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There I was, catching up on some emails after my family vacation (where I actually unplugged from work for what feels like the first time all year!) when I got an email that made me pause and re-think my entire 2016 marketing plan.

The email was from a well-known marketing company that you’ve likely heard of – and I usually love their content. The subject line read: “The deadline to complete our survey is this Friday.”

The only problem?
I filled out that survey last week.

When Marketing Automation Fails

No big deal? As a digital marketer, these types of easy marketing automation fails are a big deal for me. Why? I’ll steal a line from Justin Trudeau (and amend it slightly) by saying “Because it’s 2016.”

There are too many other companies vying for your audience’s attention to make mistakes like this one.

And that’s when I started re-thinking the marketing plan that I was working on for 2016 and realizing that in addition to producing more of the right content for PTPA, I also needed to make sure that the distribution of that content was tailored to the audience receiving it.

Simply put: I needed to make sure that the right people are getting the right emails at the right time – so that my company’s mistake never becomes the lead to someone else’s LinkedIn post!

Whether you’re thinking about using marketing automation in your company for 2016 or are already using it but not seeing the results you expect, ask yourself if you’re making any of these five marketing automation mistakes.

 1. Isolated Marketing

One of the core tenets of successful inbound marketing is the power of smarketing – the fusion of sales and marketing. Too many companies implement marketing automation software without considering the effect it will have on other departments.

Your sales and customer success teams especially need to be included in the process so that there is a consistent experience to turn your website visitor into a prospect, lead, customer and eventually advocate.

2. No One to Manage It

Work on a small team where you wear many hats? Join the club J

Today, I’m writing a brief for an ebook; tomorrow, I’m working with a designer on our new app or working with our project manager on a promotion plan for our next Twitter party. It’s easy for marketing automation to fall to the wayside but if I let it, then I’ll end up making mistakes like the marketing company I spoke about in the first paragraph.

Before you implement a new software, you need to develop a plan that includes: who manages it, what tasks will be involved, what content and programs you’ll need to automate and what success looks like.

 3. The Wrong Software

There’s no big difference between Coke and Pepsi, right? Wrong! Just ask a Pepsi-lover and they’ll start ranting about the taste differences between these two drinks.

The same goes with marketing automation: there are lots of companies to choose from, with some of the more popular ones being Marketo, Eloqua and HubSpot, but you have to understand the pros and cons of each before you can choose the one that works for you.

4. No Long Term Plan

If you start using marketing automation because “everybody else is doing it” and you’re afraid you’ll fall behind, you’ll end up implementing it without having a clear vision or long-term plan that will be inefficient and cost you time and money.

For example, you may choose a basic program now without realizing that in two years you want to test out segmentations and targeting that your current program can’t do. Switching to a new marketing automation system is a real hassle (I’ve done it – and you really want to get it right the first time).

5. Failing to Understand the Bigger Picture

I sometimes see marketers talking about marketing automation as the “be end and end all” but it’s not – it is one piece of the puzzle. You can’t implement marketing automation and wonder why your open rate is still low or why your website is not getting the traffic you expect.

There are so many other factors to consider – such as your industry, your buyer personas and the content you have. Don’t focus all your attention on automation without plugging in the other holes first.

As a digital marketer who has been using marketing automation since the very beginning, I know how powerful a tool it can be to make sure you communicate with your audience at the right time, with the right content.

I challenge all marketers to make 2016 the year they automate smarter and harder – let’s do it!