5 Issues to consider when buying Marketing Automation

Iron Horse
4 min readJun 9, 2020


By Jared Nathanson

It doesn’t matter whether or not you are the deciding voice that picks the marketing automation tool your company integrates or the trusted advisor to that decision. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ll be the one responsible for making it work and making everyone look good for choosing it. Let’s get you ready to be that centered “influencing voice”.

Some platforms are made to be easy-to-use. They have built-in intelligence, identify accounts, enrich data, and are very user-friendly. The problem is that many of these same platforms also have numerous limitations or lack the flexibility and scalability that you may need.

Other platforms are like an old box of Legos, the kind without directions. You can use the platform to build almost anything, but you create the context, and you create the intelligence. The platform doesn’t understand much on its own, but you can customize to match your company’s needs.

Thus begins the journey from the alchemy of high-level promises and your friendly marketing automation sales rep, to the results-based science of marketing automation platforms in the real world. The good news is that usually, whatever functionality was promised with the context of “changing the state of your marketing world,” will be present in the platform. Lead scoring, email nurtures, dynamic content, integrations with CRMs, reporting, automation through workflows, campaigns, data hygiene, and processing steps all will do what you were promised, but there are always caveats and “limitations.” Let’s look at a few examples:

Dynamic content

  • Why do you want it? Doesn’t the following sound amazing? Designing content specifically for and catered to your contacts. Setting up rules that place the content most likely to be of high interest in front of each contact. The grand idea is to put the right content in front of the right sets of eyes at the right time.
  • Hard truths to remember. It is a grand idea, but it also requires a lot of well-oiled moving pieces and can multiply production hours. A hearty rule set will have to be developed, instructing who gets what and for which reasons. There will also have to be hearty content ready to parse out. It’s a lot of work to do, and not always worth doing unless it’s for more than a one time use. However, when it comes time to do the reporting, you might be disappointed. How will the reporting work with one email featuring a multitude of different CTAs?


  • Why do you want it? The visibility you need for Marketing to prove its use. Timely and customizable dashboards your team can use to improve, adapt, and defend marketing’s value.
  • Hard truths to remember. Ever notice how many reporting add ons and integrations exist? Frequently, reporting in most marketing automation platforms in the real world is limited. It’s designed to report on basic emails and not the multiplicity of a dynamic email with many viewers seeing different content. You may get a summary of click-throughs, but have a very difficult time breaking that up into all the custom content to understand who engaged with which. Depending on your needs, you may be looking for an outside tool. In preparation, the best thing to do is to grab the reports you currently have outside of this tool (or make a mock-up) and have the vendors you’re considering show you how you can replicate them.

Lead scoring

  • Why do you want it? The concept of grading your contacts based on a mix of implicit and explicit criteria to route to nurture, qualification, and sales. Sounds fantastic!
  • Hard truths to remember. The problem might be you. Lead-scoring processes require testing, review, and adjustments to be successful. If you have multiple product lines or audiences, the needs become exponential. Now, you are looking at creating different lead-scoring processes for every need and audience, and again, taking the time to adjust each one. You might not need things to get this complex, or maybe you only need basic segmentation that can serve the same purpose with a lot less work.

Nurture Flows

  • Why do you want it? Automating the engagement of your new contacts based on their individual needs, interests, and profiles or educating your current audience based on their continued engagement; nurture flows are “little classrooms” that can nudge your audience and inform them based on interest, and regulated based on how often they do engage. They can be an important part of a contact’s journey.
  • Hard truths to remember. Marketers get very internally focused on nurture flows and see them as sophisticated marketing plays with several acts. Often, your audience is only seeing them as tiny sketches or single emails. Your message may be drowned out and limited on the level of personalization and uniqueness, with the reality that they may be in a few different programs at once, and being engaged with BDR’s and reps at the same time. Your contact might not see your grand plan, but you can build an impressive conversation with a strong narrative represented in copy, graphics, and a centralized knowledge center to help you stand out.

Finally, let’s ask the big question one more time.

Marketing Automation

  • Why do you want it? You want a platform that will allow you to scale your once manual tasks into an efficient marketing ecosystem. One that will route and cater contacts to the most important and relevant content that your audience wants at that time to keep them interested and informed without coming on too strong.
  • Hard truths to remember. Don’t end up asking yourself, “Did we just buy an expensive Marketing Automation tool only to use it for manual batch and blasts?” Remember, automation is a way to make a plan more efficient. It is not a plan itself.

This article originally appeared on ironhorse.io



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