3 Mistakes You Can (And Must) Avoid for a Successful Marketing Automation Deployment


Marketing automation tools are all the rage these days.  As organizations become more and more digitally focused, you may feel like you are being left behind if you don’t have a cutting-edge Marketing Automation tool.  Don’t get me wrong, they can be powerful tools that are capable of helping transform your business through increased relevance in today’s digital economy.  However, when selecting and implementing one of these solutions, you have to make sure you are prepared.  Like any software implementation, the proper strategy and planning are the most critical aspects in ensuring success.  Without these, there’s a good chance you will be left in no better position… and thousands of dollars poorer.

In my 12+ years in this industry, I’ve seen a lot of mistakes made when it comes to these implementations – and trust me, they are easy to make.  Oftentimes, I’ve been brought in after a buying decision was already made.  The terms of the agreement are in place, yet no one knows what to do next – So we are asked to help get the tool up and running.

Today, I’m going to walk through some of the most common mistakes made when selecting and deploying (or at least trying to deploy) a new Marketing Automation tool.  I will dive into these mistakes and what to do about them in more detail in future blogs.  It’s worth noting that these issues are not isolated to the implementation of Marketing Automation tools. They really can apply broadly to many different types of implementations, but in the last few years I have noticed them with increasing frequency in the Marketing Automation realm.  They can lead to a number of residual issues, including:

  • Inability to use the tool in the most effective manner due to poor design/planning
  • Increased technical complexity to make the product work
  • Project timeline being extended
  • Additional cost due to changing requirements/rework
  • Project abandonment

As you can see, none of these issues are ideal.  And it is true, I’ve seen several projects entirely abandoned after it was determined (usually months down the road) that it just wouldn’t work.  In most scenarios, these outcomes are avoidable with the proper approach.  Without further ado, here are what I see as the most common (and damaging) mistakes that are made when implementing a Marketing Automation tool.

Mistake 1: Failure to understand your own processes (and then communicate those to your vendor)

All too often I’ve seen my clients get seduced by the “wow” factor of new tools.  This is understandable, some of these tools can do fantastic things, but can your businesses’ processes work within this new tool?

The first step to any successful project is to understand your process.  Usually, the best way to do this is to map them out and get consensus on them.  And don’t stop at your current process.  Once you’ve mapped out your current processes, spend some time defining your future process as well.

This may sound a little daunting, but there is a reason you are undertaking this new project – so it shouldn’t take too much work to provide some definition around what you want your new processes to be.  Sometimes it just means simply taking the time to sit down and map them out.

Lastly, it is critical that you communicate these processes well to any potential vendor.  This requirement goes hand-in-hand with the 2nd mistake (requirements definition).  The most effective way to alleviate both of these problems is to have a resource who understands your business, and what makes it successful – as well as the basics of how things work under the hood.  Without this resource, you are relying on your vendor to understand your needs and translate those into a working solution.

Mistake 2: Your requirements were not properly defined, documented, and communicated

This mistake is very similar to the first one.  However, this has more to do with the nitty-gritty of exactly what you need to be able to do and how you need to be able to do it.  Properly documented requirements are rare, and yet, extremely important.  They dramatically increase the chances for success, and also provide accountability for both you and the vendor.

Here is a list of a some of the major requirements specific to Marketing Automation that I’ve seen cause problems in the past:

  • Send performance – how fast can the tool send 10,000 emails?  Does each send get queued and only start once the previous send stops, or can they happy simultaneously?
  • IP address configuration – does the tool support multiple send IP’s?
  • Deliverability management – who manages sender reputation and deliverability? How?
  • Reporting/BI – what do you need in terms of reporting and business intelligence?  Is there access to the database, or do you have to use built in query/reporting tools to get to the data?
  • API/SDK – how extensible is the solution?  In the event that customization is needed, how easy is it to make these customizations and what skillset is required to make the changes you need?
  • Split testing – what type of split testing do you do?  What do you want to be able to do?
  • Data structure – does the data structure map well to how you represent your data today?  If not, is there a clear path to make it work?
  • Segmentation – possibly the most important thing on this list… What type of flexibility do you have to pull lists.  I’ve seen many projects derailed because it wasn’t possible to pull a list the way the customer needed to, which leads me to my next mistake…

Mistake 3: Integration with other business systems was an afterthought

One of the most critical and common mistakes is not thinking about the hand-off of data between your marketing automation system and other business systems – often your CRM solution.  It’s easy to say you want it to just be a clean hand-off and once it’s in your marketing database you’ll manage it there and the other systems don’t need to worry about it.  But it’s rarely this simple.

Most businesses will want to promote records to your business system once they’ve reached a certain point, but also want information to be simultaneously updated in both systems as they are modified.  Some users will be using your marketing platform (marketers), while others will likely be using other systems (sales and operations), and they both may be updating records with information that will be relevant in each respective system.

As you can see, it is critical that the proper planning is done to define things such as, where/when does data originate?  When is it passed to another system?  Is there 2-way integration to update these records or is one system updating the other?  How often does the integration run?

There are many things to consider when deploying a marketing automation solution.  These are just scratching the surface.  The most important aspect of these projects is to have a resource who can speak your language and also understand the technical components of both the marketing tool and your internal systems.  If you don’t have this person in house, don’t be afraid to get help.  Your marketing automation vendors are going to try to fill this gap, but they also arent going to slow down the sales process, so many times it makes sense to seek outside help with this.

As challenging as this sounds, have no fear.  With the proper planning and selection process, a Marketing Automation solution can help you transform your business – just don’t take any shortcuts, or you will likely pay for them.  Get help if you need to.  After all, your business depends on it.


Andrew Ford

About Andrew Ford

Andrew is a solution architect with a deep understanding of the key success factors for CRM/ERP projects and a strong forward thinking vision of data architecture and process design. Having worked on hundreds of projects spanning almost any industry, as well as a former IT leader within an organization, he will bring a wealth of knowledge, leadership, and experience to any situation. Andrew's passion is helping clients use technology to solve the real business problems that they are facing.

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