7 Marketing Automation Fails (and How to Avoid Frustration)

December 16th, 2019

Marketing automation platforms—the swiss army knives of marketing—supposedly let you do it all. 

They allow you to send out beautiful emails, coordinate social media campaigns, track customer behavior across all marketing channels, play nice with your CRM and give you all the reporting you need.  

Yet marketers often have a love-hate relationship with their marketing automation software.

We hear complaints like:

 “To be able to use its features to the fullest, it requires experienced developers and can be difficult for new users to learn.” 

“[There are] no tutorials for new users.”

“Reporting on a few key metrics of campaigns could have been more intuitive and straightforward.”

These pain points are very real for marketers. 

Knowing this, we took detailed information from over 6,000 reviews and 200 survey responses from marketing automation software users and put it all together in the 2019 Buyers Guide to Marketing Automation

Not only does this guide give buyers a detailed breakdown of the 7 most reviewed marketing automation tools, but it also highlights what marketers find frustrating about their platforms. 

We discuss what those marketing automation software fails are and what you can do to avoid them.

1.  Organizations lack trained professionals to effectively use the tool

Marketing automation tools are robust, but they aren’t always user-friendly. Marketers often complain that their tool is difficult to use out-of-the-box, that there aren’t enough training resources, and that onboarding and implementation can be a very slow process. 

“The platform requires high maintenance. So you’d need to make sure to have an agency partner or in-house developers to help implement and configure the platform.”

~Verified User | Manager in Marketing | Sports Company

To get the most out of your solution, you will likely want three things: IT folks on your team to support implementation, awesome customer support from the vendor and accessible training resources (tutorials, onboarding material, a supportive online community, and so on). 

2. Personalization isn’t always what it’s made out to be

Personalization has been a trend in marketing for a long time now. If you go on any marketing automation vendor website, you will see personalization listed as a key feature for their tool. 

And while tools do offer personalized email and dynamic content, marketers aren’t always satisfied. 

When putting together our Buyer’s Guide, we found that only 42% of marketers felt that their solution could do everything they wanted it to regarding personalization. The majority of users felt that their platform facilitated personalization to some degree — but it wasn’t everything they needed. 

“Drip marketing (sending emails based Lead Age / Lead Staleness) can be difficult to setup ideally; I would like to see more robust business logic for triggering events based on the staleness/duration spend on leads stuck in a stage.”

~ Verified User | Partner in Consumer Services Company

When you set out to choose a new marketing automation tool, explore what specific features the vendor offers regarding personalization. 

Consider features like AI-powered emails, dynamic content, triggered emails, segmentation, nurture campaigns and more. You may need to talk directly to a salesperson to cut through the marketing jargon. 

3. Artificial Intelligence is up and coming, but not fully here

Artificial intelligence is gaining traction in marketing automation. This technology is enabling greater personalized content recommendations based on lead behavior, predictive lead scoring, and the development of more accurate buyer personas. 

Even though AI has the potential to create higher-performing campaigns, 32% of respondents in our research were unsure of the impact of AI on their marketing campaigns. 

Though AI isn’t inherently a bad thing, it can be hard to use and impractical if you don’t have the necessary support. 

“The ability to be so granular and customizable can be a hindrance to new users.” 

~ Verified User | Employee in Information Technology | Marketing and Advertising Company

AI can be very useful—or it can be too complicated for users to implement.

4. Predictive lead scoring requires clean and bountiful data

Predictive lead scoring is very sexy these days; it helps marketers see where leads are in the marketing funnel based on past conversions. This is very useful when designing drip campaigns and determining when it is time to reach out to a lead. 

The catch with predictive lead scoring is that it requires a ton of high-quality data to be accurate and worth the investment. Many companies may not have this type of data yet.

Only 38% of our respondents said they would be using predictive lead scoring by 2020 and about half were unsure if they would be using this feature.

Even though this is a cool feature offered by many vendors, it will only make sense for companies that have the right data in place.

