Marketing Automation Alone Can’t Deliver ROI for Industrial Companies

Let me start by saying that I’m a big believer of Marketing Automation (MA) and have seen it produce incredible marketing ROI for some manufacturers and industrial companies.

Then why does the headline of this post make me sound like a skeptic? That’s because it’s a case of good news, bad news.

First, the good news, MA does make the entire process of converting Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) into Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) very efficient and measurable. It produces amazing results when implemented and managed correctly.

This infographic from Pardot (A SalesForce Company) shows the real results automation users are seeing, descriptions of how automation is transforming companies, and staggering growth statistics.

The ROI of Marketing Automation [INFOGRAPHIC] - An Infographic from Pardot

Embedded from Pardot

I don’t blame you if you are a bit skeptical yourself since Pardot is a MA vendor.

Now for the bad news. Some of my industrial clients who have implemented MA are struggling to produce the promised results. I don’t want to oversimplify the problem by generalizing. Based on my conversations with these companies, I have noticed three common issues for MA’s failure to deliver ROI for them.

  1. A lack of planning and clearly defining good processes
  2. Not assigning responsibility for managing MA to people with the right skill set and training
  3. Underutilization from partial implementation and expecting instant results

Just adding another layer of technology will never solve the problem of generating quality leads that convert into real sales opportunities. It won’t help your salespeople improve their win rates if all marketing is doing is cluttering up their dashboards with more data from MA.

Sales needs good intelligence and insights on leads for them to have conversations that are more productive and turn them into more RFQs. They need the right information at the right time and not just a data dump from MA.

Sales and marketing have to work together from the get go to define these processes and also must agree to refine them with timely feedback. These steps must be completed before implementing MA and everyone must agree on a unified definition of a SQL. Without this groundwork, no technology by itself can solve all the challenges of industrial lead generation and sales.

A quote by Bill Gates summarizes this problem nicely. He said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

You may also want to read my post, “Are Industrial Companies Wasting Their Leads?”

Are you using or seriously considering implementing Marketing Automation as part of your industrial marketing? What has been your experience if you have or what is holding you back if you haven’t?


  1. Developing that marketing/sales new process takes time, commitment and a lot of trial and error. But most importantly, it takes new insight into how buyers have changed what they do. In the meantime, there are many free or inexpensive tools out there that companies can use to automate individual steps as they build out that process. In the end, they’ll have a much better idea of what to expect from MA and what capabilities they’ll need.

  2. We are in the middle of deploying HubSpot (marketing automation) for our own company (HubSpot Partner Agency) and several of our customers. I am also working with an experienced ad agency and friend that is also a HubSpot Partner Agency. He helps a lot with the content aspect of content marketing. We have coffee once a week and compare HubSpot “notes” and marvel at the potential of marketing automation.

    However, you are right Achinta…understanding what marketing automation can & cannot do is critical. Once you understand how the stuff works, then planning and goal setting is key to your success.

    I would also say for marketing automation to work you must slice out resources in terms of time & money from other aspects of your business to do it correctly.

    The good news: I have recently connected with several folks on the front line of industrial marketing…folks that have deployed HubSpot several months ago or several years ago. The ones that have taken the time to become fluent in HubSpot and taken the time to plan, as Achinta suggests, are HUGE fans of marketing automation. The results back up their claims.

    “By Tom Repp”

  3. Achinta;
    As usual a great post – thanks.
    We find that the most important elements to any successful marketing initiative are (in order):
    1) Strategy – a clear and complete, up-to-date strategy is an essential. Without it, you’re going to automate the wrong solution and waste every dime you spend doing so.
    2) A deep understanding of the process of using Inbound Marketing and Automation. We divide this process into 4 phases:
    i) Attract – social, SEO, PPC, redirects, and blogging
    2) Engage – website page copy, headlines, images, calls to action and most importantly content which grabs their attention and holds interest. Content which educates them on the issues and solutions available and doesn’t just sell your own.
    3) Convert from nameless visitors to prospects who give your their name and email to receive some of the more valuable items of content.
    4) Nurture and qualify with drip email campaigns until they are ready to talk to a sales person (reach a specific score and grade); and then automatically feed into the CRM to let sales take over.
    For more on all of this, and especially if you want to know how to produce the right content for the right prospect at the right time of his or her buying-cycle journey, the resource section of our website can help.

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