Over the years, working in senior marketing roles for large corporations, I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced the introduction of many new marketing automation and internet based technologies. Many companies have prospered from these new technologies, whilst others have failed to achieve even minimal benefit. Why?

In the early to mid 1990’s I witnessed email and internet being rolled out across corporate organisations. Then came SEO and I remember optimising our first client website. Around the same time AdWords PPC advertising started becoming the talk of the town. Not long after, Social Media, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn became popular amongst different target audiences.

Along with these technological developments we’ve seen numerous marketing automation tools, from web development tools, email tools, advertising tools and social media management tools. Now we’re seeing incredible marketing automation tools such as HubSpot that are absolutely amazing and elevate marketing to an entirely new level. It’s no wonder marketing has changed so much in the past 10 years.

No longer is it predominantly a creative art form, it’s now also very scientific. Unfortunately many businesses are failing to harvest the massive potential and significant benefits that these advanced marketing automation tools can provide. There are 4 key reasons for this.

1. Limited knowledge on how to use (operate) the tools.

Companies often see demonstrations of the tools or read websites and sales material. Of course the demos and sales material highlight how easy these marketing tools are to use, but often they take time, effort and interest to learn. Frequently the tool is bought or downloaded and used once or twice and then laid to rest because no-one in the company actually knows how to use it correctly, has the time or interest to learn it or simply the novelty wears off. A very basic example of this related to a company that decided it needed to start creating videos for its website. It purchased a video camera and sophisticated editing software. Unfortunately no one really knew how to use the camera or the software. Someone in the company attempted to learn it but found that they didn’t have the time or interest and neither the camera or the software was ever used again.

2. Staff have an operational knowledge of the marketing automation tool but limited strategic knowledge.

This seems to be very common in many organisations. Staff and management understand what the tool can do, are excited by its capabilities, know how to operate it but have lack the strategic knowledge on how to best apply the functionality of the tool in their particular industry or environment. An example of this was a company that had heard it would be beneficial to start a blog. It set up a blog on its website and started blogging. Unfortunately the content of the blogs were irrelevant/inappropriate to the businesses’ core expertise and the blogs became simply press releases or promotions. The blog failed to deliver any benefit to the business.

I’ve actually seen this do more damage to an organisation than if they had never started blogging in the first instance. It’s a credibility issue.

3. Employing “Experts”

Companies need to be very careful when employing staff to manage these sophisticated tools. The interview process should be structured very differently. Many candidates can talk the talk but often have limited expertise, either operationally or strategically, or both. Carefully designed recruitment processes should be developed to ensure the candidate has the correct level of skill.

4. Recruiting expert contractors who promise the world.

We’ve all come across the SEO expert who can guarantee no.1 position on page 1 of Google results. Most businesses owners are not experts in this field and the convincing sales pitch is too good to pass. The expert is recruited, the business hands over a lot of money and very often it ends in disgruntled, upset and cynical business owners and managers. There are many reasons for this including the use of improper techniques that Google identifies and penalises the site for.


A couple of months ago I was at the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix and I started thinking about how similar Formula 1 is to Marketing Automation. There is no value in having the fastest car if no one on the team understands how to start it. That said, even if there is someone who can start it, the race team still will not perform well unless they have a solid race strategy, for example when to make their pit stops and tyre changes.

In essence, as with marketing automation, the car is simply a tool that is used to execute a strategy.

Marketing Automation can deliver incredible benefits and efficiencies to a business. Prior to implementation, businesses should ensure they have both strategically and operationally skilled staff who can use the tools appropriately. Alternatively, the business should consider external resources with proven, demonstrated expertise.

When using external resources it is important to work with an agency or consultants who are fully transparent, sharing everything they are doing, why they are doing it and how it is being done. For example, at Marketing By Objectives we are completely transparent and share everything we do with our clients, to the extent of training them to do the work themselves in the longer term.

By doing this, businesses can realise the full benefits from the marketing automation tools they invest in.