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20 Marketing Automation Mistakes You Could Be Making (And How to Fix Them)

Written by Tien Dinh on November 27, 2018 at 7:58 AM

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Before we get started, let me say this: making mistakes is part of learning how to do anything well.

That being said, it’s time to take a closer look at your marketing automation strategy to see if you’re making any of these common mistakes. Knowing what you’re doing wrong is also a vital part of learning how to do something well.

And don’t worry, we won’t leave you hanging. We’ve got a solution for every mistake on the list.

Mistake 1: Starting without a plan.

You’re excited about playing with your new toy – I get it. But a great strategy needs to be the foundation of your marketing automation campaigns. Before you start blasting out emails and assigning roles, take time to develop and finesse a content and lead generation strategy.

Our tip: Try out our marketing automation campaigns worksheet for some help with developing goals.

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Mistake 2: Feeling like you have to start with huge campaigns.

Maybe you’re nervous about getting started. It can feel like a lot of planning and pressure to perform well when you’re thinking about your campaigns in terms of giant workflows and alternate paths for every subscriber type.

Our tip: Instead of thinking about it as a giant project, get started with a single email and an automated follow-up, and see how that goes. Move from that into a bigger campaign. You don’t need to have a “go big or go home” mentality to do well with marketing automation. Try creating one of the three most common automated campaigns as a first step.

Mistake 3: Not integrating with your database.

If your marketing automation tool is currently a lone ranger, data-wise, you need to integrate with your database…like, now. Your database needs to be the hub for your marketing automation software. Without integration, your tool won’t be able to communicate back and forth with your database, you won’t be able to create personalized experiences based on your database knowledge, and you won’t be getting the full value from your investment.

Our tip: Again, start small. You should bring in as much data as you think you’ll need during the integration, but then, you can hone in on a few usable pieces of data to improve your marketing automation campaigns.

Mistake 4: Continuing to batch and blast.

Email marketing is a piece of marketing automation, but marketing automation improves email marketing’s features exponentially. Email marketing software is a great tool for sending mass communications, but with marketing automation, you gather behavioral data you need to personalize your campaigns to each subscriber based on their interests.

Our tip: Segmented lists (with less than 500 subscribers) perform much better in opens and clicks than giant, unsegmented lists. So, stop batch n’ blasting and start personalizing!

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Mistake 5: Focusing on quantity instead of quality.

When you’ve got marketing automation, you don’t need to send multiple emails or a newsletter that covers every topic of interest to your entire audience. You’ve got your bases covered with workflows personalized by behavioral data, so you can focus on sending the right message at the right time to the right person, instead of mass communications.

Our tip: The data your customers or members produce is the information you need to make what they receive relevant. Learn more about creating those personalized experiences.

Mistake 6: Creating unappealing content.

Even though you have a nifty marketing automation platform to handle your emails and landing pages, you still need to craft good content. Your subscribers may have opened your email, but they’re not going to read it if it’s boring, filled with typos, or just plain hard to read.

Our tip: Make sure you’re focusing on your content and check out these three copywriting tips if this is an area where you need to improve.

Mistake 7: Setting it and forgetting it.

Some say one of the benefits of marketing automation is that you can “set it and forget it.” That’s not going to be a successful approach. Yes, marketing automation does save you time by automating manual tasks, but you’re still the guiding force to your campaigns.

Our tip: Check up on your campaigns and how they’re doing. Want to know how often should you be monitoring your campaigns, and what should you be looking for? We’ve got some ideas.

Mistake 8: Using only some of the features available to you.

You’ve made a big investment in getting a marketing automation platform, and it’s got tons of useful features. Take time to learn about the features and their uses and put them all to use. Yes, email is a big part of your marketing automation toolbox, but don’t use your automation software as if it’s only a glorified email marketing platform.

Our tip: Try sending internal notifications, setting reminders or tasks, adding contacts to a Salesforce campaign, or retargeting – these are non-email components of marketing automation that can take your marketing game to the next level.

Mistake 9: Limiting the usage to your marketing team (or one department).

Your marketing automation software should be used across departments. Of course, you’ll own it, but other teams need to be involved for it to run like a well-oiled machine, including your sales, membership, or events teams.

Our tip: Begin cross-communication now so that your campaigns are accurate and cohesive. Keep in mind, though, adding other departments into the mix can slow down your process, but we’ve got some tips to help you move it along

Mistake 10: Ignoring your vanity metrics.

Open and click rates (AKA vanity metrics) are important because they help you understand whether your content is engaging. When they’re low, they’re telling you something important about your emails.

Our tip: You may want to go back to the fundamentals to see whether your content is working. If the rates are where you want them to be, don’t stop there – dig into the interactions to see whether they’re supporting your larger marketing automation goals.  

