The Most Common Mistakes People Make Using Marketing Automation (And How to Avoid Them)

by | Marketing

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Marketing automation, simply put, refers to the use of software to automate the repetitive tasks of marketing.

These platforms allow you to automate all sorts of redundant tasks like scheduling social posts for automatic publishing, emailing drip campaigns, sending specific messages to your audience based on their behavior, and generating lists of prospects based on their interests or activity.

With the use of digital marketing tactics on the rise, marketing automation platforms are quickly becoming one of the most popular tools for businesses. These tools enable businesses to automate tedious, time-consuming tasks, save time and achieve more with less effort.

Marketers can free up time by automating monotonous chores and focusing on your key strengths, which is a great way to keep your team happy.

Knowing which automation to use and how to set it up can be challenging, as there are a million options and not a ton of guidance. Continue reading to learn about typical mistakes people make when using marketing automation tools and how to prevent them.

Sacrificing Effectiveness for Efficiency

One of the most common mistakes companies make with automation marketing is losing sight of the bigger picture and sacrificing effectiveness for efficiency. 

Efficiency rules the day with marketing budgets stretched thin in many cases and staffing challenges. If you can accomplish something in three steps instead of four, this type of productivity is rewarded. This mindset, however, can lead to automation mistakes.

Take Content marketing for example. When creating email marketing tags or categories for email subscriber lists, you may think that creating just a few tags or categories and lumping more people into one group is faster and more efficient. However, this efficient strategy is likely to be less effective.

When email categorization is broad (transactional customers versus subscription customers for example), the communication must also be broad. Less targeted emails will likely result in a lower open rate, lower conversion rates, and higher bounce rates.

To avoid making this mistake, it’s critical to have a well-defined plan before putting automated processes into action. This plan should detail the purpose behind the task itself and document how the automation will preserve the effectiveness of the task.

In this case, an automation plan emphasizes the need to keep email categories specific so that companies can segment and target specific customers with tailored content. 

Assuming Automation is a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

When companies decide to automate a particular task or tactic, assuming that one automation will cover all possible scenarios is a rookie mistake. In the example of an automated system to re-engage lapsed customers, this misstep becomes very clear.

If two customers have both lapsed with no recorded purchase transactions in the last six months, a one-size-fits-all automation approach will send both customers the same email at the same time—precisely six months from their previous purchase. 

However, this universal approach will likely result in far fewer conversions and re-engaged customers because it does not account for unique customer profiles. For example, suppose one of the lapsed customers had previously purchased only one product, and the other had multiple purchases. This kind of information will help you to determine what re-engagement strategy would work best for each one.

Instead, marketers should balance customizing automation and avoiding manual processes that bog down staff and resources. 

Having robust, distinct customer profiles within automated systems allows for both efficiencies of scale and personalization. In addition, since creating customer personas is an integral part of a robust marketing strategy, businesses can advance this one step further and assign relevant automation to each avatar. 

For example, automated emails for a “back-to-school” guide may produce greater results if sent to someone who has children or is a teacher, rather than someone who doesn’t fit that profile.

Or, a younger segment of your audience might receive automated reminders to tag your business on TikTok after purchase, whereas more seasoned segment automation would instead focus on leaving a rating or review on Facebook. 

Choosing Too Few, Too Many, or the Wrong Automation Tools

In 2015, companies worldwide were using an average of eight SaaS apps. Over the last six years, that average number has grown over 1275% and now hovers around 110 applications. While the number varies based on the size of the business, it’s no exaggeration to say that companies are making decisions every day about the tools they use and how they use them.

When it comes to automation marketing, businesses often struggle to strike a balance between the tasks they automate and the tools they use. For some, they err on the side of a different tool for every task. This strategy can result in neglecting many of the features available within the software, tool fatigue, and overall poor execution of the software itself.

For others, limiting automation to what one tool can handle is a common mistake. CRMs and LMS programs have their place in business, but very few software solutions can manage every automation a business needs. 

In both cases, using the wrong automation tools can lead to frustrated users and missed opportunities. Like we mentioned before, an automation plan can help solve this issue. 

First, keep a running list of the tasks you’d like to automate and any potential software solutions for each one. Then, you’ll see trends develop among the tools, understanding where one tool can accomplish more than one item on the list. 

Many of the current automation tools available feature incredibly powerful integrations that eliminate the need for multiple products, as well. 

Not Automating Enough Tasks

Ask a business owner if they automate their marketing and you’re likely to hear something like, “Sure, we have email automation and workflows.” While email automation is excellent and recommended, it is just the tip of the iceberg for automated marketing. 

Marketing automation for beginners typically includes automated emails such as welcome sequences or newsletter confirmation emails.

However, business leaders often overlook more advanced automation such as lead generation management, customer service chatbots, and customer re-engagement solutions due to expense, shortage of time to implement, or lack of resources. 

Another issue is many people don’t know just how many tasks can be automated. For instance, the process of collecting customer reviews and testimonials is usually excluded from automation, primarily because the automation tools are not widely known.

Companies like TrustSpot are working to make tasks like soliciting reviews and visual content generation more accessible and automated. Research around conversion rates and social proof supports the fact that these types of automation help boost sales. 

To eliminate this oversight of under-automating, companies need to take a fresh look at their processes and evaluate whether or not automation makes sense. Then, the following steps are as easy as finding the right tool for the job and implementing the automation. 

Automating Single Tasks Instead of Complete Workflows

It’s not difficult to automate a single task, like setting up the mechanism to fire off a reply email based on the subject line or creating a new task when a team member generates a specific Slack message. These one-off automations are helpful and yet leave potential on the table for a more significant advantage — automating an entire workflow.

