A few months ago, I had an all-too-familiar conversation with a fellow entrepreneur. “Yeah, we purchased Salesforce about six months ago," he told me, "but we haven’t had the time to set it all up and fully utilize it yet.”
That revelation gave me pause, because software like Salesforce isn’t exactly cheap. Depending on the package this man selected, he may be spending anywhere from a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand dollars each month -- which means a lot of money to let that software gather dust.
And he's not alone in his actions, or inaction. In fact, this practice is pretty common among sales and marketing teams with the CRM software they use -- or don’t use.
More From Entrepreneur.com
What's happening is that higher-ups are investing thousands on software, yet spending little-to-no time making sure their teams actually know what to do with it.
And that means companies are looking for the easy way out. They think the silver bullet to their marketing problems is to merely sign up for the enterprise package of Buffer or Zapier (or any one of the dozens of other valuable SaaS products out there) and let the software do the work. This kind of mentality usually leaves their software underutilized and, worse, their team’s potential for growth untapped.
Want to see the real magic happen? Marry great software with even greater people. That is the philosophy my company uses. As a tech-enabled content marketing firm, we’ve created proprietary software that we use internally and give our clients access to -- and we pair it with the best and brightest writers, journalists, strategists and editors, who fuel our team.
Why just purchasing software isn’t enough
We’ve had people in our network ask if we’re selling our content marketing software. Our answer is always “no,” and the reasons could apply to any other stand-alone software. Here’s why:
Software is useless if you don’t know how to make it work for you. Tutorials and advice from the software’s sales team can help you figure out the basics -- but you miss out on how to adapt certain aspects to best meet your needs. Without someone on your team with special knowledge about the software’s back end, it’s much harder to tailor the software to enhance your experience.
Software doesn’t make great content; people do. The day will probably come when computers can write listicles like “Antics of 7 Cats That You Just Have to See,” but for now (and especially to stave off that scary future), real humans need to contribute real expertise to create effective, quality content.
Software should complement your team, not replace it. The purpose of marketing software is to allow your team more time to put into strategy development and critical thinking. Smart people still need to power your efforts -- and software should help them do that more efficiently.
How to make the right software work for you: 3 steps
Just because stand-alone software itself isn’t enough doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable purchase; you just need to train your team to take advantage of all it has to offer. Regardless of the content-marketing software you choose, there are a few tried-and-true ways to help your team maximize it:
1. Team training with outside leaders
If you didn’t create the software internally, you have two options. You can get training from the company that did create it -- in the form of webinars, on-site training or resource centers similar to HubSpot -- or you can hire an outside agency that specializes in helping companies learn to implement the software they buy.
2. Small trainings
From there, conduct smaller trainings with the team members who will utilize your program. Small-group meetings will show the software trainers how those teams plan to use the company’s software and how those trainers can help them accomplish those tasks. With training from the software's creators or an outside agency, you can talk through different use cases for maximum efficiency.
This is the process we use for updates to our software, Ico Core, which, again, is not sold. We demo the new features in a large team meeting and follow up with smaller team trainings hosted by our VP of technology and lead developer to help our employees in different roles learn how the new features affect them directly.
3. 'Process' docs
As with most trainings, your team will need to dive into the software to fully understand it, and that’s when they’ll ask more how-to questions. Rather than direct all questions to your tech team, prepare a series of process documents employees can reference.
But don’t ask the person who created or sold you the software to write those docs; that could lead to overly technical results, which will do more to confuse your team than clarify anything. Instead, ask one person who’s passionate about learning and teaching the team about new tools (and hopefully has some personality) to craft emails and process docs that explain the new tool in lay terms.
That's what we did: One of our sales team members, who happens to have a very specific (and widely appreciated) sense of humor, works with our tech team to create these helpful, engaging documents. (You can check out an example of one here.)
Ultimately, the important thing to remember is that software alone will not save you or your marketing -- but a smart, wonderful team that knows how to use it just might.