You are using a marketing automation tool to speed up your marketing activities, implement personalization in your campaigns, track and monitor your campaign performances, among other various tasks. So far, so good.

Your automation tool helps you design tailored campaigns for your leads and customers. You create marketing assets and messages within your automation tool to keep things in a sequence, carefully monitoring that your leads and customers never go unattended. What could go wrong in this, you wonder.

You see, things can break. That’s how the universe works. And your automation campaigns are no exceptions. However much we automate, we cannot deny the time-to-time human interventions required to keep things moving. Your marketing automation tool cannot function on its own unless you feed in some campaigns and schedule some activities. Everything, starting with lead behavior and scores, has to be first set up for the tool to work correctly.

And this is where things may go hay-way. Despite being extra careful all the time, we end up making some significant errors that we can’t undo until the next campaign. Here are 9 such fails that may happen, and some additional tips on how you can handle them or better avoid them.

#1. The [First Name] error

Ah! The most common one. First names are a great way to make emails personalized unless you mess up the first name altogether.

Last week, when my team and I decided to create a new email drip sequence for our recently published blogs, I paid extra attention to creating the email draft. I was so concerned about not sending boring long emails. My attention was fixed.

After completing the email, I added to our template. Next step was, I wanted to see how my email draft would look in a browser. So I sent out few test emails to my team members. Everyone was happy, gave me a good-to-go signal. Elated by the response, I sent out the same to all our subscribers.

Everything so far was good, until our CEO pinged in our group to state that {contactfield=firstname} in an email should HAVE the first name of the contact rather than just {contactfield=firstname}. OOPS!

The damage was already done. The email that our subscribers got looked something like this.

How to avoid this: The only way you can avoid this is by being careful. That’s what I am doing ever-since. An error like this can make a wrong impression on your target audience because you give out a message that you did not focus; that you did not care. But we know that’s not true.

Tip: What we did next was initiated another email stating our mistake and owning it up. We promised never to be careless again. That did help us repair the damage to some extent.

#2. Chatbot messaging gone wrong

Chatbots are a boon for us. They keep the communication going even when you are asleep. You know all your leads’ and customers’ queries are answered even if you are not online at that moment. But sometimes, Chatbots can get confused. And that results in some epic failures.

Chatbots are fed with some automated responses to most commonly asked questions. If they don’t know something, they capture the lead details and promise to get them in touch with a respective person from the team. These AI-enabled bots are trained to learn over time to perfect their responses.

But things may go out of control sometimes when your chatbot fails to learn and gives away clear hints to your lead that it’s a robot speaking on behalf of your brand.

This happened with Microsoft’s AI Chatbot that turned out to be racist in just one day after it was launched. Tay, an AI-enabled chatbot was launched on March 2016. It was a Twitter bot that was launched as an experiment in ‘conversational understanding.’ Tay was supposed to converse and become adept in understanding human interaction. Sadly, the conversations didn’t go down well with the humans.

Tay became a victim of everyone’s anger because it came out to be extremely misogynistic and racist. What followed was, Tay seemed to get back to these haters with more vengeance. In other words, Tay was a robot parrot enabled with an internet connection. Hence, it started repeating these disastrous sentimental attacks.

While Tay’s responses made a mockery of Microsoft’s vision, it did raise serious questions of whether chatbots are really reliable when it comes to brand imaging.

How to avoid this: Microsoft’s Tay was an unfortunate event. But it also gives enough evidence that automation, when overdone, can be dangerous. Keep your bots simple. Keep the messages simple. Let your bots not handle complicated issues and wait until your human colleagues, or you arrive.

#3. You did not monitor your campaign

I remember one of my friends had recently started using a marketing automation tool. She was satisfied with all the features she got to use, but would always complain that her marketing campaigns do not show results.

Pat came to her reply; why will I monitor? It’s an automation tool, everything is automated and once done cannot be reverted. So I keep creating new campaigns.

So I asked her how does she monitor her campaigns? Did she find out exactly where her campaigns were going wrong?


