Generally, the objective of marketing automation is to boost business processes and, at the end of the day, bring more sales. Thousands, even tens of thousands, are invested in these systems. And then a year after the investment, worst-case scenario, you’ve sent a couple of newsletters and a holiday greeting. Or that the automated email journey has just a few lost sheep in addition to the testing staff. Usually this is because one or all of the following issues have not been considered thoroughly:

  • Practical business objective is missing
  • Target group is missing
  • Required amount of site visitors is missing


Business objective is missing

What is the business objective? What are you trying to achieve with marketing automation?

Companies and organizations adopt marketing automation without further thought about what they actually want to do with the system. The objective could be, for instance, to send a newsletter every second month. In practice, this means that every second month there will be a huge hurry to gather all the items for the newsletter. The end result is a set of “news” related to the company’s products and events, flavored with a staff appreciation day group photo taken after a 5-mile run—everyone with red cheeks, of course.

What do you achieve with this kind of a newsletter in terms of business? What is the objective of the newsletter? The actual objective of this kind of newsletter is (forced) scheduling of content production: You need to create content every second month, but the target audience and its information needs are completely forgotten.

So, what are the actual objectives of marketing automation in terms of business? Most likely the main objective is to increase sales, but in order to achieve this, you must have concrete and realistic sub-goals. A clearly defined and practical objective is much more achievable and, in practice, doable with marketing automation, thus improving company processes. Below are examples of clear and practical sub-objectives:

  • Make a potential customer to visit a product demo.
  • Filter and identify from a list of a thousand exhibition leads those leads which sales should be in contact with – thus aligning sales work to the most potential leads instead of checking all leads.
  • Month or two after a project commissioning, run a project survey about development ideas so that future projects can be carried out better.
  • Customer who has ordered a product or service lasting 90 days: automate and ask after 80 days whether the customer wishes to reorder before the previous product or service runs out.

As you probably noticed, these are simple, understandable, and concrete objectives. As such, they are also easy to build and make work within a marketing automation system. A good business objective aligns sales and marketing to focus on the customer.


Target audience is missing

There are two concepts to consider when talking about the target audiences or groups in marketing automation:

  • The message and content must meet the information needs of the target audience in the stage they are on their content path.
  • Another concept, and perhaps more traditionally linked to marketing automation, is the target group’s contact and classification data, which is needed to target the actions in the marketing system.

Content strategy guides the company’s communication to meet the target audience’s needs in the corresponding stage of the content path. Potential customers—or prospects or leads, as they are usually called—have different information needs depending on which stage of the purchase process they are in. And when a prospect becomes a customer, the information needs change and the messages sent have to correspond to the change. If you do not know or cannot describe how, why and when your customers decide to buy and what kind of information helps them to buy, check these four tips about the customer journey.

”It is not enough that the email address ‘is known’—it has to be correctly registered and classified in the marketing automation system with the required mailing permits.”

Systematically collected data about the target group together with practical and reasonable classification of the data is one crucially important aspect of marketing automation. This data usually includes, among others, email, name, company name, some level or classification of the customer/prospect relationship, and marketing permission. It is not enough that the email address ”is known”—it has to be correctly registered and classified in the marketing automation system with the required mailing permits. When collecting data, it is important to keep in mind the business objectives as they affect customer classification criteria and the data to be collected.

Good content is bad content if sent to the wrong target audience.”Click To Tweet

In order to succeed, you need both knowledge about the information needs and motives of the target audience and correctly classified contact data. Good content is bad content if sent to the wrong target audience. Also, good content is useless if there is no audience (i.e., contact data) to send or target content to.


Required amount of site visitors is missing

Where do the visitors or target audience for marketing automation come from? The most common way for prospects to enter the marketing automation process is via various forms on one’s website or a landing page. People are lured to websites and landing pages by content, social media posts, or videos, for instance. Naturally, information that can be used in marketing automation is collected at exhibitions and other kinds of customer events as well.

Furthermore, it is true that content based on customer and or prospect information needs and motives does work: it ranks well in search engines and when posted on social media, it collects engagements and shares. However, in many markets—especially small ones such as the Finnish market—this does not generate large enough visitor numbers for the automation to be profitable and cost-effective. Thousands or even tens of thousands of euros and dollars have been invested in the systems and content; thus, a lot of visitors and leads are needed in order for the cost per lead to be in any way financially reasonable.

Contrary to what content marketers proclaim, good content is not enough to reach high enough visitor quantities. You have to advertise.

A common claim is that killer content will sell itself and bring the desired leads into the marketing automation journey. However, this is not usually the case, and you have to advertise to boost the visibility of your content and gain enough visitors. Too often, unfortunately, advertising is either forgotten or little to no budget is allocated for it.


As a result, people wonder why marketing automation “does not work” when they are missing one or more of the issues discussed above. Usually, marketing automation is not to blame—rather, it’s a missing business objective, lack of knowledge about the target audience, or low visitor numbers and visibility. Or all three.

What thoughts did these ideas awaken in you? Comment on LinkedIn, call, or send a message.  😊