounce rates.

3) Using Marketing Automation to Manage Leads

Another great benefit of marketing automation software is its ability to integrate with your organization’s CRM, helping create seamless connections throughout your MarTech stack. This also helps minimize costs while increasing productivity and revolutionizing the way you track and engage with prospects and customers throughout the sales cycle. Of course, certain platforms integrate better than others, but Act-On easily integrates with several of the most popular CRMs.

The integration between your marketing automation platform and your CRM creates a world of lead management opportunities, but it can be difficult for some organizations to take full advantage. There are several reasons for this, but one of the most common is poor lead scoring. If marketing teams aren’t properly scoring and qualifying their leads, and then attributing those leads to a specific content source broken down by each marketing channel, then they aren’t able to segment and nurture those leads in a meaningful, effective way.

You should sit down with your marketing and sales leadership teams to determine which actions are worth how many points, as well as the threshold for a prospect to qualify as a marketing qualified lead that can be passed to sales. Make sure to base this discussion on the data you’re collecting around your inbound and outbound marketing efforts, the number of sales opportunities these actions are generating, and how much revenue is being created by each user interaction and piece of content. If you don’t have this exact information, you can proceed with a few assumptions, but be sure to update your campaigns for better tracking (see below) and then revisit the conversation within a few weeks or months — whenever you feel you have enough data to make more informed decisions about your lead scoring model.

Another common lead management mistake involves lead follow-up, which is also related to lead scoring and qualification. Your sales reps shouldn’t be waiting to reach out to higher-intent leads, but if those leads aren’t properly identified, they aren’t even aware that they need to be accelerating their follow-up process. This means that regardless of how you set up your scoring, you need to be flagging actions that indicate high buyer intent. For example, a user clicking a Google Ad and downloading a thought leadership eBook on a topic related to your products and services probably shouldn’t be treated the same as a known persona completing a handraiser form on your website.

It all comes down to lead prioritization, which is definitely achievable within most MarTech stacks, but you and your team need to be informed, intentional, and proactive when scoring, nurturing, and managing your prospects and leads. Get the right people involved to ensure accurate, purposeful lead scoring and also identify those behaviors that should immediately alert sales about a potential opportunity. Once you and your team have made those decisions, make sure to update your marketing automation platform and CRM accordingly and then test those updates to ensure accurate lead management.