To illustrate this, consider the process involved in publishing and promoting a single blog post. At a minimum, the method includes:

  • Brainstorming a blog post topic or idea
  • Drafting, writing, and editing the post
  • Communicating with team members for approval 
  • Scheduling the blog post for publishing on multiple platforms
  • Monitoring and measuring the results of the blog post’s call-to-action

Teams can automate any of these related tasks individually, and many organizations take advantage of AI tools like Copysmith to generate new content more quickly. Tools like Notion are also great for teams to experiment with workflow automation. For instance, one team member drafts the blog post and tags the next team member inside the database to move the post to the editing phase. Once editing is complete, the tagging process continues to the approvals, posting, and analysis.

Regardless of the tools companies use, the ingenuity is in automating the entire workflow. When marketers implement this approach, there is suddenly time for more of what matters and for the functions that impact your bottom line. 

Not Evaluating Automations Regularly

Social media automation is a marketing team’s dream. Upload the content weekly, schedule the posts on multiple platforms, and move on with the new to-do list. That is until that social media platform decides to change something in its algorithm or API that conflicts with your automation software, and suddenly your scheduled posts are nowhere to be found.

Unfortunately, this hypothetical scenario has happened before. Even some of the most prominent social media automation tools have been baffled by the platform’s ever-evolving policies and processes. Businesses that do not prioritize evaluating automation regularly or take a “set it and forget it” approach will likely face negative consequences. 

Like most businesses that plan for quarterly financial reviews or monthly sales calls, companies should also routinely schedule automation evaluations. These checkups might be as simple as ensuring the systems are still working or as detailed as reviewing the automation for accuracy, efficiency, and effectiveness. 

Automation marketing should have a distinct category on your annual marketing budget and analysis reports, and staff should regularly include the item on marketing meeting agendas. 

It’s even helpful to designate a specific team member or group of team members to be responsible for updating marketing automations, regularly evaluating their performance, and making recommendations for new automations. 

Sacrificing Personalization For Convenience

The evolution of AI-powered customer service solutions has its advantages. For example, there is a reduction of the required number of customer support team members, faster solutions for customers facing simple issues, and at least the appearance of 24/7 customer support in a world where consumers expect rapid response times.

However, automating customer service—a critical process—has its drawbacks, namely sacrificing personalization for convenience. Unless the marketing automation platforms are finely tuned to the industry and company specific-needs, the interactions between bots and customers can derail the brand and tarnish its reputation. 

For instance, a customer initiates a customer service question with a chatbot looking for a way to return an item recently purchased. Unfortunately, the bot then responds in such a generic or inauthentic way that the customer is more frustrated than before the interaction started. 

Reading testimonials, asking detailed questions, and requesting demos before contracting with new automation software solutions are all reliable methods to avoid situations like this in the future. 

Creating Automations Without A Cohesive Strategy

There are many reasons why businesses should automate their marketing processes—from eliminating manual mistakes to increasing output quality, reducing the time and expense to complete a task, or creating efficiencies that allow for expansion and growth. 

Regardless of the reason behind the automation, creating them without a comprehensive and cohesive strategy can reduce the impact of the automation or, at worst, render it useless. 

There are four general steps to creating an automation strategy.

Identify Opportunities to Automate

One of the essential tasks in business is to identify opportunities to automate. Automation and workflow documentation is important because it allows you to get a holistic view of what’s going on in your business. If you can document everything you do, you can start to spot inefficiencies and things that are being done multiple times or in multiple places.

Some tasks are better suited to automation than others, and just because you can automate something doesn’t mean that it should be. Take time to adequately assess all of your tasks and workflows and arrange them according to priority. 

If you’re unsure whether a specific process or workflow would benefit from automation, talk with other businesses in your industry about how they handle the process and get recommendations. 

Agree on the Goals of Your Automated Tasks

Before you dive into creating new automation, it is always a good idea to clarify what you want them to accomplish.

These early ambitions are critical for establishing measurable goals later on and evaluating the success or failure of your automated processes. 

As mentioned above, you might have more than one reason for automating specific tasks—that’s okay. However, it’s important to prioritize your goals as you can use these priorities later to evaluate whether new or different automation is necessary. 

Document the Automation Workflow, Tools, and Evaluation Process

It’s essential to document the automation workflow, tools, and evaluation process so you can scale as needed.

Create a master document or database for all the automation you implement, the goal of each automation, the required software or tool, and how you will evaluate the automation. If automation is new for you, you should start mapping out the steps that go into the process, how and why those steps are necessary, and where the points of failure are.

Validate New Automations Before You Invest

In theory, automating a new employee training program sounds like a beautiful idea. However, it may be too complex, cumbersome, or impersonal in practice. Validate your automation ideas before you rush out to buy the latest automation software or tools. 

This validation might include documenting all of the steps needed for the automation, using a free trial period of a potential solution to test the automation, running a pilot program, or some combination of these. Measure the time that your team can potentially save or the possible cost reduction against the investment of the tools before moving forward. 

Final Thoughts

Automation marketing is crucial for any business with a growth mindset and scaling ambitions. When it comes to lead generation, social media posts, email follow-ups, and customer support, automation can reduce your workload and allow you to focus on tasks that require intricate work and personalized effort.

The bottom line is that if you’re doing it manually right now, there’s probably an opportunity to automate it. Work with your team to identify where further automation is possible, document your automation strategies, and consistently review the results and metrics.