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Breaking Down the Barriers to Marketing Automation Success

By Ben Adams


Companies are making strong investments in marketing automation services in 2017 and rightfully so as it is becoming one of the most critical elements to aid in a company’s overall success online. Many companies now refer to marketing automation as the backbone of their web presence.

With roughly 70% of companies increasing their marketing budgets in 20171, why is it that only 10% of marketers plan to purchase marketing automation platforms in 2017? Let’s take a closer look at the reasons that brands give for why they aren’t ready to move forward with marketing automation.

A study by Ascend2 broke down the top 7 barriers to success with marketing automation. Below is the chart showing each:

The Barriers to Marketing Automation Success

These reasons are all valid. However, many should not be considered barriers, but rather hurdles that are easily overcome by partnering with a marketing automation agency. Whether it is through consulting and education of employees, setup, or having the partner onboard to run the marketing automation platform and slowly transferring the knowledge across to the internal teams, working with an experienced agency can eliminate many of the hurdles listed above. Don’t believe us? Let’s break down each hurdle to determine how valid they really are.

1. Lack of an Effective Strategy

Marketing automation platforms, otherwise known as MAPs, are complex, but they are built that way to ensure success when used correctly. One method that can lead to success without an overarching strategy is to use the system in small segments. Perhaps, you want to run pay-per-click advertising campaigns out of AdWords and you want to use the MAP for landing pages. You can design and develop different variations of landing pages to test campaign effectiveness without an overarching strategy and have successful outcomes. Or maybe your company has a strong email list and you simply want to leverage the email system to send more personalized emails. This is relatively easily to accomplish in a siloed situation with a MAP without having to engage the entire system. Lastly, perhaps you just want to upload your contact list and assign them to a demand generation pipeline that you can monitor closely over time to make notes on activity as the contacts build a lead score.

These are just a few scenarios that can be accomplished without an entire strategy in place. Marketing automation isn’t always tied to strategy, but it can be intimidating if you don’t know how to implement it in its simplest form, which brings us to number 2 on the list.

2. Complexity of System

This is probably the most valid barrier on the list, but as noted above, when taken in smaller segments, it doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. The elements of a website, an ad campaign, or a social media engagement are all equally vexing if you don’t have the right people behind the wheel. With an agency partner, you get to leverage expertise on all levels, both within marketing automation strategies and techniques as well as how to use other digital marketing and media techniques to feed the automation platform.

Additionally, these platforms all have support staff that can help you through the vetting and onboarding process, which can alleviate a lot of the headaches of trying to set it up yourself. Understanding that there is a logical road map to follow and that success is achieved over time can take some of the pressure off thinking everything must be perfect at inception.

3. Inadequate Contact Data Quality

This is a hurdle if you want to leverage certain aspects of the system, but it should never be considered a barrier to implementing or seeing success within a MAP overall. Contact data quality is pervasive regardless of channel; email, website, marketing automation, and account-based marketing can all suffer when your list quality is poor or archaic. Marketing automation implementation can actually help you rebuild a quality list based on regaining interest from your audience and also adding to it with unique content offerings gated by sign-up forms.

Don’t let list quality stop you from walking down the path of marketing automation, as that is a small aspect of the benefits of what marketing automation can do for your business.

4. Lack of Employee Skills

This is definitely a hurdle and not a barrier. Because marketing automation is as new as it is, it presents challenges to any organization. However, there is intensive training offered by all platforms and certifications for employees to obtain at all levels. Swell Media works with many companies where training is a part of the package and that education benefits both sides as it makes the internal team stronger and allows us to be more strategic and consultative to move the utilization of the system to higher levels more effectively and efficiently.

5. Lack of Relevant Content

We find this to be one of the biggest challenges companies face and this truly is a barrier. Content is the backbone of any demand generation program, especially one that involves marketing automation. It is crucial to have content production as a steady stream. There are several types of content that must be consistently produced to run with marketing automation; email, landing pages, gated assets, blog posts, social posts, etc. Keeping ahead of the needs of these is where most programs fall down, but we find that just implementing robust editorial calendars helps considerably with content production as well as organization and curation. Leading your content production with an overarching strategy that guides the entire year can help stay on track and take the guesswork out of create content.

6. Marketing/Sales Alignment

This is not mission critical and should never be a barrier to success utilizing marketing automation. Yes, it does add tremendous benefit to the system when you can qualify a lead through an aligned approach, but lead scoring built with key stakeholders from marketing and sales can help this alignment. Additionally, you have custom pipelines that can be built out that can marry marketing and sales and the system can help determine when an MQL becomes an SQL. Sales driven organizations and product-centric organizations leverage MAPs better than many marketing driven organizations. Marketing can function as an extension of the sales department, it’s getting both to realize the value each bring to the table that gains the traction needed to succeed with marketing automation.

7. Budget Constraints

Budget constraints are an area we see with almost every client. Marketing, many times, is viewed as a cost and not an investment for many organizations and this is the wrong way to look at it. When you can consistently show positive ROI from a demand generation program, the purse strings should loosen and allow for growth within your program. There are clear paths to success within marketing automation that when adhered to can produce measurable and meaningful results that have true business impact. Marketing automation systems come in all ranges of price structure and there is ample opportunity to start small and let the system grow with the organization’s success.


Marketing automation is a clear path to success, and it can be undertaken in any number of ways that change barriers into hurdles. The opportunities it offers clearly outweigh the risks. When done properly, companies can achieve enormous success and continually fill their pipeline with business while trimming costs and creating massive efficiencies. The biggest hurdle sometimes is just getting started, but Swell Media can help.

Contact us to learn more about how marketing automation can be leveraged to help your business succeed.


1 Source: State of Marketing Technology 2017, published by chiefmartec.com and Walker Sands Communications
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By Ben Adams

Director of Sales & Marketing