11 marketing automation mistakes you should avoid

7 June 2023

Do you use marketing automation tools? Read on to find out how to avoid the most commonly made mistakes and learn how to make this innovative software work for you.

person working on laptop

Does your company use marketing automation? Or are you thinking about software tools like Sharpspring, Salesforce, Selligent or HubSpot? You are probably already familiar with the benefits of automating tasks, but are you on top of the most common mistakes associated with marketing automation?

Despite the fact that automation tools are designed to convert your leads to customers faster and better, success is not guaranteed. That’s why we have made an overview of what you really should be paying attention to.

Mistake 1: You’re intimidated by all the options

Setting up lead nurturing workflows, segmenting contacts into separate lists, performing A/B testing: might be intimidating if you’re completely unfamiliar with marketing automation. And we'll admit, some features in your marketing automation tool will require a steep learning curve before you get the hang of them. But no challenge is insurmountable. That’s why we advise you to start at the beginning, and work step by step.

First, add a contact, create a contact form, and craft an email template. Once you’ve done that, you can get stuck into building a basic email workflow to welcome new leads. And before you know it, you'll be setting up lead nurturing campaigns and analysing the results of your A/B test. Relax, don't panic. Play around, you’ll get to know your marketing automation platform in no time.

Mistake 2: You don't have a clear (inbound) strategy

Sun Tzu, the renowned Chinese war strategist once wrote: "Tactics without strategy are the sound of defeat." Naturally, that ancient wisdom also applies to marketing automation. Without a clearly defined inbound strategy that closely aligns with your content marketing and social media plan, marketing automation is just another gadget with no added value. A very modern gadget, nonetheless.

Do you lack a clear, strong content strategy? Then you are probably attracting few qualitative leads to your website; no state-of-the-art marketing software tool is going to change that. Therefore, it's essential that you start by defining your inbound strategy, you could, for example, do something like the diagram above. This model assumes that your customers move through different phases and consult different channels. Write interesting blog posts, offer relevant eBooks and whitepapers, and make sure your website scores well in the search engines. When your leads arrive, thanks to your forms and landing pages, you can follow them up with automatic emails and targeted social media posts.

Mistake 3: You’re working without clearly defined goals

How can you tell if your marketing automation efforts are paying off? Based on your goals of course. What if you haven't defined goals yet? Then get to it, and group your KPIs based on the phases that your customers experience: Awareness, Lead Generation, Conversion and Engagement. Linking your goals to clear phases will help your campaign to be more focused and frictionless.

Here's how to find answers to some important questions:

  • Are you still on schedule to achieve your sales targets?

  • Is the growth of new leads lagging behind expectations?

  • Should we promote our eBooks more or our webinars?

  • Is the percentage of marketing leads that convert to sales leads sufficient?

Mistake 4: You use marketing automation as an email tool

The possibilities that marketing automation software offers you are enormous. But if you only use the tool for sending emails, that's like buying a Ferrari and just taking it out of the garage for a ride to the supermarket. That’s just an embarrassing waste. That’s why we advise that you take the time to think carefully about how you want to use the software. What can you do with a robust marketing automation tool?

  • manage your leads

  • manage your social media

  • develop your blog pages

  • create your landing pages

  • develop your campaigns

  • analyse your campaigns

  • segment and target your contacts

When used correctly, marketing automation can maximise your efficiency in many tasks. And the more time you can save on small, repetitive assignments, the more time you free up for strategic tasks that make a real contribution to your content strategy and lead nurturing tactics.

Choose the right marketing automation platform

With marketing automation, you are ready for the consumers of tomorrow. But how do you choose the platform that best suits your organisation?

Marketing automation

Mistake 5: You want to close the sale quickly

Nobody likes sales pitches, especially during the first meeting. Keep this in mind in your inbound strategy and when using marketing automation software. Don't try to sell people your services from the get-go. Guide potential customers through every stage of the customer journey using marketing, sales, and customer service content.

Build trust in your potential customers first.  How? By offering marketing-related content that answers their questions and problems and connects with your product or service. Informative eBooks, blog posts and newsletters are excellent tools for this. As soon as people download those eBooks, open emails, and read blog posts, they enter the second and – if all goes well – third phase of the customer journey. These are the phases that involve interactions with your sales and customer support teams. It is logical to show more commercial content that discusses your company, products and / or services in these phases. But not before.

Has a new lead become a first-time customer? Then that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to provide content for that person. On the contrary. This is your chance to turn a satisfied customer into an enthusiastic ambassador. How? Go through the same process: offer the right content in terms of marketing, sales, and customer support, at the right time.

Mistake 6: You're not providing enough relevant content

The goal of marketing automation is simple: to offer the right content at the right time. But what is the right content? To determine this, your marketing, sales, and customer service departments have to work together.  Because it’s only through the exchange of knowledge can you determine which content is relevant and resonates with your potential customers.

Your sales and customer service teams are in daily contact with existing and new customers. They are experts in which content is important. Let the marketing team benefit from this with blog posts, eBooks, newsletters, and videos that appeal directly to your target audience.

Mistake 7: You’re not personalising

When someone calls your name, it immediately gives a feeling of recognition. No wonder the emotional bond between a person and their name is close. The digital world is no different. That’s why you should always personalise your emails.  Better yet: do it quickly and efficiently with the help of your marketing automation tool. Research shows that a personal salutation not only increases the click-through rates of your emails by a factor of 2.5. You also give your ROI a boost.

Mistake 8: You’re not experimenting

Today, marketing is both a creative art and an exact science. But often that second part gets much less attention from marketers. A shame because companies miss out on new insights and experiences that can increase conversion rates. Don't make the same mistake. Automate your inbound marketing strategy, but also actively look for improvements.  How? Set up experiments, analyse the results and continuously improve your online performance. Both from your mailings, social media ads and landing pages as well as other campaigns. 

Mistake 9: You’re not segmenting your contacts

Do you have a database full of qualified leads, and do you want to send them all the exact same emails? Exercise caution, before you press the send button. Take our advice, first segment your contacts into separate lists and adjust your emails based on the common characteristics in each group.  This significantly increases your chances of success. Why? That in turn can be traced back to 'Mistakes 6 and 7'. No one likes irrelevant, impersonal content.

You can segment your contact lists based on shared demographic data, a job title, a specific sector, or a specific page that your leads visited. These are just a few examples, because almost every marketing automation software offers you a veritable sweet shop full of segmentation criteria.

Mistake 10: You're sending too many emails

Yes, you can send out five emails a week using marketing automation. But that doesn't mean you have to. Hitting your valuable leads with a mountain of emails in a short time increases the likelihood of unsubscription. And no marketer wants that. Therefore, focus on quality, rather than quantity.  Send out fewer emails but try to increase engagement with your leads. Because with qualitative leads you increase the chance of attracting and retaining new customers. 

Mistake 11: You’re not staying on top of trends in marketing automation

Marketing automation is evolving rapidly. That's why your team needs to stay on top of all best practices so that you can use the tool’s full potential and you stay one step ahead of your less alert competitors.

And now?

Implementing a successful marketing automation strategy is not straight forward. Setting the goals, realising effective collaboration between departments, and drawing up a solid content plan quickly creates a lot of challenges. And that's often just the beginning. Fortunately, you’ve just read our list of the most commonly made mistakes, so you’re already ahead of the pack.

Steven Van Duyse
About the author
Steven van Duyse
Strategy Director

Being someone who prefers the hunt over the catch, Steven is the person to talk to for result-driven solutions to operational challenges. At iO, he merges strategy with sales - leaving every organisation with a team tailored to their needs.

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