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Mistake 11: Not optimizing or testing.

You need to test your content, and that’s an order. You should run A/B tests for your emails in your workflow, because testing the subject line, CTA, and “friendly from” are all going to help you improve your engagement.

Our tips:

  • Personalize the “friendly from.” People prefer to receive emails from real humans instead of NoReply@....
  • Optimize your send-time, to make sure your emails go to your subscribers at the time they’re most likely to read them.
  • Do you know where your subscribers read your emails? Test how your emails look on different devices and design them responsively, especially if they commonly read them on their phones. (Tools like Email on Acid can help.)

Mistake 12: Testing more than one thing at the same time.

Along with testing comes strategy. Be careful that you’re only testing one variable at a time. For example, if you’re testing whether a blue CTA button gets more clicks than a green button, don’t also change the text from “click here” to “find out more,” because you won’t know whether the clicks came from the new color or the new wording. 

Our tip: You can test various parts of your email – subject line, spam-potential—using these tools.

Mistake 13: Forgetting to check whether contacts in active workflows overlap.

Getting a double email from an organization once is okay, but more than once gets annoying fast. Avoid being that person by double-checking your mailing lists so that contacts aren't receiving multiple emails.

Our tip: Do a list purge from time to time so that you’re suppressing any unengaged contacts from your email sends. This will improve your metrics and keep those subscribers happy.

Mistake 14: Sending unwanted emails.

Nobody likes getting emails they didn’t sign up for, and nobody likes when subscribers unsubscribe (except for the happy subscriber). You might also be violating spam laws or GDPR, so watch out!

Our tip: Avoid this situation by making sure your contacts know when they are opted-in. For example, if they fill out a landing page to download content and this means they’re being subscribed to your emails, be sure that they’re aware.

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Mistake 15: Sending out obvious spam traps.

Certain words or symbols can flag your email as spam, like the dollar sign or the word “free” used multiple times. Thankfully, these things will often get picked up when you test your email (again, note the importance of testing!) and will get caught in your own spam filter. But it’s always best to craft your content in a way that avoids these bad buzzwords.

Our tip: Seeing how you’re doing in email deliverability is a good place to start. You want your emails in your subscriber’s inbox, not in their spam folder.

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Mistake 16: Not being compliant with GDPR/CAN-SPAM regulation.

Speaking of spam, you’ll want to ensure your emails are both GDPR/CAN-SPAM compliant. GDPR regulations are for EU customers, but protecting your subscribers’ data is in your best interest.

Our tip: To comply with CAN-SPAM, make sure you include a physical address in the footer and clear unsubscribe link that works.

Mistake 17: Sending only the HTML version of your email.

If a subscriber’s email won’t load your HTML email, you should create a plain text and a web version of your email, so they’ll have other options. Check the copy after you generate them in case anything didn’t translate correctly from the HTML version. The web version can help boost your search engine optimization, as well!

Our tip: Including ALT tags on your images helps in the SEO department and helps those with disabilities understand your content.

Mistake 18: Keeping seasonal content past its prime.

That turkey GIF was baller, but it’s not going to be fresh and relevant for long past Thanksgiving. Make sure you’re checking your content over before you use it, from emails to landing pages, so that you remove any seasonal content.

Our tip: For workflows that you’re running year-round, it’s best to stick to evergreen content. You’ll save yourself the time of updating your content and avoid mistakes if you forget.

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Mistake 19: Including links without double-checking they’re still working and updated.

You generally know when you link to a page on your own site if it’s working, but when linking to other sites, you should always double check that they’re still working. Even when it’s your own site, it doesn’t hurt to test the links in your emails or landing pages. Sending a campaign to register for a webinar with a broken link doesn’t look good, and it also means you’ve lost potential registrants for that webinar.

Our tip: Check, check, and triple check. The extra reviews might take more time, but it’s a quality control measure worth taking.

Mistake 20: Neglecting to optimize email for Outlook.

If you’re sending marketing emails, you can bet many of your subscribers are using Outlook. You need to take certain nuances into account. Emails delivered to Outlook have to be optimized based on certain rules, because Outlook doesn’t always follow HTML/CSS rules.

Our tip: Test your emails in Outlook to make sure all your content is being displayed as intended. You can do this by sending test emails to your own Outlook account, or by using Email on Acid (a tool that shows you variations of what your email will look like on different devices).

Does this list describe you?

There you have it: Twenty mistakes and tips on how to improve. Did we miss any mistakes that you’ve found yourself making? Let us know in the comments.

If you've found yourself looking for help or answers, check out our eBook: Build Your Automated Campaign Framework, available below. You'll find guidance on how to create automated campaigns.

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Topics: Email Marketing, Marketing Automation, Email Deliverability, Engagement, Marketing

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