We’ve talked to lots of CEOs who come to us because they are using marketing automation software tools like HubSpot, Marketo, or Pardot and are not seeing results. In the best cases, they’re getting lots of website visitors and a growing number of leads, but those leads aren’t converting into customers. In the worst cases, their visitor traffic is flat and they’re not even getting new leads.

So what’s the problem?

Marketing automation software is sexy (yup, you read that right!). It can do some pretty incredible things, like provide advanced marketing analytics, carry out automated lead nurturing campaigns, and enable A/B testing of your marketing efforts.

Pretty cool, right? What executive wouldn’t want to buy software that promised to put them on the cutting edge of marketing while making their team more efficient and giving them better and more detailed information with which to make strategic business decisions?

The problem is that when you get down to brass tacks, marketing automation software is just that – software. It’s a tool, but like any tool, the results you’re going to get from it depend on how often it is used and the skills of the person (or people) using it.

It’s kind of like a lathe. In the hands of a skilled woodworker, it can be used to make beautiful furniture. Give me a lathe and a block of wood and an hour later, you’d get a block of wood with some chips out of it (and potentially a broken lathe).

The heart of the issue

In most cases, when we see these situations, the issue is that the CEO is enamored with the ease of the software platform but blind to the resources it takes to be successful using it. This isn’t to say it’s all the CEO’s fault. Too many times, these companies are sold a bill of goods and told that if they buy the software, they’ll get amazing results (if you build it, they will come…).

Unfortunately, it takes more than software to improve the ROI of your marketing. To really set your organization up for success, you’ve got to build the right framework, and that means addressing the following:

1. Inadequate resource allocation

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Once you’ve purchased marketing automation software, how will you use it?
  • Is your staff trained properly?
  • Do they have the time to really get the most out of their fancy new tool?

Having the right human resources – and providing them with training – is a good starting point. But in most organizations, marketing departments are already overworked and understaffed. Asking them to onboard a new platform and do the additional work required to get the most out of it – all while they do their regular, day-to-day job – is unrealistic.

The companies that are most successful in employing marketing automation software either bring in additional talent (think copywriters who can consistently produce content for blogs and other campaigns) or they hire an agency to help guide and implement their inbound marketing efforts. If you’re outsourcing to an agency, expect to spend at least $3000 to $4000 a month – and more if you want to see results quickly.

2. Disconnect between marketing and sales

Because it’s called “marketing” automation software, most organizations mistakenly assume these products should only be used by the marketing department. While it’s true that your marketing department may be responsible for managing the software, your sales department has a critical role to play in shaping your marketing strategy and converting your leads into customers.

The best approach is to involve your sales team right from the start in developing audience personas, defining marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs), and brainstorming about the type of content your audience needs at varying stages in their buying process.

But don’t stop there. Work with your sales team to create workflows and lead nurturing strategies that mirror your sales process, and empower your sales team to use the content your marketing team has created in that sales process. Most importantly, make sure there is a clear process for handing off marketing qualified leads to the sales team, and following up on those leads to ensure they’re put back into a nurturing sequence if they don’t convert.

3. Lack of cultural buy-in

The companies that are most successful with inbound marketing have a culture of inbound. What do I mean by this? In a culture of inbound, every person in the organization – from top to bottom – understands inbound marketing, knows what it can do for the company, understands the role they can play, and is actively engaged in the process.

This cultural buy in is critical right from the beginning and the best way to achieve it is through a company-wide workshop or retreat. You can do this yourself or you can hire an agency to do it for you. The idea is to bring everyone together and educate, inspire and involve them. Done properly, this can really energize your team and transform the relationships you have with your customers and prospects. Done poorly (or not at all), it can result in marketing that is mediocre, doesn’t get results, and wastes your money. And let’s face it, who among us can afford to waste that kind of money?

Inbound marketing sucks

Yes, I just said that! Google it and you’ll see plenty of blogs, articles, and discussions featuring people who have had a bad experience and want the world to know that inbound marketing sucks. If you read these and dive a little deeper, you’ll find that in most cases, the issues I mentioned above are to blame.

The truth is that doing inbound marketing right – and getting great results – takes skill and work and time. If it was as easy as buying software, every company could be successful.

The good news is that it really isn’t rocket science, and any company – small or large – can see amazing results with inbound marketing. It all starts with buy-in and an understanding from the top leaders in an organization of what it takes to succeed.