8 Reasons Why Marketing Automation Platforms Can Fail Marketers

Why are some organizations successful with marketing automation platforms when others are not? It may be your technology.

BY: Sarah Frazier

PUBLISHED: 10/7/2020

A more consistent lead flow. A desire to be more relevant— segmenting communications and delivering highly personalized customer experiences. A need to better utilize staff resources— gaining efficiencies by moving from manual processes to automated ones. These are all driving motivators for adopting a marketing automation platform (MAP), yet some marketers are highly successful while others are not. Oftentimes, the root cause is not the marketing team; rather, limitations of the platform may be the culprit. How can you discern the differences and how do marketing automation platforms limit your success?


1. Inflexible Structure / Advanced Automation Limitations

Sophisticated marketing automation practitioners, in particular, may experience frustration when trying to create non-standard automations to accomplish specific objectives. In fact, some platforms feel quite restrictive to a marketing automation team that wants the freedom to execute in the manner they envisioned.

According to the Salesforce State of the Connected Consumer Report, 59% of customers say tailored engagement based on past interactions is very important to winning their business. Yet ironically, when you compare Salesforce’s Pardot to Marketo, Salesforce is significantly lagging in its ability to leverage filters and behavioral actions to engage with audiences. Why this is so important is that marketers need the ability to drill down by using constraints and flow step choices— as well as have control over when the desired actions fire.

As an example, with some marketing automation platforms, dynamically managing form completion actions is more difficult. If you have multiple products, of course, you’ll want to tailor your messaging around the customer’s interest and the page the form submission originated. But if your MAP doesn’t allow a global asset to also function as an operational campaign, you’ll likely end up frustrated as your tool just doesn’t have the right functionality to meet your needs.

2. Inability to Scale

According to a survey by Insycle, one of the top reasons cited for migrating to a new marketing automation platform is aggressive growth— the current platform was unable to increase efficiency or streamline tasks as the organizational needs required. Tasks that should be automated were not or redundancy in steps were resulting in excessive staff time— these are indicators of a system that isn’t designed to scale.

While marketing automation platforms may appear similar on the surface, not all are structured for more sophisticated marketing, which may limit your capabilities as your organization grows.

A more sophisticated platform will include time-saving features like:

  • Global forms (changes are updated across all occurrences of the form)
  • Tokenization (eliminates repetitive manual field entry)
  • Program templates (for easy cloning and sharing)
  • No limits to workflows or campaigns

Ultimately, if you’re seeking to scale your marketing operations, your marketing automation platform must align with your organizational needs vs. adjusting business around your MAP.

3. Missed Behavioral Nuances and Insights

Savvy marketers want indicators when a lead may have a higher propensity to purchase—  behaviors like visits to your website on multiple occasions, views your pricing page multiple times in the past five days, or clicks multiple links in an email are such indicators. But many marketers miss these signals because their marketing automation platform does not tally or count repeat behaviors.

In Pardot, for example, storing the most recent lead source is challenging, requiring cumbersome workarounds to capture multiple site visits in a single day. Marketing automation platforms that do not allow for real-time repeating behaviors or flexibility in managing repetition cause marketers to miss those revenue moments. In short— with less sophisticated marketing automation platforms, your behavioral insights are limited through no fault of your own.

4. Limited Reporting Capabilities

Evaluating the return on investment (ROI) of your campaigns— it’s no shocker this a top objective (and pain point!) for marketing leaders. Reporting in different MAPs does vary greatly and understanding the nuances of your particular system is essential. For example, in Pardot, when a form is placed on a landing page, the landing page wins. In other words, if viewing your form report, you will not see any numbers as the data will be part of landing page reports. Pardot landing page metrics report views, successes, and errors out-of-the-box; if you want more advanced metrics, like conversion rates or bounce rates, you may be doing the math yourself.

Pardot users also report limitations with email reporting— unable to track clicks on multiple links and inability to show engagement for click-thru rates (CTR) under 1%. More robust reporting tools are an option, but of course, at an additional cost.

