Marketing automation is an incredibly powerful tool-set, but without an idea of what you want to build or how you want it to work, it can’t transform your sales and marketing results the way businesses might hope. While every business is unique and can benefit from a marketing automation consultant’s specific advice, it’s worth looking at what other users of the technology define as their biggest challenges – and how to overcome them.

No Cohesive Strategy

More than half of marketing automation users polled said that the lack of a unifying strategy was their single biggest hurdle to effective, complete implementation of marketing automation. It isn’t enough to say you want to upgrade to marketing automation as a means of increasing sales or efficiently communicating with leads; every business has these goals. Instead, refine and define these goals in concrete, specific terms.

Complex Systems

Technology as powerful as marketing automation can seem daunting when you first encounter it. Making sense of marketing automation starts with training. Your marketing automation partner should be able to provide full on-boarding and training for personnel so you feel at home in your expansive new software system.

Poor Data Quality

Although marketing automation technology has everything you need to improve data quality, data hygiene takes time. If your system’s working with dirty or incomplete data, you will need to be rigorous about cleansing it and adding only accurate new data. Data enhancement is a good first step toward more complete, accurate records.

Insufficient Contact Data

Nearly 40 percent of respondents felt they weren’t getting enough contact data on their prospects and customers. A surefire way to overcome this challenge is to build in better data-gathering tools from the outset. Progressive forms that filter out invalid data while getting only relevant information from prospects will help you build a library of complete contact information. Data enrichment can also fill in some key blanks, putting you in closer touch with your customers.

Not Enough Content

Content generates traffic, and traffic generates data. To make your marketing automation system work for you, stock it with plenty of content and keep it regularly updated. Another great strategy: Layer content across multiple channels so your leads get a three-dimensional view of content they find interesting while giving you more data on what they’re shopping for.

Poor Sales-Marketing Alignment

The worst place to lose a lead might be at the transition from marketing to sales. At that point, marketers have already invested heavily in a prospect, but the sales team hasn’t yet seen results. If they bounce from your sales funnel there, they take a lot of your time and effort with them. (Not sure how your sales-marketing alignment looks? Take the SMA quiz and find out.)