Overcome Marketing Automation Challenges to Lead the Pack in 2017

by Jenna Sindle

Digital Series, Part One of Three

Welcome to Modern Marketing Today’s digital series. This three article collection will focus on the latest statistics, trends and tactics with popular digital marketing tools and tech. To kick off the series, we’ll begin with trends in marketing automation and the challenges marketers face when it comes to using these platforms.

The Current State of Marketing Automation:

Marketing automation has continued to rise in popularity over the last year. It’s no longer a fun tool for the big dogs. It’s become widely integrated and companies that have successfully seized the marketing automation reigns have pulled way ahead of the pack.

Latest research shows that the marketing technology industry is worth $20 Billion, and as you can see from the Chiefmartec.com graphic below, the number of providers has exploded since 2014. Click on the graphic for a closer look. 

Chiefmartec.com’s marketing technology landscape graphic demonstrates complexity and crowding in the market.

Here is a current list of the most popular marketing automation software packages, their features and price points. 

On average, 49 percent of companies are currently using marketing automation, with 55 percent of B2B companies adopting the technology. That’s a 12 percent B2B increase since 2015.

And 63 percent of marketing execs plan to further increase marketing automation spend going into 2017, perhaps without considering serious issues impeding system implementation within their organizations.


Barriers to Marketing Automation Success:

What’s worrisome is that, despite the increase in adoption and spend with these tools, too many marketers are still expecting marketing automation to be a magic bullet that maps ROI with little to no effort.

Modern marketing automation functionality includes smooth multi-touch campaign creation, personalization, customer behavior tracking, automated sales alerts, social analytics and much, much more.

Click here to download a full list of some of the most common features that are available with these tools and here for a list of 11 must-use marketing automation features from Salesforce.

All those features sound great, right? But despite the functionality available, it is estimated that almost 60 percent of companies that have adopted marketing tech do not fully utilize the tools they’ve implemented.

According to this chart from Smart Insights, only 14 percent of marketers describe their use of marketing automation features as “good” or higher.


“I’ve seen so many companies using only a small fraction of the functionality these marketing automation solutions offer,” said TJ Deaver, Digital Associate at Strategic Communications Group. “It’s painful to watch client programs fall short of their potential because automation is being used as a glorified email platform. There is so much ROI to be derived if the tools are used correctly.”

So why aren’t marketers seizing automation by the reigns? Why are they letting useful (and expensive!) functionality slip through their fingers?

According to the Ascend2 Report, The most significant barrier to marketing automation success is the lack of an effective strategy, followed closely by complexity of the system and lack of employee skills.

Here is a full list of the most significant barriers to marketing automation success:

  • Lack of an effective strategy (52%)
  • Complexity of the system (42%)
  • Inadequate contact data quality (38%)
  • Lack of employee skills (32%)
  • Lack of relevant content (31%)
  • Marketing and sales alignment (30%)
  • Budget constraints (27%)


How to Overcome Marketing Automation Challenges in 2017: 

How can you overcome these barriers to marketing automation success as we head into 2017? Here are three concrete steps you can take:

Do not invest in marketing automation without a strategy that is fully in line with your marketing and business goals.

As mentioned above, a lack of strategy is the number one reason marketers aren’t seeing success with marketing automation. You must sit down and seriously consider important questions before investing, or when revamping your current automation approach.

What are your current marketing and business goals, and how can the functionality within the platform help you achieve those goals? How will you measure the successful use of your marketing automation platform?

Purchasing marketing automation software without a strong strategy is putting the cart before the horse. You won’t be getting anywhere in your pursuit for demonstrable ROI.

Make sure you have resources and talent dedicated to your marketing automation platform.

Current research shows limited knowledge of marketing automation features among employees. Check out this chart from smartinsights.com. Almost 50 percent of marketing automation handlers describe their knowledge as basic. That simply doesn’t cut it if you want to see a return on your automation investment.


“While every marketer should understand how to use the platform, there needs to be a person, or a team, dedicated to both owning the technology and also the relationship with sales,” said Jenna Sindle, Director at Strategic Communications Group. “While marketing automation is within the skillset of even the least tech-savvy person, being able to fully utilize the tools requires training and daily use in order to continue to derive the most insight. You’ll also want to find someone who has a keen analytical mind and a love of process in order to keep those leads flowing over to sales.”

As you assign talent to your marketing automation platform, keep in mind that virtually every package out there includes support lines and collaborative online communities in your purchase. Don’t be afraid to use these resources when implementing more complex functionality.

There are also frequent training and certification opportunities provided by marketing automation providers. Here’s an example from Salesforce.

Get both marketing and sales invested in your marketing automation platform.

We all know it can be hard to get marketing and sales in the same room on a consistent basis. Marketing and sales goals often differ along with the paths they take to achieve them. But you know what every B2B marketing and sales professional wants? Proof that their efforts are paying off. Whether that’s through MQL’s (marketing-qualified leads) or closed sales, marketing automation can shed light on what is working and what’s not as customers move through your organization’s buyer journey.

“I’ve seen B2B marketers and sales professionals point the finger at each other over lost leads and undistributed content. I’ve seen a total breakdown of communication between departments in some companies. You know what suffers most when marketing and sales don’t work together? Business revenue,” cautioned Eldon Marr, Director of Digital Media at Strategic Communications Group.

“On the other hand, I’ve seen marketing and sales work together with marketing automation. They share excitement over visible ROI and push together to implement tactics that work. Companies need to find common goals between marketing and sales because the ROI picture will never be complete if they’re working in silos.”

Marketing automation is not going away. The tools and functionality are only growing more sophisticated, so master it before others catch on.


Are you making some monstrous mistakes with WordPress? Find out in the second installment of Modern Marketing Today’s digital series.