5. Subpar Email Templates and Landing Pages

We all know a good email gets the click and the landing page drives the conversion. And with email marketing taking a prominent spot in most marketing strategies, having a fluid system to support and streamline efforts impacts not only your output but your bottom line. On the flip side, inefficiencies in email production result in costly bottlenecks— photos not searchable by thumbnails, adaptive forms having to be designed using code vs. drag and drop options— these will slow down a team, every time.

On the surface, creating a landing page appears simple and straightforward when using a template. But when an update is required— page title, social sharing, meta description—  some MAPs require a new layout template per landing page to make the updates, equating to a lot of unnecessary time and a maintainability nightmare. Tokens, too, are a godsend to marketing operations in the design process— update the webinar name, date, or time in the token and it’s updated everywhere that token is used. Unfortunately, not all MAPs have token capabilities, which places the burden on the marketer to manually make updates across all assets.

6. Communication Silos

When a prospect matching your ideal customer profile engages on your website, your sales team will want to be notified. To accomplish this, most marketing automation platforms have options for creating an internal alert with details about the prospect and instructions to your SDR. But what if your MAP doesn’t have this feature or the ability to customize communications is non-existent? Houston, we have a problem.

We’ve seen threads of customer questions around the topic, and one of the more creative workarounds we’ve seen is using Zapier to parse the email, put the components into another custom template, look up the customer in Salesforce to find the owner, then send the custom alert. It’s a complex (read: hacky) workaround, but is an option.


A word of caution: you will likely need to increase your monthly allocated Zaps, as customers have reported depleting their resources with the alert workaround. Of course, the alternatives are no custom alerts, purchase an add-on to enable real-time sales alerts, or build custom logic and fire the notifications from Salesforce. Of course, no guarantee this last one will be real-time, should Salesforce have a backlog of tasks.


Here again, another example of a marketing automation platform falling short of a marketer’s needs, which raises the question, what is the cost to your organization by not having notifications in real-time?

7. CRM Sync Problems

Syncing data between your marketing automation platform and your CRM not only builds awareness of the marketing campaigns that are nurturing leads, but also enables sales and marketing alignment. But let’s debunk the facts from myths about the process.

A common assumption is that because a MAP and CRM are owned by the same company, the data should sync seamlessly. Unfortunately, that’s a myth— Salesforce leads, contacts, or account records do not automatically flow into your MAP. As is true with syncing data between any marketing automation platform and your CRM, you still have to set up rules for the record types you want to sync and the fields still must be mapped properly— the infrastructures of the systems are not the same.

As an example, custom fields need to be mapped manually. Every time you create a new field in your CRM, you’ll need to do the exact same thing in your MAP and make sure it matches. Also, know those customer field values will not sync right away, should you need to access them immediately for a campaign going out the door.

Account ownership will also not sync in some MAPs, as the CRM assigns an owner to your leads, contacts, and accounts. Some MAPs, on the other hand, are unable to recognize who owns a record. If your objective is to launch a personalized email campaign from the respective sales rep, you’re likely looking at duplicating your efforts between your MAP and CRM, opening yourself up to potential errors, and costing you time to update both platforms.

The hidden “gotcha”: even MAPs with a “one-to-one” CRM sync claim may still have manual work, mismatched or missing report data, or data that hasn’t otherwise synced. CRM integration can be complex and sync challenges are often best solved by hiring a specialized marketing automation agency.

8. Poor Customer Support

This one doesn’t need a lot of explanation and customer support reviews vary widely amongst users and situations. But when an organization has a history of customer support complaints, that’s an indicator you may experience issues as well. If you are in the processing of purchasing or reevaluating your MAP vendor, do your homework.


Read reviews on third-party sites like G2 or TrustRadius. Don’t let your business get derailed because you can’t get the customer support you need to accomplish your marketing objectives.

The Bottom Line

Marketing automation is an investment in your organization’s success; however, if your marketing team is unable to accomplish your objectives or otherwise tailoring your processes around the limitations of your marketing automation platform, it’s time to revisit your technology choices. Remember, every decision in business has a cost. But in a tight economy, opportunity costs are the greatest expense of them all.


Does your organization need help achieving ROI from Marketo? Learn how the Marketo experts at MERGE can help. Contact us today!