5. Lack of integration with other tools and databases (especially CRMs)

It would make sense that your marketing automation platform and your CRM work seamlessly together— when marketing and sales teams work together, the result is more effective lead scoring and nurturing. 

But the reality is that many solutions don’t integrate with CRMs the way marketers and salespeople want them to. 

Integrations between the marketing automation solution and other tools and internal databases can also be limited. 

“I am currently having an issue trying to find an adapter to use with Eloqua to API into our data warehouse but keep the functionality on the Eloqua side.”

~ Verified User | Manager in Marketing | Banking Company

Not every marketing automation tool lacks necessary integrations. To avoid this frustration, it pays off to research available integrations and APIs ahead of time. It is necessary to ask vendor representatives questions about APIs, pre-built integrations and how the tool works with your CRM (or CRMs) of choice. 

6. Reporting capabilities are limited

Reporting and analytics are critical for building successful campaigns across digital channels. Marketers need to know where they are performing well, what content is leading to sales and how customers are behaving. 

Though marketing automation tools promise reporting capabilities, marketers consistently cite this as a sore spot. 

“I have yet to see an automation tool with strong reporting… The reports are not very customizable, you can’t filter out for things like previously imported leads, and their landing page/form reports are extremely unreliable.”

~ Verified User | Manager in Marketing | Hospital & Health Care Company

Often, marketing automation tools provide basic reporting capabilities. More advanced analytics, on the other hand, require additional payment. Consider what reporting capabilities you need and what you are willing to pay for them.

7. Complicated email, landing page, & forms/survey builders 

The lack of user-friendly email, landing page, and form builders may come as a surprise. After all, these builders are the cornerstone of marketing automation tools. Yet, many marketers say that email, landing page, and form builders within their tools are not user-friendly.

“Generally the tools for page and email creation are not particularly user friendly when it comes down to it. Something as simple as adding a text box in a specific place on an email or page can be a frustrating experience.”

~ Elena Zuyok | Vice President | Mirrix Tapestry and Bead Looms

Some tools are stronger in UX than others. If easy builders, editors, and templates are high priorities for you, focus your research on what users have to say about this specific topic.

How to Avoid Frustrations with your Marketing Automation Platform

No software solution is perfect. Vendors are constantly updating their products to make your life easier and your marketing campaigns top-notch—but in the meantime, the best ways to minimize these pain points are to:

  • Determine your priorities in a software, and 
  • Do your research.

Here at TrustRadius, we love geeking out on software and research, so we will leave you with some pro tips for meeting both points. 

1. Use filters when you read reviews.

You can filter reviews on TrustRadius by different characteristics—marketing role, type of industry, size of business, etc. You can also filter reviews ‘by topic.’ You can sort through topics, such as usability, implementation, online training, etc. 

Screenshot from the TrustRadius website's product review category, highlighting available filter options.

2. Look at our comparison tables of the 7 most researched marketing automation tools.

The 2019 Buyer’s Guide to Marketing Automation provides helpful charts to quickly understand top marketing automation tools. Here’s a sneak peak at one comparison table that gives scores based on top features. 

Table graph comparing several marketing automation tools by various axises. Follow link to Buyer's Guide for more details.
(Source: 2019 Buyer’s Guide to Marketing Automation)

3. Use our Marketing Automation Checklist for Buyers

Sorting through all the features in marketing automation software can make your head spin. 

Keep your research organized with this handy dandy marketing automation checklist for buyers. You can use this as is or use it as an inspiration for you own checklist.  

Looking for something simpler?

As a final note, maybe you realized marketing automation software isn’t exactly what you are looking for. 

Maybe you just want to create really amazing email campaigns (and not worry about all the other stuff). If that’s the case, exploring email marketing software is a great first step to getting your campaign off the ground. 

Marketing automation software was born from email marketing software, and ultimately, the two are very similar

The more research you do in either category, the better user experience you will have down the road.   

The bottom line is—the more time you spend on research (and reading trusted reviews), the more satisfied you will feel your software.