Yes, that is exactly how I reacted.

Disclaimer: No, your automation tool will not come and tell you what went wrong. It is for you to track and monitor your campaigns.

How to avoid this: As I said, you have to track your campaigns. You will need to keep vigilance on how your campaign is performing with passing time. If you identify the loophole, consider editing it. Try A/B testing your campaigns before you send to your users. Leaving your campaigns unattended can do you more harm.

PS: Creating new campaigns is not a solution. Create new campaigns only when you need to.

#4. Right message. Wrong time.

Another common marketing automation failure includes sending the message at the wrong time. You can set up your marketing automation tool to send any message at any time. But what is more important is to send the right message at the right time. If you are messing up any of these, you are ruining your campaign right at the start.

For instance, when a new intern joined us in our marketing team, we assigned him the task of creating few drip email series. Great. Then came the bad day. A lead had downloaded one of our eBooks after finding it via Google search. To download that eBook, the lead provided an email address and name. We knew our campaign is ready and the lead will immediately get an email stating ‘Thank you for downloading. Here is your free copy’. Alas! How we wish it were this short.

The “improved” version read something like this:


We were just glad we saw it immediately after one download since the new campaign was initiated.

How to avoid this: When you are creating an email or any other marketing message, you need to be aware of the buyer’s stage. Your marketing automation tool has dynamic segmentation that segments your buyers according to their behavior, first scores, demographics, buyers stage, and events. So design emails that are relevant instead of making a pitch wherever possible. You will get ample scope to pitch about your brand once you have effectively nurtured the lead and pushed it ahead in the buying cycle.

#5. Not knowing your prospects

Sometimes brands make such mistakes that hurt sentiments of their target audience. When McDonald’s went harsh on Donald Trump taking the president’s post, it did send out a bad message to its target audience. Despite McDonald’s covering it up as a possible hack of their social media account, it did upset some members of their target audience.

While this is one error of not considering your target audience’s sentiments, another automation failure comprises of not sending the right message to the right audience.

For instance, if a customer has just signed up for a paid plan, you cannot send him trial sign up offers or early discount offers. This person has already made a payment. What he needs to know at this juncture is how best he can use your tool or product to minimize his problems. Maybe when it is time for a renewal, you can send some discount offer.

How to avoid this: Target your messages based on your customers’ profile and lifecycle stage. Also, in general, avoid opinions that can hurt your audience’s sentiments.

Your leads and customers are looking for a brand that is aware of their problem statements, is willing to offer optimized solutions, and continue a healthy customer-brand relationship. If you are ignoring the sentiments of a larger set of audience (or even the minutest part of your audience), then you are breaking the foundation of what could be long-term brand loyalty.

Here are few basic steps to follow (and we all do follow these religiously):

  1. Identify your leads and customers. Create buyer persona, understand what brought them to your brand and what kind of information are they looking. Attract your target audience using the core values of your business.
  2. Nurture your leads and customers until they are willing to make a purchase or talk with an executive real-time. Make them aware of the problems, resonate their issues and hand-over free tips and solutions. Create compelling contents to keep them engaged and slowly build the trust factor. Make them believe you understand their problems and have a solution to offer which is best in the market.
  3. Retain your customers. It is the holy grail of marketing that 20 of your existing customers will bring 80% of your sales. So, if you are taking your customers for granted, you are taking your brand revenue for granted in one way. Keep them engaged with your brand. Encourage referrals, word-of-mouth business, and repeat the business.

#6. Not capping your marketing communications

When you receive an email upon signing up for a brand, you feel good. It gives a warm feeling that the brand cares. But when this same brand bombards your inbox with series of unwanted emails, you immediately rush to hit the unsubscribe button.

Marketing communications are not just about emails. Often unnecessary push notifications or SMS can turn off users as well. The best they can do to avoid hearing from you is to opt out of the campaign.

This happens when you forget to cap your marketing communication frequency. Any lead or customer opting out from any of your campaigns is a loss for you. Getting that lead or customer back into the segment may be a harder task than said.

