Tech 7

9 Common Marketing Automation Friction Points

not getting the results your want? we look at some common causes


Have your automation dreams come true? 

Plenty of providers are selling seamless, simple, stress-free automation – without setting you up for ongoing success. They sell you a platform but not the underlying scaffolding required to make it run smoothly. The result? Organisations make significant investments in marketing tech, only to miss the promised ROI. It’s a recipe for frustration. 


what's the holdup? 

So, your flash new tech isn’t delivering the sales boost you imagined. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve bought a very expensive lemon. Excellent marketing automation relies on a confluence of factors, including seamless access to data, human capacity, efficient working methods and a commitment to continual improvement. If those factors aren’t in harmony, you won’t get the results you want. Even one relatively minor issue could harm your automation efforts.

Of course, identifying the core issues can be challenging. Most businesses find it hard to name the dysfunction. Nobody wants to admit fault or be the one to point out that entrenched ways of working, well, no longer work. Getting your business to a point where you can comfortably raise issues without finger-pointing or blame is the first step.

Just as there’s no single marketing platform or tech solution that works for every business, there’s no single reason for automation to flounder. But there are some common threads – so if you’re having issues, here’s where to start looking.


Databaseright data, right shape, right time, right place

Automation runs on data, but not just any data. It’s about having the right data available in the right shape – that is, in a format that feeds into your system – at the right time. In retail, being able to surface data when and where you need it is crucial – but not always easy, even if you have a high-tech automation system in place.

Without suitable digital plumbing feeding into your system, you can’t personalise marketing as precisely as you would like. The customer experience, instead of being seamless, becomes patchy and inconsistent – not exactly a recipe for soaring sales.

For example, your marketing platform can send personalised emails based on customer browsing data, helping you turn sales opportunities into conversions. But if you don’t have browsing data available – or if it’s not accessible when you need it – there’s no way to use that feature. So, instead of deep personalisation in real-time, you’re stuck with the same old broad-brush email segmentation.    


missing links and manual processes

Manual processes can also be an obstacle to streamlined data access. For example, some businesses have the data and the automation platform but lack the tech to link the two smoothly. Instead of data surfacing when and where it’s needed, staff need to manually transfer or input data into the automation system.

Staff spend more time configuring and reworking data to make it fit, so your system can’t work to its potential.


surfacing solutions

How do you mould data into the right shape and pipe it to the right places? It’s about having the proper plumbing to support your automation platform. Data pipelines that pull data from one system to another and data engineering to make it usable, depending on your tech stack and requirements, ensure it all hangs together.

The bad news? Your internal IT team may not be right for the job. They may not have the time to take on new work or the skills needed to tinker with complex systems and databases. In many cases, internal teams also lack the outside expert’s wider view and marketing eye. They may be able to provide quick fixes or jerry-rig a pipeline but won’t have the experience to see how all the moving parts connect. Help from an outside expert could give you the perspective you need.


Communitylimited capacity, limited results

Want to go faster and do more? It’s not just about the tech. While automation can help reduce the manual work needed to manage your marketing, you still need people who know what they’re doing. A lack of human capacity will limit your ability to leverage marketing tech, no matter how sophisticated.

For a few reasons, this can be more complicated than it seems.


staff movement

These days, people don’t get a job at 20 and stick with it for 50 years. Instead, the average worker has around 12 jobs in their lifetime, spending roughly 4.3 years with each employer. People come and go, and you can lose an automation expert anytime. So, if you rely on a single person to oversee your martech systems, you’re taking a considerable risk.

Marketing tech experts can also be hard to find, making it difficult to replace team members when they do leave. In the long run, this can lead to too many gaps and lags in your delivery as you scramble to replace staff. Instead of upping automation capacity and improving the customer experience, you spend time training and retraining as staff come and go.


spreading the load

How do you ensure continuity despite staff movement and market limitations? It’s about spreading the load within your business and building capacity before you need it. Instead of relying on one expert team member to guide the rest, train multiple staff members and give them opportunities to build experience. Then, if a single employee does leave, you’ll have people with the skills and expertise on hand to keep things running.  


