Skip to main content

If you know me, then you know I am the lover of marketing automation technology. I have seen this technology positively impact the bottom-line of so many organizations. Marketing automation technology is crucial for organizations that seek growth, and marketers and most senior leadership have heard of and even bought into the idea of marketing automation. Yet, in spite of the obvious benefits, marketing automation continues to present a number of challenges that block success.

GetResponse recently completed a survey with more 2,500 marketers, discussing the top marketing automation challenges. Here are the results:

Shocked as I am that this many challenges exist in the market, I agree that these are all issues facing most marketers today. But after a recent conference discussion and fielding questions via LinkedIn and Twitter, I am going to touch on the top five marketing automation challenges (and offer some tips on how you can tackle them).

1. Setting up the Technology

The beauty of marketing automation is in the word automation. The software should truly save marketers time. But many times when marketing automation software is rolled out, there is no training or initial setup of the tough stuff—the automation campaign logic, the lead scoring, and the segmentation rules, just to name a few. The issue here is that without these entitled features, the software doesn’t work like it should. It is no different than simply sending bulk emails or scheduling social media from any other system.


  • Implementation consultants are worth their weight in gold. I recommend having a consultant help set up a desired state—a goal you want to achieve—for the software.
  • From there, it is helpful to discuss features and why you need them.
  • Lastly, have that consultant set up the system and then train your team. This is a great way to ensure success right out of the gate.

2. Quality Customer Data

This particular point is one that is tender to my heart. I can’t tell you how many clients I have worked with who a) have never cleaned their database and b) have the wrong people in their database. The bottom line is marketing automation campaigns are only as good as the database you have. If you don’t have the right people receiving the emails, what makes you think that you are going to make any headway towards a sale? If you have people in your database that have not engaged with your content in over two years, why would you send them any more emails? What about all of your unsubscribes—are they just sitting in your database? What about your bounces?


  • Do a database cleanse every quarter.
  • The first step involves removing your bounces and unsubscribes. They are no good to you and your marketing efforts. You literally can’t do anything with them. And if they want to reenter your marketing efforts in the future, they will.
  • Look at your disengaged prospects. This could be a perfect opportunity to run an engagement campaign to give them a choice to engage or opt out. These are just two tips to keep the quality of your database high.

3. Measuring Effectiveness

This is an ironic challenge. Why? Well, I can guarantee that every marketing leader who sold the purchase of the software internally said, “and we are going to be able to measure marketing effectiveness so much better with the software.” But a year after having the software, they are still trying to figure out how to make sense of the data, still using a handful of different technologies to pull marketing data, and they are struggling to report properly. This happens a lot!


  • Let’s go back to set up: goals are the key to being able to later measure effectiveness! One thing marketers tend a little too KPI-happy; they figure if they measure everything, then spew a bunch of numbers to leadership, their value will be seen. That is not the case at all. One of the hallmark achievements of marketing automation is closing the loop from marketing efforts to closed business.
  • The key is setting up goals, and then learning (or having a consultant help you) to understand how to see that data in the system.
  • In addition to that, learning the granular triggers that can lead to accomplishing your goals.

4. Lack of Knowledge of Internal Terms

This one makes me laugh because it is such a simple issue that can lead to big problems. As organizations try to blend the vision across departments, one thing is certain: silos are not going to work. Yet I find that marketing departments in particular tend to work in a silo; they say to themselves, “well, if I understand the software, that is all that matters.” Unfortunately, that is not enough. Marketing leaders should be selling the value of marketing automation and teaching each part of the organization how it affects them. A perfect example of this is the sales team. One of the main advantages of marketing automation is its ability to track the digital footprint of prospects beforesales gets the lead. But if your sales team does not understand this value, they may be missing an opportunity to connect with this lead when it is finally ready to be moved to sales. They are missing the journey the lead has been on.


  •  Marketing Automation software can become the machine that runs most of the marketing efforts, and can be utilized by several teams and departments.
  • It is important to take the time to educate other parts of the organization to let them know how marketing automation can affect them and the organization, as a whole.

5. Integrating with Other Existing Systems

As the martech space has evolved, the options for new martech tools have increased. It can be so overwhelming to keep up with. Because of this, marketers lose sight of the basic integrations that will make their martech stack a powerful machine.


  • Set up the essentials! First and foremost, your marketing automation system should be integrated with your CRM. By “integrated,” I mean set up around a lead management process. What does it take to get a lead to move to sales?
  • Next, your marketing automation system should be integrated with your website. Page tracking not only provides a digital footprint but also can enhance web personalization.
  • Lastly, your marketing automation system should be integrated with the other operating tools that complete the marketing mix. Some of these would be social media channels, Google Analytics, your AdWords campaigns, Facebook Pixel tracking, Video software, webinar software, etc. This allows you not only to track attribution, but get clear reporting right out of the marketing automation software.

It is possible to get your marketing automation software working as you intended it to. To provide additional insight, I will be having a webinar on September 21 called “Top Challenges of Marketing Automation (and how to fix them).” I will be providing more insight into the five tips that I mentioned in this blog, as well as showing examples of how to solve them so that you are able to make some changes in real time. Or, I will be speaking on bullet five in the blog at Real Magnet’s RMUG Conference in DC on September 28 and 29. Catch that if you will be there.