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B2B Marketing ProTips: 3 signs marketing automation won’t work for your company

Last updated on September 25th, 2015 at 03:09 pm

After an amazing few days at INBOUND 2015, Hubspot’s annual flagship conference, I’ve come back with some insights about inbound marketing and marketing automation software. The marketing world is clearly heading in the marketing automation direction. There were 14,000 attendees at INBOUND!

But that doesn’t make marketing automation tools right for every company.

Full disclosure: My company Mezzanine is a Hubspot partner, and we use their software for some of our clients. Hubspot’s claim to fame, if you’re not familiar with it, is that it helps companies do inbound marketing in some very exciting ways. Their software automates a lot of key activities within the marketing function including drip emails, lead tracking, site interaction tracking, social media postings, etc., making it easy to stay in touch with your audience. But as big a believer as I am in the benefits of inbound marketing and automation, I know it’s not for everyone.

Here are three situations which indicate your company shouldn’t be using marketing automation software.

  1. Your company doesn’t have a marketing function.

You might have a brochure here and there, maybe a website, but you don’t have a dedicated marketer, no real marketing plan, or any sort of consistent execution. If this is your situation (and I believe this describes the majority of small and mid-size B2B companies), it’s probably not the right time to leap into automation. You’ll end up spending anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 a year on software, and without a structure in place to leverage the system, that money will go to waste.

You have to walk before you can run – and automation is definitely a steady jog. Start by getting your marketing ducks in a row. Once you have a structured program in place, automation will make a lot more sense.

  1. You don’t have anyone who can run the software.

This is something that companies frequently outsource – Mezzanine manages Hubspot for a number of companies. But if you want to do it in-house, you need someone who will take the time to learn the software and be responsible for using it. And this is no small job.

When we first signed up for Hubspot, I taught myself how to use it. They have group training and a full certification program – which I completed – and then I took a week off and put in somewhere between 50 and 60 hours to really understand everything. It’s a fantastic technology, but it comes with a significant learning curve, so you have to have someone who a) is committed to putting the hours in, b) is willing to learn something new, and c) actually wants to do it. Because otherwise, it won’t happen.

  1. You have a very small target market.

Many B2B firms have super-niche target markets. If you have less than a few dozen companies in your audience, you don’t need software; you can manage marketing, lead nurturing and staying in touch with an Excel spreadsheet. For you, automation doesn’t make sense in terms of time and dollar investment.

With those caveats aside, automation IS a phenomenally powerful tool for many B2B companies. I have no doubt that in the next five years, the number of companies using automation software like Hubspot, Marketo, Pardot and Infusionsoft will grow exponentially.

If you’re properly set up to use it, it can radically improve your ability to connect with your audience, educate them on the benefits of your offering – and convert prospects into customers.

Flickr photo via Creative Commons


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Lisa Shepherd
Lisa Shepherd
Lisa Shepherd is the author of two books on B2B marketing (The Radical Sales Shift and Market Smart). She is founder of The Mezzanine Group , a B2B marketing company based in Toronto that has worked with over 200 B2B companies in the last decade. Lisa is a frequent public speaker on B2B marketing strategy and execution and was the youngest female CEO to appear on the Profit 100.