Marketing automation platforms are not the holy grail

Marketing automation - not the holy grail

As the country looks towards economic recovery, many brands are looking to cut costs wherever they can. CFO’s are challenging marketing budgets like never before – ensuring that return is being delivered for every dollar spent.

Martech will be at the top of that list. Whilst marketing automation platforms are great enablers to have a conversation with your customers, they really only provide part of the solution.

Making sure that you send the right message to the right customers, at the right time requires much more than just technology.

The number one pain for 73% of marketing automation platform users is maintaining the right personnel to execute it effectively¹. When working with brands we often see the best-in-class platforms, however no-one knows or has the resources to effectively use them, so most end up doing blast emails to all subscribers/customers, a basic platform could do that…’s like buying a fancy sports car and keeping it tucked away in the garage.

Jim Collins, author of the number 1 bestseller ‘Good to Great’² (a book which examines why some companies make the leap to superior results), claims that when technology is used correctly it can become an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it. We fully agree, technology may be an accelerator, but it can also become a distractor. 

The value of marketing automation platforms

No-one can argue the value marketing automation platforms can potentially bring to an organisation. How they manage, schedule and personalise millions of customer communications really does take a lot of the pain away for marketers. There are countless available today – some of them extremely advanced. But…….do these platforms really add more value to your business, or are they, in fact, an operational nightmare?

Whilst effective, they can be fairly complex to set up, you need a very specialist skill set to implement them, not to mention the expense they bring – inclusive of the person(s) employed to manage it. All of this before you have even begun to consider how you want to use marketing automation in the first place. We shared an article earlier this year ‘Salesforce, a waste of time and money?‘, which referenced a quote by McDonald’s former CMO, Mark Lollback “I think we’re all guilty, and I say this as a marketing guy, I think we’re all guilty [of] chasing down the next Holy Grail that’s going to solve our business problems. I got the sales pitch, I bought it, we execute it, total waste of time. We wound it back, and said ‘That was a waste of $3m”. He even went as far as saying “we blew $3m down the toilet”.

Whilst analysing the great companies for his book ‘Good to Great’, Jim Collins discovered that more than 80% of the leading companies didn’t rank technology as one of the top five factors for making a company great.

So, how much of your marketing budget is dedicated to technology? More than your customer retention strategy? If so, perhaps it’s time for a budget review.

How to successfully utilise marketing automation platforms


1. Put the customer first

This is first and foremost. It’s easy to be distracted by investing in technology, rather than spending your time thinking about the original purpose. There is a real need to bring it back to the customer. How will the technology help you continue the original conversation with the customer? It’s important you think of this from the customer perspective, not from the business perspective – how can you add value to the customer to drive value? 

2. Have a clear strategy

Why invest in something if you’ve got no idea how you are going to use it. According to a Marketing Automation Strategy Survey, marketers find ‘having a lack of strategy’ as the most challenging obstacle to marketing automation success³. Think back to your customer objectives, and how marketing automation can help you meet them. 

3. Involve the right people

Not only will you need to have the right mix and level of expertise contributing to the strategy, but you’ll also need the best talent to successfully implement the platform and the scale to support the ongoing management of it i.e. data engineers, developers, strategic marketers and IT support. The entire process can be complicated, even to those qualified for the job.

4. Be realistic

By this we mean be realistic in the capabilities you need the platform to deliver. Don’t get caught up in the need to have the latest, shiny new tool – more often than not, a better fit-to-purpose platform will likely provide the same output (at a fraction of the cost). 


There are certainly many advantages of having a marketing automation platform to support your customer communications and engagement. However, to fully reap the benefits, you must put the customer at the centre and have an effective strategy in place.

Think about how you are using your existing automation platform, are you genuinely continuing the conversation with your customers? Do you have the right level of expertise contributing to the strategy and management of the platform for it to deliver its full potential? Don’t waste valuable marketing budget by sending irrelevant communications to your customers. If you’re going to invest in marketing automation, consider the four steps outlined above during the decision making process. 

Customology are specialists in customer lifecycle management. Contact a Customologist today on 1300 264 549 or for more information on how we can support the design, execution and management of your marketing automation.

Our specialist team of data scientists, data engineers, developers and marketers act as an extension of your existing team, saving you valuable time and potentially unnecessary investment.

¹ Aberdeen Group

² Jim Collins, Good to Great

³ Marketing Automation Strategy Survey

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