If there has been one significant change in the area of marketing and engagement, it is the almost complete ubiquity of "programs." Some of them have names everyone knows like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. Others have names like Salesforce, Marketo, Dynamics or iMIS.

Yet despite the great fanfare from these systems, why do their promises rarely materialize?

Consider how the system is implemented:

  • A problem is identified.
  • A vendor prescribes the medicine: Merely purchase software package X (or spend time doing Z), and all will be well.
  • The software is purchased and configured.
  • No one uses it.
  • The problem remains.
  • Everyone becomes even more cynical.

The biggest obstacle to solving the problem is not the lack of software, but the lack of buy-in from front-line staff. Or in other words, tools make it possible, but people make it happen. Too often, the "cost" of the software is measured only in the license fees, not the implementation.

Here are eight critical factors that if omitted or poorly executed, will guarantee failure:

  1. Training (and more training and more training)
  2. Monitoring activity (by leaders and front-line managers)
  3. Alignment of front-line interests with the organization's goals
  4. Incentives/gamification to encourage usage
  5. Performance appraisal/personal goals tie-in
  6. Leaders leading by example — the new system isn't just for the rank-and-file
  7. Sensitivity to the difficulty of change
  8. Flexibility/mid-course correction — as the system is implemented, more will be discovered

This week's action plan: Are there any programs that should solve "the problem" in your organization, but remain either unused or actively opposed? If so, it isn't too late. What might it take to relaunch the program to generate that buy-in? The list above can help.

Marketing insight 1: While front-line buy-in is absolutely required, there are other important reasons why a system might not be adopted. Chief among them are incorrect system selection in the first place, poor configuration, data quality problems, and lack of integration with other systems. Not sure if these are the problem? A system and process review can provide an objective assessment.

Marketing insight 2: Momentum is more important than perfection. Implementing a modest first phase with plenty of "wins" will generate the momentum that is necessary to implement later, more complex functionality.