Michael Shearer

The Problem with Marketing Automation

By: Michael Shearer | December 22, 2015 | 
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The Problem with Marketing AutomationBy Michael Shearer

Freed from the shackles of working for marketing automation companies and agencies, I can finally come clean about the truth behind the highly touted and sought after software.

What I want to say about it, and the way it is sold, is apropos with the theme here at Spin Sucks.

There are two very big ideas that are core to the pitch of marketing automation.

They are:

  1. “You’ll love it” 
  2. “It does everything”

You’ll Love Marketing Automation

Clearly I’m simplifying the language used by marketing automation companies, but have you seen the convoluted way many vendors try to explain it?

Yes, the benefits of marketing automation are many: Improved efficiency and effectiveness in functional and financial areas.  That doesn’t happen overnight.

You won’t love it at first when bumping up against:

  • Push back from executives and sales staff not wanting to do things differently (this still happens, trust me)
  • Slower implementation time than planned
  • Initial failed campaigns from lack of product understanding/training or insufficient strategic planning
  • Bugs and other gotchas that aren’t in the provided documentation

I’m not against marketing automation. I grew to love it early on in my exposure to it. However, I still encounter many of these hurdles every time I launch a new project.

Considering it’s still very new to many people, I can understand any lack of love teams have with their first few go-arounds. Truth be told, though, many people and teams do see the potential quickly, even through the learning curves and growing pains.

It Does Everything

Alternatively put, “yes, it can do that” is practically a rallying cry for any marketing automation sales person trying to move a lead forward.

Fat chance.

I’m sure salespeople  who catch wind of this will deny, but I’ve heard spiels from ample people in this space. It’s an oxymoron to the finer principles of what the software truly can do.   

While many representatives and platforms may boost of features that seem to do everything, very often they are:

  1. Insufficient and far lacking compared to best in class solutions, e.g. social media management.
  2. Really require integration into a third party service (that is an additional expense).
  3. On the product roadmap, but spoken of like they “right around the corner” or currently exist. Many times then delivered late or not at all.
  4. Misrepresented by sales to try to close a deal (sometimes by mistake, sometimes knowingly).

For What It’s Worth

Aside from this spin you may encounter, if deployed and managed correctly, you can trust the marketing automation system you invest in to deliver better business results. And even the vendors who may seem to deliver spin, do provide viable marketing automation solutions.

Ultimately, you are better off doing a formal marketing automation selection project versus taking the word of vendors or review sites (their often compromised counterparts) directly.

Defining your business objectives and feature requirements, then vetting vendors that fit are critical steps toward your success with marketing automation.

image credit: shutterstock

About Michael Shearer


Michael Shearer is a veteran marketing technologist and Director of Marketing Operations for SelectHub. Michael has consulted on and delivered implementation and analysis work on hundreds of digital marketing projects for more than 75 businesses in both B2B and B2C markets. Aside from MarTech Operations, he is very busy raising his five children in the front range of Colorado.

  • AdamSinger

    ginidietrich michaelshearer SpinSucks MA tech works the only problem is not having the right talent.

  • ginidietrich

    AdamSinger I ended up buying a FitBit. I gave up my UP.

  • AdamSinger

    ginidietrich good, they are better and it isn’t expensive.

  • Michael, what questions do you think people should ask when trying to vet and decide on the right marketing automation platform for them?

  • Timely post Adam. I am at the decision making stage to implement a MA solution. Is native CRM integration as important as the vendors make it appear? For example, Pardot claims it has the best integration with Salesforce, because it was acquired by Salesforce. Where as Act-On says its integration into Salesforce is identical. Hubspot and Infusionsoft are taking the high road by claiming to provide “all-in-one” solutions, but their CRM functionality looks rudimentary.

  • michaelfshearer

    StickyBranding I think native integration to your CRM is critical, yes. Using an API/3rd party integration service will be more time consuming and generally less robust than the native integrations most MA platforms have built to this point. I concur with you on your assessment of Hubspot and Infusionsoft’s CRM functionality but they are also well funded and focused on improving CRM right now. I’ve seen better integrations than Pardot and Act-On’s with Salesforce as well.

  • michaelfshearer
  • JasonTheBowler

    “Alternatively put, “yes, it can do that” is a practically a rallying cry for any marketing automation sales person trying to move a lead forward.”
    Oh I read that and laughed and laughed and laughed.  I used to be tech support for a company, and somehow we wound up sitting next to the salespeople making their calls and pitches.  Hoo boy when we received the support calls asking “so why doesn’t our software do X like our sales rep promised?”  Too many times I had to very gently explain that while yes, the software would do what the salesperson promised – it would not do those particular leaps out of the box, and would take some serious tweaking and customizing to tailor it to that company’s needs.

  • Great article Michael, but fairly a bit short because I want to read more! I’m from a marketing agency in Melbourne (http://www.thenatives.com.au/). We’ve recently adopted SharpSpring and InfusionSoft for marketing automation, because clients approached use and requested automation. It’s a really new area to us so if you could point out any of your favorite blogs on automation, we’d love to know. Also I’ve found it very hard to come up with campaigns for B2C client, particularly a dental firm. All facebook ad we’ve been spending only brought back 2 leads! Do you have any advice on which industries we should approach to maximise results?

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