During my recent trip to the US, the one area that every marketing head I met mentioned as a high priority was marketing automation. While I was quite familiar with some of the more popular tools and also understood broadly what marketing automation could do, I was more than a little intrigued by the repeated mention and so decided to do some homework. This post demystifies marketing automation and also makes a case for why companies must begin to think about it.
What is marketing automation?
According to Marketo, a leader in this segment, marketing automation refers to tools and software that ‘can streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows’ to increase efficiency and also accelerate revenues.
Hubspot, another market leader chooses to describe market automation in a more interesting way. The company says that Marketing automation is software and tactics that allow companies to buy and sell like Amazon — that is, to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers.
At Prayag, we believe that marketing automation is simply a means to an end of making marketing more effective and accountable, and provide better business results. It does not just take software to do this though- one needs a vision for such an initiative, which links back to business priorities and challenges, solid prep work to ensure that investments in tools and software gives the desired outcome, including a team that is trained in the use of the software and can interpret the results, and finally the tools and software itself.
Why marketing automation?
Come to think of it, Marketing automation is not entirely a new idea. Automation of the marketing function has been done in a piece meal fashion for more than a decade now. Be it CRM software, campaign management and email marketing, they have all been in existence for a while now. More recently we have seen a plethora of analytics tools for the web and social media. In fact, I even recall some discussions with clients in the early 2000s on lead nurturing and management programs facilitated through technology. What the new approach to marketing automation does though is to take an integrated view of what needs to be done in marketing to deliver better business outcomes. Also, with the exponential rise in availability of customer data in a variety of formats, and the advancement in tools to aid personalization and real-time measurements, today marketing automation can be really sophisticated and deliver measurable results.
No wonder then that Gartner has magic quadrant for MA software, and IDC predicts that the market for such software will grow to nearly 5 B USD by 2015.
What does marketing automation encompass?
Typically MA platforms are comprehensive and handle many workflows including
• email marketing
• lead nurturing and campaign management
• In bound marketing
• Analytics- web and social
• Sales tool integration
What are the popular platforms?
Being a ‘hot’ area, there are a number of companies in this segment-most prominent and reputed among them include Hubspot, Marketo, Eloqua and Pardot. Other aspirants include Exactmarket, Infusionsoft, Leadsquared, Calliduscloud etc.
What are the results?
Despite all the hype and its potential to deliver results, at the present time, the jury is still out on what MA has delivered for business. The reason for this is not because of the concept being faulty but more because of the way companies have approached implementation of MA.
What is next?
So, should companies consider marketing automation? Yes, the benefits are too good to ignore. That being said, companies intending to automate their marketing function should start with a thorough analysis of their current marketing and business context. Next, examine how marketing automation can help achieve marketing’s and in turn business goals, put down an automation roadmap, select the right platform, prepare for automation and then embark on the implementation.
Would be great to hear from companies that have explored or experimented with automation tools or platforms. Do you agree that marketing automation is the way forward?