Marketing automation software is the champion of efficiency – except for when it isn’t.

The same tool that relieves us of hours spent on data management, silently nurturing our leads whilst we go about our everyday tasks, can also be the cause of endless frustration.

We are sold the automation dream, wrapped up in neat case studies with bows on top. In reality, this dream comes with a huge learning curve, trial and error, and quests to solve an array of technical queries.

In my profession, I hear the same common frustrations from marketers working with automation software. Some of these marketers are just beginning to implement their chosen solution, others are ramping up their activity. Wherever they are in the marketing automation journey, the same types of challenges seem to crop up.

The good news is, there are ways to avoid such frustrations if you know what to prepare for.

Woman sitting in front of laptop with her head in her hands

A lot of this preparation comes in the implementation stage because the difference between marketing automation nirvana and marketing automation hell can be decided by how you implement.

Then, once the initial setup is complete, there’s the ongoing maintenance and forward-thinking approach that can stop marketing automation frustrations arising.

So, to help you and your team avoid unnecessary headaches and make the most of your marketing automation software from the start, here are the most common frustrations you may come across and how to avoid them.

1. You don’t know how to translate your plan into the right technical implementation

During those demo sessions, your new marketing automation tool looked like a breeze to use. Now, you’re sitting there with your shiny lead generation and nurture strategy wondering how you go about setting up your software to do all the things you want to do.

Journeys, workflows, lead scoring, data syncing, CRM integration, advertising functionality… there are so many aspects to implement, getting started can be a confusing process.

The best way to approach implementation is to take your time to do it properly and with the right resource and guidance.

Whether you need to send yourself and your team on a training course, recruit a new and experienced member of staff, or partner with a consultant, having the skills and knowledge to use your marketing automation platform correctly from the start is essential to future success.

2. Mistakes aren’t obvious until there’s a major problem

Because marketing automation is new territory you can think you’re doing everything by the ‘how-to’ guide only to find weeks or months down the line that something you did has caused a later problem.

Similar to my point above, the way to solve this is to invest in training up front, be it in-person or online, or hire an expert who has experience in your particular automation tool.

3. Data hygiene has become a nightmare

The simplest of actions can cause massive data hygiene problems. For example, syncing your new automation tool with your CRM and finding yourself with a serious case of duplicate data. Or learning that sales and marketing are inputting data differently, so the fields aren’t consistent and your reporting is completely inaccurate.

The heart of your marketing automation software is data. Poor data hygiene can be the downfall of your automation strategy so to avoid this, do your research before you start syncing any data and be sure to follow best practice guidance from your vendor.

To reduce the chance of inconsistent data, apply custom rules and dropdowns to CRM fields so your data is standardised.

4. You don’t have the volume of content you need

If data is the heart of your marketing automation software, content is the food it needs to perform at its best. Often marketers invest in the tool without having a big enough volume of existing, quality content for each stage of the customer lifecycle, and without the ability to consistently create more.

When this happens, it restricts what you are able to use for lead nurture and makes it difficult to encourage that transition from a prospect to a qualified lead.

The fix? Make sure you have a content strategy and the production resource and skills you need to roll this out before you invest in automation software. Depending on your business, you may want to recruit a content marketer to handle this, or use freelancers to produce content with a quick turnaround.

5. You’ve inherited a legacy automation account and there’s no way to unravel the mess

There’s no nightmare quite like inheriting an existing marketing automation software and finding it impossible to know how things have been implemented or rolled out over the previous years. It means any improvements you want to make could cause big impacts on the data and the communications the prospects receive.

This scenario is exactly why all automation strategy and planning should be documented in a ‘living’ guide so everyone is aligned on the setup/approach. Should a new member of staff join your team, they should have immediate and easy access to such information without needing to be talked through it (although training is always a must for those new to the platform!).

If it’s a little late for that and you’re desperately seeking some way to clean up an existing automation account, many consultants and agencies offer audits in which they review, recommend, and help you to make changes without causing any serious harm to live activity or data.

6. You’re failing to see results from your marketing automation activity

Given that marketing automation is such a big investment of time and money, the pressure to demonstrate ROI is strong. There can be a number of reasons you’re not seeing the results you thought were guaranteed when you put so much effort into procuring software and hiring and training your teams.

The most common, though, is expecting the tool to do all the legwork. Marketing automation software does not replace the marketer.

Before you even get started with such a tool, you need a lead generation and nurture strategy. This strategy needs to consider the customer journey, content that aligns to the various stages of that journey, lead definition and qualification for both sales and marketing, lead scoring and grading.

You need to have thought about your internal transformation; processes and roles and responsibilities, as well as targets, KPIs and how you will measure success.

Only once you have this documented strategy and rollout plan can you set your marketing automation activity up in a way that’s likely to demonstrate return on your investment. Then comes the monthly reporting that allows you to examine and optimise your approach for the best performance.

What’s more, just like the machines we drive to work each day, or that clean our dishes every evening, your marketing automation software needs regular maintenance. A quarterly review of the system keeps everything running smoothly and gives you the opportunity to reduce the number of technical, data, or strategic frustrations that can crop up.

I imagine there are plenty of other frustrations marketers experience when using marketing automation software so by all means, share these below and let’s see if we can tackle them together.

Learn more

If you’re looking to optimise your current marketing automation platform or reassess your goals, take Econsultancy’s one-day Marketing Automation training course