What are some of the worst mistakes people can make with marketing automation? More than nine out of 10 marketers agree that marketing automation is “very important” to the overall success of their marketing across channels, but the problems start when marketers forget that automation isn't just about tools. Automation can’t replace goals or strategy. 

Last month, we covered the complicated journey from content through conversation right through to conversion. I highlighted the importance of personalization and understanding the customer journey — both key elements of marketing automation.  

Whether it’s asking people to buy a lawnmower they bought five minutes earlier, spamming them into hating your brand or apologizing to them on social media after they praise your product, there's no shortage of ways to go wrong with marketing automation. For the purposes of this post, I’ve limited myself to eight. 

1. Get as many marketing automation tools as possible and use them all straight away

Well, that may not be a bad idea, but don’t forget to create your strategy. Remember that they’re just tools, and it’s up to you to set measurable goals and a clear strategy for meeting them. Some of the best campaigns rely on just one or two great tools, which are used seamlessly across departments. Carry out some A/B tests to check which tools are actually going to make a difference for you. 

2. Entice people with a great giveaway, and then use their data for whatever you want

Not only is this immoral and corrosive to your brand, but EU laws (pdf), soon to be tightened, prohibit businesses from using data without explicit consent. That means that the onus will be on businesses to collect (and keep records for) ongoing consent. According to MailChimp, it’s wise to apply a double opt-in process for email subscriptions to make sure that your messages really are welcome. Measure engagement and prune your mailing list regularly to make sure you don’t earn a reputation for spamming. 

3. Adopt a best practice strategy and stick with it 

Whether it’s the best time to tweet or the minimum number of touch opportunities to engage with a prospect, never assume that you should blindly follow "best practice." Constantly refine your approaches to marketing automation. According to HubSpot, an accidental change of timing for an automated email at OverGo led to an increase of more than 10 percent in the open rate. Be ready to try new timings and techniques. 

4. Don’t concentrate on segmentation

Accurate segmentation can only be achieved with sufficient data, a clear understanding of your customers, and alignment between sales and marketing. Poor segmentation can result in epic fails like sending advertising for diapers to senior citizens. 

However, segmentation is a tricky area. Even when you have done the job well, you have to allow for the fact that your customers have more than one interest. Just because someone ordered a lot of horror books once doesn’t mean she’ll never read anything else. 

5. Don’t bother communicating with sales: you’re not responsible for their numbers

One of the biggest mistakes a marketing professional can make is monitoring the wrong numbers. Who cares how many people read your great white paper? An even more important question is: “Did it drive conversions and help your company achieve your sales goals?” If not, it’s a fail. 

According to Marketing Tech Blog, creating lead nurturing programs is a critical step in deploying marketing automation successfully, and one which can determine if your investment has been worth it or not.

6. Send someone information about something she’s just bought 

It seems obvious that if someone’s just bought a lawnmower, he’s not going to want another one. And yet, that’s exactly the mistake that direct marketing companies (including Amazon) make by suggesting items that other customers recently bought. Instead, use your learnings to cross-sell or upsell. He’s not likely to want a second lawnmower, but he may be interested in new seeds or even gardening classes. 

7. Set up personalization and forget it

It’s a fundamental element of your marketing strategy to segment your audiences so you can send personalized communications based on their interactions with you. However, people change, and so do their tastes. That means you have to use real-time data to build up more information about your audience, including the latest features they’ve used or viewed. Using real-time data to send relevant personalized emails leads to a 33 percent increase in click-through rates, according to Vero. 

8. Set up automated responses for social media interactions to show that your company cares 

It really depends on how carefully you set those responses. Domino’s managed a big Facebook fail in 2013 when a customer sent a happy message about her delicious pizza. Domino’s responded with a standard “I’m sorry” comment, which, not surprisingly, didn’t get any likes. In other words, marketing automation may be wonderful, but it has its limits. 

What are the worst marketing automation fails you’ve experienced? We’d love to see your comments. 

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