Graph 2inefficient ways of working

Did you revamp your tech but forget to update your processes? It’s more common than you might think. Even with the most up-to-date tech and seamless data delivery, time-consuming and inefficient processes can drag your marketing outcomes down.

With inefficient ways of working, there’s no linear relationship between the effort it takes to perform a task and the results it delivers. This means your team can spend significant time on tasks that don’t drive sales, eating into the time they must spend on work that adds value.


finding efficient ways of working

Efficient ways of working don’t have to be fully automated and may not involve automation at all. Instead, efficiency is about reducing the number of steps and people involved in a process.

For example, a marketing team uses a system that involves approval from multiple stakeholders for each piece of content. Every time an email is written, or a post is created, these stakeholders must see and sign off before it can move forward. This creates bottlenecks – if a single team member leaves the office early or misses an email, an approval must wait for hours or days, slowing the content creation process significantly. To make this process more efficient, they could reduce the number of people involved in approvals, set up automated reminders to reduce missed requests, or build checks earlier in the process so higher-level people can sign off work more quickly.


working on ways of working

There’s no one pathway to efficiency in marketing automation. Every business will have its own set of long-held processes, beliefs about who needs to be involved, and roadblocks to leap over. Simple as it may sound, the key is thinking about your way of working instead of mindlessly following old processes. If your business has a framework for change and an approach that values staff input and flexibility, process improvement becomes a long-term journey instead of a one-off update.


Graph 4taking results for granted

You implement a new platform, start using new strategies, and see a quick uptick in your marketing results – great, right? Well, yes and no. While initial results can come quickly, ongoing success isn’t quite so simple. Marketing automation works best when it’s driven by continual testing and adjustment – so if you want long-term results, this attitude needs to be part of your framework.


keep it light

At Datamine, we use a super lightweight approach to testing new techniques. Trialling a new approach? Start with the smallest possible iteration of the concept before you scale up – for example, try sending emails at a new time to a very small group of consumers. Then, if it shows promise, invest in automating and improving. If it doesn’t, you haven’t wasted time or resources on the idea. It’s a framework that lets you test and trial continuously, making thousands of tiny tweaks and improvements as you go.

make time for improvement

It’s easy to talk about continual improvement – but more challenging to put it into practice in a busy workplace. Commit to improvement by setting a weekly or fortnightly time when your team can pitch ideas. While, as with everything in marketing, concepts need to link back to metrics and business goals, make sure your team knows that all ideas are welcome. Be disciplined about testing, too – it’s far too easy to let a new idea fade into the background when you’re working on other things.

Abacusthe scalability struggles

Building and maintaining predictive models that help drive sales is difficult enough on a small scale and becomes even more so if you want to scale up. What works with a small sample group of consumers could be unwieldy and inefficient with your entire consumer base.

The trick? Focus on speed and efficiency first. This means using automation to super-charge some areas, and then building complexity over time. When you’ve built, trialled and tested thoroughly, you’ll be better prepared to add functionality at scale.


modelling is key

Predictive modelling can drive incredible value, but it needs space to work. This means an environment outside your live production space where you can build and test models before you deploy them. With this sort of testing framework, you can introduce complexity without affecting your day-to-day. Again, it’s about unlocking the value of automation without doing too much too fast.


moving towards frictionless marketing automation

Automation is sold as a magic bullet for marketers – but it’s just another tool in the marketer’s toolbox. Although automation platforms can offer powerful results, they’re still affected by other forces in your business – your existing tech, data pipelines, staff ability, process management and attitude to change. If these aspects of your business aren’t performing at their peak, your automation efforts will likely underperform as well.

What’s the answer? First, take a clear-eyed, honest look at how your business works. Old software, outdated data management, slow processes, lack of staff – are these the reasons automation isn’t paying off? Find those friction points, and you’ll find the beginning of your path to automation improvement.

Need guidance on your improvement journey? Datamine can help. Get in touch to talk it through.

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