How I Made a $30K Marketing Automation Mistake

Marketing Automation Mistake

Is marketing automation necessary for your startup?

I once spent $30K on a marketing automation solution that was completely unnecessary.

It wasn’t my finest moment. So much so that I want to share share with other marketers—especially startups—because it was an expensive lesson that I don’t want others to repeat.

Now, before you get the idea that I’m a spendthrift, let me explain. It was in the early days of my marketing career, I was the marketing head for a startup and bound and determined to launch the business better and faster than anyone else could envision.

I had had previous experience with marketing automation at another company and naturally thought this small company could benefit from it too. I just thought it was something all companies needed.

But let me share the three problems with this thinking:

  1. No proper resources for implementation. At the time, I shared an engineering source and the marketing automation implementation was phased in at very long intervals. There was no real momentum and, frankly, the process was painful in its rollout.
  2. Not enough content to support the buying cycle. In startup life, sometimes the plans are bigger than the ability to deliver. We simply didn’t have the content ready to funnel into a marketing automation solution.
  3. Insufficient lead volume. Again, being a startup, we just didn’t have the leads coming in to justify a robust automation solution. A simple email platform like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor would have worked just fine at the time.

But before you get the wrong idea, my marketing automation efforts weren’t all for nothing at this company—I was just about a year and a half too early with rolling it out. And I could really have used that $30K somewhere else at the time. Hindsight is something, right?

So how do you know if your marketing infrastructure is ready for automation?

There are several elements that factor into a decision to launch a marketing automation solution. I encourage marketers to do this mental inventory before they even think about implementation.

  • Do you have consistent lead volume coming in on a weekly basis?
  • Do you have good forecasting projections?
  • Do you know your marketing/sales pipeline conversion rates? Where are the holes?
  • Do you have good marketing/sales processes and conversions?
  • Do you have content that supports the buyer’s journey (not just top of funnel)?
  • Do you have the internal resources to implement and support?
  • Do you have commitment from Sales, Product Marketing, Engineering, etc.?
  • Do you have a sustainable budget for the project?
  • Do you have a clear idea of what you want to measure?
  • Do you have an objective and hypothesis?

When you think you’re ready to sign that automation contract, you still may not be ready.

Map it out.

Write it down.

Share with other marketers.

Run it by sales, engineers, and other influencers in your company.

Be sure to explain the steps of the implementation as well as the day-to-day execution and metrics expectations. You don’t want any surprises when you can’t get support down the line.

You’ll also want to do an honest inventory of all your content pieces (think buyer’s journey and content map). What do you have available that you can put into the funnel? And don’t rely on future deliverables. It’s what you have now that counts.

I hope my $30K mistake shines some light on your marketing automation readiness. How did you make the decision you were ready to implement marketing automation? Share your comments below.

By Michelle Urban

Michelle Urban is the founder of Marketing 261, a digital agency for startups. With a hands-on, get-it-done attitude, she and her team focus on executing measurable plans to get real results. For over 15 years, she’s built scalable marketing programs for demand creation, lead generation, customer advocacy, and engagement. She’s also a wanna-be writer and weekend windsurfer who occasionally binge-watches Netflix. Ask her about the time she danced with Oprah and Beyoncé on live television.