5 Barriers to using your Martech for Marketing Automation

By Ben Shapiro on October 18, 2019

If you need a refresher on how I'm breaking down Martech's paradox of tradeoffs and my associated 4-part series - read my previous blog here.

There are two parts to the way that Scott Brinker was talking about automation.The first part was about centralising/automating, and the other is decentralising/automating. First, we're talking about the centralising/automating part, and the barriers that need to be understood so we can break down the second automated/centralised step.

Here are the barriers I see to organisation face when trying to automate using their Martech stack.

Martech is just a tool

One of the things we see is that people are putting business cases up to buy a new Martech tool. In fact, a lot of businesses and marketing leaders assume that once they’ve bought Martech tool, that they have solved the problem - but this is never the case. Leaders need to realise that all these tools, regardless of the cost price and the functionality, are just tools. Once the tool is in place, it’s the people that have to make the tool do the work they ultimately bought it for.

This means you need to be crystal clear on a few things;

  1. How your business works
  2. How you and your tools can engage with the customers
  3. How your customers buy your services or products
  4. What success looks like
  5. That you’re collecting data that is going to help you make good decisions.

Most of the time, high consideration products and services are being researched months, or even years out from the purchase date. So this is about making sure we can play the long game by using the tool in the right way, giving you the ability to make good decisions.

Lack of Customer Segments

We need to be clear about our customer segments. We should have a clear understanding of who the customer is, how they think, where they live, and what they're trying to achieve by buying your products or services. If we don't know who we’re talking to, then taking advantage of what they're trying to do and how they're trying to use your product or service is very, very hard.

Next, we need to figure out what type of language and decision points we need to put into the tool after identifying your segments. This allows us to talk to them in a personalised way, that they actually care about, and they feel like it's not an automated process. Even though the point of automating is to centralise and standardise how we do things, you don't want to sound like you're just being fed information from a machine. Chatbots are a good example of this – if you are aware that you’re talking to a bot, the experience is diminished – the best chatbots are those where you’re questioning if it’s a bot at all.

Being clear about who our customers are, how that segment works, and what their buying and and decision criteria are around that is critical when building out automation within your Martech stack.

Limited understanding of buying funnel

Now that you have your segments clearly defined, the next step is understanding and clearly articulating the customer buying funnel for each of those segments. Many organisations will have more than one customer segment or buyer segment, so we need to think about what the differences are, and how the funnels are different between those stages too.

We do this by being more deterministic about what you want your buying funnel to look like. We need to be strategic about engineering a pathway for the customers to convert – and this is in our hands. By being clear about the customer segments and the buying funnels for each, we can start to design a platform around what we want, rather than what the tool defines for us.

Understanding those needs of the buying funnel isn’t always easy. We’re all guilty of putting ourselves in the shoes of the customer and sharing our experiences, but we can’t get a true picture of what a buying funnel looks like without speaking to customers. When we don’t talk to customers, we ultimately make stuff up instead of developing real data defined by real buyers, that will help you characterise what it is that they're want and expect from you.

Criteria for success is unclear

Once you have clarity on your customer buying funnel, we need to define what success looks like for the business – not just your team or department.

Unfortunately, we commonly see that teams are so busy within their units or departments that they’re not connecting the dots between what the business is looking for, and what’s being delivered within the business units. What happens then, is that we're doing activities and executing on funnels that have no real bearing or output on a business goal – this is a huge barrier to setting up effective automation.

As we said above, tools are just tools. They're only going to do what we tell them to do and if we're not clear about what the business success looks like, the tool will never move the needle from a business point of view, but instead cause you to spend a lot of time and energy putting processes and tools and automations in place that really don't do anything for moving the business toward success.

Another trap we see is teams doing activities that they feel like they need to do, and then make up a business goal that they think might be relevant to that activity.  To avoid this trap, make sure you’re really, really clear on what the business goal is, and deliver activity around that. This sounds like business or marketing 101, but surprisingly it happens a lot when people aren't clear on the business goal.

Expectations around Data

The last barrier we see that’s stopping organisations from automating well is their data – and it’s not just about the data itself. A lot of people feel that if they don't have all the exact, perfect information at the point in time they want to use it, they simply say, "It's just not possible to find anything out from any of our customers because it's going to be wrong, and so any work we do is going to be a complete waste of time." This is not the case.

We believe that you want to be able to get pieces of data that help you form a view on a customer at a specific point in time. We should then prove or disprove a hypothesis on whether that activity is helping drive the business goal. What we see is that businesses might be clear on the business goals, but not clear on what sort of data they should collect from customers - creating a barrier to moving forward. Instead, we need to take steps toward proving or disproving a hypothesis that helps us get closer to the business goal, and then we'll likely realise we may not need as much data as we think to drive an outcome through a automation process. To do this, we need to be comfortable with not having everything in 'perfect' order to make a decision.


To standardise your stack you need to get clear on the right tools, the process, and a view of outcomes you’re looking for. Decentralising is about getting comfortable with experimenting, and maybe not having enough data, but rather working through things incrementally to get to where you need to be rather than getting stuck in day-to-day.

This also means being comfortable with change, or setting up your systems and processes so that when you want to prove or disprove a hypothesis, the rigmarole to get the next bit of data chain isn't so great that everyone looks at you and says, "Sorry, that's not going to happen."


Do you need help with setting up your marketing automation?

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