Marketing automation is the saving grace of your failing marketing programs, the silver bullet that magically turn visitors into leads.

Or is it?

Though marketing automation has exploded with an expected growth rate of 60% this year, too many marketers fall short in implementing and using their marketing automation tools.

There's no denying the power of marketing automation—but it isn't a magic formula that will instantly solve all your marketing woes. Like any software, marketing automation is only as good as the person using it. Failing to properly implement and use marketing automation will set you up for frustration in the short term and failure in the long term.

Despite a potentially initial high cost of implementation (depending on the tool, that might mean dollars, time, or both), if you're not using marketing automation, you're at a serious disadvantage.

At Uberflip, we recently released a SlideShare about the 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing Automation. The "sins" are a combination of mistakes we make as marketers and process issues related to how some teams operate. Though those sins may not be as bad as the original deadly sins, make no mistake about it: If you're guilty of even one of the below, you're leaving a lot on the table for sales and marketing success.

1. No documented strategy

Using a marketing automation tool without a documented marketing strategy is like wandering through the grocery store without a shopping list. You end up with a bunch of stuff you don't need and missing ingredients that are essential for dinner that evening.

Be sure your strategy ties the company's overall goals with the tactics and activities you're going to be using. Your marketing automation tool is simply a means to executing the strategy—not the strategy itself.

2. Using marketing automation as a glorified email marketing tool

Email marketing is (still) incredibly effective, especially if the integrity of your email database is good. That means that people are engaged with your emails and have explicitly opted into them. Lists you've purchased and dumped into your database don't count.

If you're using your marketing automation tool as a glorified email marketing service, you aren't harnessing the full power of the software. Depending on the tool you're using, that could include features like:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Lead scoring
  • Landing pages
  • Metrics and reporting

3. Excluding other teams

Setting up an effective lead nurture campaign via a marketing automation tool can't be done in a silo. As a marketer, you must talk to your counterparts in sales, content marketing, and even customer success. Getting better insight into your audience, leads, and customers is essential for crafting campaigns that will ultimately convert visitors into customers.

For example, we have a weekly stand-up with our marketing, sales, and customer success teams. Though not the only way we communicate, it helps keep everybody in touch with the pulse of our marketing and sales funnels.

4. Selling instead of nurturing

Stop selling, and start nurturing… most of the time.

Lead nurturing is one of the most powerful aspects of any marketing automation tool and is designed to help move people along the sales funnel. If they're in the early stages the buyer journey, you can nurture these leads by sending them useful content about broad topics related to their interests and aligned with your company's philosophy. 

Though you don't want to bombard these "top of the funnel" leads with a heavy sales pitch, you should feel comfortable selling to people that you've identified as "bottom of the funnel" (or, in other words, people much further along in the buyer journey).

An effective marketing automation tool will allow you to identify who needs to be nurtured versus those that may be ready for a more direct approach.

5. Not producing enough targeted content

Getting demand generation teams and content teams to work together is a key element of marketing automation success. Too often, content teams live in a silo, without much interaction with their demand generation counterparts.

Ideally, the two teams should be working together to determine which content is working and what the content team should focus on in the future. Start by identifying a shared set of goals and purpose for your content. The content team members should be involved at each stage of the buyer journey, so they can provide the demand-generation team with a steady stream of high-value content.

6. Tracking the wrong metrics

It's easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis, especially with the vast array of data you can get from your marketing automation tool. But we often place far too much emphasis on the wrong metrics. We overvalue things like traffic and social shares while we don't properly track things like lead or customer conversion rates and overall content ROI

At each stage of the funnel, identify the key metrics that matter. Initially, it might be email opens and click-through rates, but as people move deeper into your sales funnel, customer conversion is all that matters.

7. Running on autopilot

Despite the name, marketing automation doesn't mean you can go on autopilot. Just like your leads must be nurtured, you marketing automation programs also need to be nurtured.

A good demand-generation marketer will focus on continually optimizing everything from email marketing workflows to lead scoring to landing page layouts. A good demand-generation marketer will also dig deeper into the database and uncover leads that need to be re-engaged or leads that should be passed along to the sales team.

* * *

Now that you've been forewarned, be sure to avoid the deadly sins of marketing automation. Instead, think of your marketing automation tool as an extension of your marketing team. Used wisely, it can help thread together a consistent marketing program that can propel business growth.

Are you using a marketing automation tool? If so, please share any tips, tricks, or mishaps from your experience by commenting below.

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The Seven Deadly Sins of Marketing Automation

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image of Hana Abaza

Hana Abaza is vice-president of marketing at Uberflip, a provider of content marketing, curation, and publishing software.

Twitter: @hanaabaza

LinkedIn: Hana Abaza