This post is meant for the marketing automation beginner, and is a compilation of a few of the lessons that we’ve learned over the years which should help you navigate your first marketing automation implementation (or re-implementation).

These lessons have been learned through years of successful integrations with marketing automation platforms such as Eloqua, Pardot, Marketo, ExactTarget, Genius and more.

What does data quality have to do with marketing automation?

The Top Three Marketing Automation Mistakes to Avoid

Data quality and marketing automation go hand-in-hand; oftentimes it is the marketing department that has to campaign for a data quality solution.  It can be hard to sway management to take data quality seriously, but if they’ve seen the eye-popping facts associated with duplicate data, they may be more inclined to act.  Implementing a marketing automation system without a proper data quality solution in place beforehand can result in chaos throughout your organization.  So do yourself (and your company) a favor, and take a few moments to learn from our customers’ past mistakes!

The Top Three Marketing Automation Mistakes to Avoid

First, let’s take a step back.  For those of you still getting up to speed, you may be wondering: “What exactly is marketing automation?

Any seasoned internet marketer will tell you that being found online and capturing Leads is only half the process.

We won’t get too carried away with the value that marketing automation brings, but just in case you’re interested here are a few resources from our integration partners:

Marketing Automation Overview (Pardot)
Gartner CRM Lead Management Vendor Comparison (Eloqua)

So, if you weren’t “sold” on the power of marketing automation already, hopefully now you are.  But it’s important to note, before you jump into marketing automation head-first, there are some major pitfalls to avoid.  This blog post will cover some of those mistakes, and will hopefully spare you some painful lessons and save you some time.

Mistake #1: Failure to Plan

Marketing automation delivers a load of power to the fingertips of marketing managers, marketing executives, sales managers and sales people. We have a wealth of automation at our fingertips and with that comes a lot of power.

Unfortunately, failing to plan out your marketing automation implementation can result in a stagnant system with no significant results.

Insufficient Budget

According to the Aberdeen Group, 44% of the companies surveyed say that budget constraints prevent advancement of marketing automation processes. So as you’re planning marketing automation, the way to cover this of course is to ensure that senior management understands the necessary budget for the long term.  It’s not just a software purchase, it’s a software + support + process + content + people.

Everything needs to be budgeted and funded for any return on investment to be realized at all. In the same survey, 20% of the companies surveyed said that they have difficulty keeping up with content demands.

Inability to Keep Up with Content Demand & Unreasonable Expectations

Content obviously fuels marketing automation, it fuels lead generation and yet one-fifth of companies that have implemented marketing automation have said that their big item is difficulty keeping up with the demands for new content.

This is a direct corollary to one of the biggest problems with marketing automation; unreasonable expectations by management.

From by-line research, only 38% of marketing automation buyers felt that the software was designed for marketing – that’s over one-third. So over one-third of marketing automation buyers felt the software/platform that they had purchased/licensed was actually not even designed for those who were using it.

Failure to Implement a True Data Quality System

Fewer than half of the systems provide even the most basic data cleansing (e-mail only duplicate merges) so if data fuels marketing automation and data is not clean/accurate, then you’re back to what we learned in Computer Science 101: “Garbage in, garbage out”.

The Top Three Marketing Automation Mistakes to Avoid

Gleanster conducted a primary research study earlier this year plotting out the challenges to marketing automation and found that, to marketers, data quality and integration issues are the single biggest challenge to marketing automation success.


Mistake #2: Forgetting that Content is King

The Top Three Marketing Automation Mistakes to Avoid

Content is king; so the mistake that people make time and time again is not having the ability to generate content consistently enough to feed their marketing automation machine.

Why is this important?

Well, inbound and outbound marketing both require consistent creation of new compelling content. Content in all its forms is what attracts the target prospects to you.  Whitepapers are a great way to attract prospects who are still in the information gathering mode, and by getting your brand in front of them during this phase of research, you are creating an instant bond.

