Marketing Automation is not for Every Business

You may have heard of marketing automation, or perhaps a marketing automation platform such as HubSpot, Pardot, or Marketo.  These and other marketing automation platforms (MAPs) can be extremely useful and powerful tools.  They automate marketing activities to move prospects down their decision journeys.

MAPs can score leads, send out email drips (a series of emails that nurtures prospects with tailored content), potentially integrate with your CRM, help look up which prospects are on your website, and even trigger automated alerts for your sales team to follow up with top prospects.

However, despite being widely touted, there are marketing automation downsides and it is not a magic bullet solution.  It’s also definitely suited to some businesses more than others.  Here are three reasons as to why marketing automation is not the right solution for all businesses:

1) Marketing automation is a lot of work

MAPs require a lot of resources, both to set up as well as to manage week-to-week and month-to-month.  You can expect 5-20+ hours for setup for the platform, depending on which it is.  Even once it’s set up, there is much to do: segmenting audiences to nurture, strategizing drips, setting up lead scoring, copywriting, and much more.  This can take several dozen additional hours to complete.  If you don’t have internal resources with the bandwidth and skill to set up, strategize, and manage marketing automation for your business, it’s of limited value for you.

2) It isn’t cheap

Marketing automation pricing typically depends on the number of your contacts, active contacts, or total sends per month.  Depending on these factors, MAPs can range from $100-$200/month (for less sophisticated platforms like ExactTarget and Infusionsoft) to $500-$1,000+/month (for middle-tier platforms like Act-On) to $3,000+ for higher-end SMB platforms like Pardot, Hubspot, or Marketo.

Don’t get me wrong.  Marketing automation can definitely pay off in spades and more than justify its expense.  It just needs to be done right and to have enough of an opportunity to succeed, which brings me to my third reason for why marketing automation doesn’t work for every business…

3) You need significant email list volume for it to be most effective

One of the most powerful features of MAPs is the ability to send drip emails.  This is a structured series of emails that automates the sending of tailored content based on a prospect (or customer’s) actions.  These drip emails are particularly effective for B2B businesses with longer sales cycles where prospect nurturing over time is key, though they can also be valuable in B2C settings.

For instance, if you have an e-commerce sporting goods company and your monthly newsletter has a section for football, a section for skateboarding, and a section for soccer, then you can have a football email drip, a skateboarding email drip, a soccer email drip, etc.  However, if your email list only has 1,000 people and only 15 click on the football link, then the football drip is only going to 15 people.  The drip would be far more valuable if it went to 150 people (as in if your list had 10,000 people).  The amount of work involved is considerable, no matter the list size, but the value marketing automation gives you is highest with a larger list.


If you’ve heard about the huge benefits that a HubSpot or a Marketo can have for your business, before making purchasing decisions, make sure marketing automation is right for your business by asking a few questions.  I strategize and implement marketing automation services for some of my clients, but only some.  I don’t want them to waste their money on anything they won’t be able to sufficiently leverage, and I’m sure you don’t want to unnecessarily waste money on your business either.  Consider these five questions related to potential marketing automation cons:

  • Do I have the internal resources to manage marketing automation?
  • Does marketing automation fit within my budget?
  • How large is my email reach?
  • What does my prospects’ purchasing journey look like and could marketing automation help me nurture them further towards a purchase in a cost-effective manner?
  • Will a marketing automation platform integrate with my CRM or other technology tools?

I hope these questions will help you determine if marketing automation is right for your business or if it’s just a waste of your money.