According to HubSpot's 2014 Year in Review, HubSpot is one of the largest marketing automation platforms boasting over 13,600 customers from 93 countries which accounts for HubSpot's 49% growth to $115.9 million in revenue. And HubSpot is not alone. Other marketing automation platforms include Marketo, Eloqua, Aprimo, Pardot, Silverpop, Hootsuite, Infusionsot, Act-On, and there are several others.

With HubSpot customers such as DMA Solution's CEO Dan'l Mackey Amly seeing a 40% increase in revenue after 12 months of using HubSpot, there is no question that several businesses are growing and benefiting from their adoption and implementation of marketing automation. But there are some important insights I'd like to share if you have either already bought into or are considering making an investment in a marketing automation platform for your company.

1. Marketing Automation is a Tool, Not A Strategy: Seems obvious enough, but with more than 2,200 HubSpot agency partners worldwide, questions such as "What's your Marketing Automation Strategy?" are becoming more commonplace. Marketing automation specialists can be incredibly valuable when they are provided the proper context of how this marketing automation tool fits into the context of a larger growth strategy. The mistake occurs when the tool becomes the strategy. Software is only as good as the people setting it up, managing it and refining it to ensure the desired outcomes are met. You wouldn't buy an airplane without having a pilot, but often entrepreneurs jump in to a platform without taking into consideration the people resources needed to ensure its successful implementation.

2. Don't Obsess Over Traffic: Set Measurable Goals Tied to Sales Growth: Platforms like HubSpot are powerful. It's easy to see all the possibilities and lose sight of what's most important. In 2014 alone, HubSpot customers shared 6.1 million social posts, sent over 3 billion emails and created 486,603 blog posts. The most effective companies can tell you more than their page views, open and click through rates, as they have worked backwards from the sales process and have the measurements and triggers in place to tie these efforts back to their sales growth. The problem comes when the content you create isn't driving purchase decisions. You may be increasing your website traffic, but if that increased traffic isn't leading to qualified leads, it's time to make some changes.

3. Quantity Does Not Replace Quality Content: Velocity Partners said it best, "Crap: Why the single biggest threat to content marketing is content marketing and how building a Great Content Brand will help you survive the deluge." What Velocity Partners noted is that as more and more companies embraced content marketing, they were just pumping out really terrible content, which, in turn, was turning away the very prospects these companies were hoping to attract. The opposite of this approach is to produce fewer, more high quality pieces of content that people actually want to read, watch or listen to. The takeaway is to spend more time building quality content rather than trying to pump out volumes of crap.

4. Marketing Automation Does Not Mean "Auto-Pilot:" Successful marketing automation is not a "set it and forget it" strategy. Automation isn't about doing less, but rather having a bigger impact with the marketing efforts you are launching and managing. If your goal with marketing automation was to buy a silver bullet that solved your inbound marketing challenges, then you've set yourself up for disappointment. Great marketing automation helps you retain your best customers, encourages referrals, attracts new prospects and nurtures leads that are not sales ready. But all of these growth factors require your time and attention to make them successful.

5. Don't Outsource Your Voice: At the end of the day, no matter what you sell, if you've decided to engage in a content marketing strategy, you need to be yourself and find your own voice. While you can lean on the experts to help you refine your content marketing blueprint, set-up your platform, research your ideal customer prospects, and even ensure your content is resonating with your audience, do not make the mistake of relying too heavily on ghost writers. Your voice needs to come through your content. People buy on emotion and back-fill with logic. You need to create an emotional connection with your audience and the only way to do that authentically is to share something of yourself.

6. Continue to Refine Your Strategy and Optimize Your Results: Remember that marketing automation is a marathon, not a sprint. If something isn't working, remember that you can always change it. Test a lot of your ideas and see what resonates. When something hits, see how you can refine and optimize that initial success. The more you do, the more you learn, and the more successful your efforts will ultimately be.

I, for one, am not a HubSpot Hater. I think marketing automation platforms, when used correctly, can be a valuable component to your overall lead generation and lead nurturing plans. The problems usually arise when marketing automation is seen as a quick fix solution to the more common challenges entrepreneurs face with respect to growing their business.

When implemented properly, marketing automation platforms like HubSpot can help you maximize your results, measure what matters and grow your business. If you're not happy with your results, don't blame the platform. Instead, work backwards from the sale and identify where you have gaps in your inbound marketing and sales process.

Published on: Feb 23, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.