Potential Pitfalls of Marketing Automation Platforms

Lately I’ve met with several mid-market companies looking to implement a marketing automation platform (MAP), similar to Marketo, Hubspot, or Salesforce. If you’re currently looking into implementing one of these services, make sure you are aware of the biggest pro and con:


The beauty of these types of software packages is that they can help ease a potential consumer into an automated sales funnel without all the manual hours a marketing department is currently spending trying to do the same thing.


The pitfall of these types of a MAP is that you will need to be ALL IN. As in, at least one full-time employee running and managing the platform, and everyone in the marketing team dedicated to using and integrating the system, as well as everyone in the sales/lead tracking teams dedicated and using the system.

First let’s focus on the main reason companies are migrating to MAPs: offloading processes they KNOW will help their potential consumers through the customer funnel. Whether it’s doing automated segmentation, email nurturing, or sales leads tracking, these systems can be GREAT at ensuring your customer gets the right information at the right time.

When setting up one of these platforms, you will need to know ALL THE THINGS you’ll need to know. Wait, what? Know all the things I need to know?

Yes, you’ll need to have a clear handle on the answers to the following questions:

  • How do customers enter my sales funnel?
  • Where do I capture their information?
  • How are they segmented?
  • What is the messaging cadence to segmented customers?
  • How can I tell if my messaging is effective?
  • When does a customer transition from a contact to a qualified lead?
  • How do I pass customer information on to sales?
  • How does sales follow up with qualified lead?
  • How does a qualified lead turn into a sale, and how does that information feed back into the system?

If you don’t know the answer to all of these questions, a MAP will not be effective in ensuring you are consistently improving your marketing cadence.

The second point to consider is that if you don’t have all of your marketing efforts being served through the marketing automation platform, how does that data fit in? For example, if your SEM efforts are in a different department, how can you attribute any part of the sales funnel back to them, or vice versa? The same goes for passing qualified leads from the platform through to your sales department. If you can’t measure how qualified that lead was in terms of conversion, you can’t TRULY say they’re a qualified lead.

I know - it seems like a chicken and the egg situation.

On the bright side, if you are a lean marketing department with time to dedicate to both the platform and the data insights, you will have a lot to gain from these platforms. And when I say “time to dedicate” I mean at least one person consistently managing and properly architecting how your campaigns are being set up and run, as well as one person that can set up reporting and pull insights from the platform as campaigns are running. In this case, you can do the job of twenty with only two or three. But again, you have to be ALL IN.

Thirdly, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, what the heck does that mean for our business? What I mean to say is, how can you learn about new potential audiences, segments, or conversion paths once your sales funnel is so tightly defined? Again, the potential downfall of not knowing what you don’t know (or have the ability to define) can mean a loss in potential business.

I am NOT saying MAPs are bad. In fact, they can be quite helpful in doing exactly that – automating particular customer nurturing cycles that you already know are well defined and successful. However, I encourage you to maintain additional data collection and reporting through some other method – even if it’s with basic internal data storage. This will allow you the flexibility to include outside data (SEM, sales) as well as find potential opportunities (customer segment, conversion path) that a marketing automation platform cannot.

If you’d like help on ways to enable some basic data collection and reporting, feel free to drop me a line. Of if you’d like help narrowing down a particular MAP that will fit your internal needs and marketing strategies, I can also help.

Until next time, Happy Analyzing!

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