Specific to the nurturing programs that marketing automation platforms provide, you need quality content to send to prospects who are in your system but still in the decision-making phase.  By peppering them with useful, quality content you are able to build rapport while establishing your company as a thought leader in your space.  Without quality blog posts/infographics/videos, then you are just trying to sell to them, which will quickly result in an unsubscribe.


Mistake #3: Losing Control of Data Entry

Generating tons of new Leads is a great thing for a marketing director to tell the management team, but when those Leads come in haphazardly, without a system for ensuring data quality, your CRM can quickly become a breeding ground for duplicate records – which brings on frustration for sales people, the inability to measure and calculate ROI for marketing and executives, and a huge headache for CRM admins and IT professionals.

Having a system in place to keep your data not only clean but well-organized and uniform, can be the difference between CRM success and failure.

There are three entry points that everyone with a vested interest in CRM success should be thinking about: list uploads, web form submissions, and manual entry. After a wildly successful trade show or networking event, where you and your sales team are exchanging business cards, there are bound to be a ton of people manually entering and/or uploading new Leads into your CRM – at least, what they think are new Leads.

RingLead duplicate prevention solutions allow you to protect your CRM from duplicate creation via all three of these entry points.

Incomplete Data

Incomplete data in a CRM can be a problem on multiple fronts; for example, it can result in the inability to make decisions based on an individual record due to insufficient information. But we will be covering this from a marketing automation standpoint. If you’re going to try to run some type of report that uses data stored in a custom or standard field that maybe isn’t very popular, you’ll first want to assess how much of that data is actually populated; this will help you decide how accurate of a picture the reporting will actually produce.

Field Trip, a free app developed by Qandor, solves just that problem, and allows you to easily analyze the fields of any object, including what percentage of the records (or a subset of your records) have that field populated.

The other major theme that we want to talk about is improper segmentation. For marketing campaigns to be truly effective, and to ensure that you don’t send a message to the wrong type of Prospect, you need proper segmentation between your Leads/Prospects and your existing Accounts.

If you don’t segment properly, at best it can be embarrassing and at worst it could cost you a lot of money.

The Classic Tradeshow Example

Here’s the classic tradeshow example. You meet Mark from ABC Co. at a tradeshow who was interested in your products. So you scan his badge or collect his business card, he’s added to the spreadsheet of tradeshow prospects, and you upload them in to Salesforce.  A couple of days later, you follow-up, and of course you close the deal.

Then a couple of days later, your fellow sales rep, Nick, comes into your office…and he’s irate.

ABC Co. is actually his Account, so the Lead should have been routed to him and he should have gotten that commission.

Oops.  Now what?

If your company had a system in place to either manually check all of the Leads that you’re importing -or- an application to automatically identify existing Contacts and Accounts upon upload, then you could have avoided this mess.  (By the way, RingLead offers just such a solution called Unique Upload.)

Web Form Duplicates

The same problem consistently arises for Leads that are assigned via the Salesforce Web-to-Lead form or via marketing automation assignments.  You’re assigned a “new” Lead, and you close it within a day or two because you’re a killer sales person.

But the system wasn’t sophisticated enough to identify that Nick, your colleague in the sales department, had been working that Lead a few months ago.  He spent days educating them on the products, giving them a full demonstration and free trial, only for them to say “we’ll let you know.”  Now you understand why the sale was so easy for you.  Nick buttered them up, and he’ll probably be pretty upset that you closed his deal.

Putting a review system or, even better, adding an application that automatically identifies and prevents the creation of duplicate Leads and Contacts is essential.  Our Unique Web-to-Lead application adds some great functionality, which is key for when you might be dealing with large organizations.

With Unique Web-to-Lead, when a “Lead” comes in via web form submission, but there is an existing Account in Salesforce, the application will automatically convert the Lead to a Contact and then associate that Contact with the existing Account.

Nick will be really happy about that.


We hope that this post helps you avoid some pitfalls that we’ve seen our customers struggle with.  If you’re serious about data quality and want to remove and prevent duplicates in Salesforce, you might want to take advantage of our 15-day free trial, which gives you access to our full suite of applications.



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