To a whole lot of marketers out there, marketing automation is like a wonder drug. “A tool that I can just set and forget, moving my contacts swiftly through the sales cycle with no additional work required? Fabulous! Marketing strategy solved!”

Why Marketers Can't Rely ONLY on Marketing Automation - pills

The problem is, what these marketers don’t realize is that using only marketing automation is never enough. In fact, in a 2011 Genius survey, more than 50% of respondents said they had not yet realized the value of their investment in marketing automation. It’s as if marketers’ investment in a marketing automation tool is as robotic as the tool itself. And truth is, if you’re relying solely on an automated tool to nurture your contacts and leads to the point of a sale, you’re going to have a really big problem on your hands. It’s just a matter of time. Remember, drugs wear off eventually.

The Problem With Relying on Automation Alone

The truth is, there are quite a few problems with it, but let’s focus on the most compelling one. If you’re relying only on marketing automation and have no strategy in place to grow your list with net new contacts, you’ll run out of people to market to. It’s as easy as that. But, here’s some data to back it up.

Each year, there is a natural decay that happens to marketing email lists, which results in the reduction of email marketing’s effectiveness. In B2B marketing — on average, after 1 year — lists only retain 75% of their members due to overturn at companies. Put quite simply, people leave and change their jobs, and thus, their email addresses. In other words, marketing lists have a tendency to expire at a rate of 25% a year. And any email tool which relies too heavily on the quality of lists is limited by this overturn.

Why Marketers Can't Rely ONLY on Marketing Automation - expiration rate

Remember, marketing automation does nothing to add contacts to your database. It’s power lies in what it does with your existing contacts. So if automation is the heart and soul of your marketing program and you’re doing nothing to grow the top of your funnel, you’re going to have a pretty deflated and pathetic list on your hands in a few years. Pretty scary, huh?

Focus On Growing the Top of Your Funnel Alongside Marketing Automation

But marketing automation can’t be all bad, right? Right! We’re just saying that you need to make sure you’re not using marketing automation alone, and you’re executing a plan to continually grow the top of your funnel alongside your marketing automation efforts. By continuously attracting and adding net new contacts to your database, you’ll thwart the ill-effects of an inevitably depleting marketing list.

The best way to do this is to follow inbound marketing best practices — create valuable content that addresses your prospects’ needs and interests, optimize that content with the keywords you want to get found for in search engines, and leverage social media to promote that content and grow your reach. Then, once you’ve attracted those visitors to your website, use calls-to-action and landing pages to convert those visitors into prospects and leads. These people thus become new members of your marketing database, making up for the 25% of people you’ll naturally lose to list expiration each year.

Incorporate Marketing Automation Into an Overarching Inbound Marketing Strategy

Even if you’re effectively growing the top of your funnel alongside your marketing automation efforts, unfortunately, most marketers don’t use marketing automation in the complexity they should. Rather, they use a one-size-fits-all marketing automation campaign that result in a series of spammy emails that aren’t targeted to contacts’ individual needs. The problem is, few actually take the time to plan and craft truly segmented and personalized marketing automation campaigns leveraging lead intelligence, behavioral triggers, and other data about their contacts. And the reason is usually a lack of integration between their marketing channels.

But if you’re continually growing the top of your funnel, you have the right analytics in place to collect intelligence about your contacts, and your marketing database, marketing analytics, and marketing automation tools are all integrated, what you’ll have is the ability to segment your communication in a way that puts your contacts’ needs and interests at the heart of your marketing automation campaigns. And that’s when things not only get efficient, but also really effective. The lesson is simple: Your marketing automation campaigns should be part of a larger inbound marketing strategy to be truly successful.

Are you taking measures to grow the top of your marketing funnel alongside your marketing automation program?

Author’s Bio:

Pamela Vaughan

Pamela is a principal marketing manager on HubSpot’s web strategy team, with a focus on conversion rate optimization and conversion copywriting for HubSpot’s website. She is best known for introducing the concept of historical optimization, which increased organic search traffic and leads for HubSpot’s blog by more than 200%. She can also be found in stock photos on lots of random websites all over the web, like the one you see here, which just so happens to be the expression she makes when she writes a killer blog post

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