How to avoid this: The first step is to understand what is frequency capping. When you are creating campaigns within your marketing automation tool, you have the control over how many messages a particular lead will receive within a specific time span. For example, you create a drip series of 10 messages, after which that lead will stop receiving messages of that particular campaign.

This capping is based on buyer’s persona, lead information, and lead behavior against the first ten marketing messages. Based on their engagement and behavior, your leads will get dynamically segmented. This way, you can avoid losing on your leads. Those who engage are automatically moved to a new segment. Those that don’t can be retargeted again with improved content.

#7. All your messages are ONLY about your product

This is an extension of the right message, wrong time point. This is all about the wrong timing.

When all your marketing messages across multiple channels are shouting out about your product only, it comes off as an instant turn off. Inbound marketing is not forced marketing. It is a gradual process where your target audience finds you through various sources. They subscribe to your platform to get more valuable information before they make up their mind to become your paid customer.

This journey is a long process and requires a lot of nurturing. If you are being impatient and bombarding your potential customers with “Listen how good my product is” messages, you are simply driving them away. After all, who’d want to do business with a self-loathing brand?

How to avoid this: Be careful with your content. Your content is going to reflect your brand’s commitment towards your target audience. Being rude or point-blank is equally unacceptable. Instead of blabbering about your brand, invite your leads to a free tour of your product and urge them to take part in surveys. That way you get genuine feedback about your product. Irrespective of how good or bad they rate your product, make it a point to keep the communication going with valuable content resources for free. Host webinars, offer contests, be active on social channels and take competitor analysis in your stride.

To break this down for you, your customers (or leads) go through the following stages during their entire buyers’ cycle till buying stage:

Stage 1: Completely unaware of their problem.

Stage 2: Knows their problem but no idea about proper solutions

Stage 4: They have heard about your product and the specific solutions. They are still deciding.

Stage 3: Knows about their problem, and now knows there are several existing solutions.

Stage 5: They are familiar with your product, your offerings, and are almost ready to make the final call.

Stage 6: The final purchase.

Your marketing messages should also follow this same pattern. After the buying stage, comes delighting existing customers with various automation campaigns.

#8. Segmentations gone wrong

When a lead reaches the stage where it is ready to communicate with a sales rep, the communication may also demand few more nurturing messages. In this stage, the campaign comes back into the hands of the marketing team to launch sales-driven marketing campaigns to close the deal.

Your marketing automation campaigns thrive on proper segmentation. Most marketing automation tools come with dynamic segmentation option so that you can stop worrying about manually bucketing your contacts.

There are times when you have to intervene. There might be one or two contacts that may need manual shifting from one list to another or maybe some edits based on some minute contact information update. These, if not done at the time, can hamper your campaign.

How to avoid this: The best way is to monitor your segments, your contacts’ behaviour, and lead scores. Based on all these information, you will need to keep an eye on each segment to be sure that your content for the campaign matches with them.

#9. Marketing automation campaigns are restricted to your marketing team only.

There have been countless discussions stating that marketing and sales team should work together. So, when your marketing automation campaigns are handled by your marketing team only, you are missing out on the main chord that will make your automation campaign complete.

Problem statement: Your marketing team sends out a message stating about a new offer. When your sales team connects with the prospective lead, they decline of any such offer. Oops!

Let’s elaborate this in the below section of how you can avoid this isolation.

How to avoid this: Without your sales team, you cannot know about the ideal prospects for your business. It is your sales team who will give you insights on the kind of leads you need to attract through your marketing campaigns. Once you start nurturing, your marketing automation tool is connected to an inbuilt (or an integrated) CRM which is also visible to your sales team. So, both your teams know the entire lifecycle of each lead from start to end.

In short, marketing automation tool aligns sales and marketing tools. And this alignment is essential because one team cannot function without the other. Both the teams need to work towards a common goal so that your marketing automation campaigns DO NOT FAIL.

Have you been a victim of any of these fails? Tell me about your experiences and how you handled them.