Having lived through the unprecedented growth of the CRM software category, I never thought I’d see another category of marketing software reach similar levels of such frenzied adoption, but just this one time, maybe I was wrong.
I spend my days advising companies on marketing strategy, and in particular, on the use of marketing technology platforms to drive business growth. Based on that experience, I can say that I’ve seen more companies evaluate and deploy marketing automation in the past 12 months than in the previous five years combined. In fact, Sirius Decisions predicts that 50 percent of B2B organizations will use marketing automation by 2015, up from just 20 percent in 2012. Why the sudden, rapid growth? I believe there are a few factors at play, and a few feature sets that have become more accessible and vital, making now the time for marketing automation adoption.
Growth, Competition and Consolidation Are Good for Customers
Earlier this spring, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with a Salesforce.com user group about marketing automation. In particular, I wanted to highlight how the last few years have brought extraordinary growth and change to the marketing automation space, and my belief that this change has accelerated the ease of use, affordability, and adoption of marketing automation tools. This is a case where Mr. Adam Smith was indeed right and capitalism is driving better results for the market.
Consider a few of the following milestones:
- March 2011 – HubSpot raised $32 million from Google Ventures, Salesforce.com, and Sequoia Capital
- August 2012 – Eloqua went public and by December 2012 was acquired by Oracle for over $800 million
- October 2012 – ExactTarget acquired Pardot for $95.5 million
- January 2013 – Salesforce acquires ExactTarget (and Pardot) for $2.5 billion
- May 2013 – Marketo went public at a valuation of $550 million
With the strengthening of some of the major players in the space, competition among them has increased, feature sets have been enhanced, and costs have in many cases decreased, making marketing automation more accessible. Couple this with the rise of the more data-driven modern marketer, and we’ve hit a critical marketing automation inflection point.
More Accessible Features Become Better Understood – and More Valued
As is the case with most marketing activities, planning, marketing and sales alignment, in combination with remarkable content, spell marketing automation success. For those just beginning to evaluate marketing automation, or even existing users, it’s hard to start using every single aspect of the tool right out of the gate. While most marketing automation platforms offer a large number of features and a high level of sophistication, it was previously a challenge to understand where and how to use some of those really cool options.
But newer platforms and developments have made implementation and use easier. Regardless of the platform you choose to license, I’ve seen the recent growth in adoption tied to these key components:
It sounds simple, but focusing your sales efforts to your most qualified and most sales-ready leads can be a game-changing concept for many companies. A marketing automation platform allows a company to understand the actions that a potential customer takes, and then add or deduct points from that user’s profile. They can then use that score to determine when the prospect is ready for follow-up and what that follow-up should be. Marketo’s Big List of Lead Scoring Rules is one of a number of quality lead scoring resources provided on its site, and downloading it will up your lead score for them too – how meta.
Have you ever gone to a website, downloaded a guide, eBook, etc., and had your phone ring almost immediately with a call from a representative of that company? That’s kinda creepy, right? Most leads aren’t sales-ready after the very first touch. Marketing automation tools let companies set up lead nurturing programs, allowing them to drop content out over a period of time to give prospects additional information, measure changes in the lead scoring, and warm them up for sales. Eloqua’s Grande Guide to Lead Nurturing is an excellent and quickly consumable primer on lead nurturing.
With the word automation right in the title, you had to know that this one was coming. When properly configured, deployed, and optimized, automation rules can be very powerful and help a marketer to address tasks that were previously executed manually. These manual tasks would typically end up either:
A) Taking forever to get done, or
B) Never getting done because they took forever
By automating tasks with simple or complex rules, marketers can get more done, faster. Automatically adding people to an email list after a certain behavior, automatically moving them through sales stages or setting CRM follow-up tasks, or automatically sending a follow-up message after an event are just a few examples of some simple automation rules. This simple example from Pardot and another from HubSpot illustrate how these rules work.
ROI. Proof. Marketing accountability. Revenue performance. The list goes on and on. Now more than ever, marketing is being held to trackable metrics. While it’s easy to calculate simple metrics – like my recent lunchtime achievements of consuming 1.4 pounds of hot food or 113.09 square inches of pizza – businesses are beginning to care less and less about vanity metrics like Facebook likes and page views, and more about business metrics like qualified lead sources, days in each stage of a sales cycle, and revenue generated per campaign. Bad news for the vanity metrics of my lunch, but good news for those in marketing who want to prove we actually contribute to revenue. The tracking built into marketing automation, along with closed-loop CRM integration, allows marketers to truly show impact on revenue and the campaigns and channels generating it, allowing for ongoing optimization. Taken one step further, business intelligence (BI) tools connected to your marketing automation platform like Pardot’s GoodData allow you to easily analyze, report and visualize data from your marketing automation tool and CRM to wow the C-suite.
While these features only scratch the surface of the sophistication that most marketing automation platforms offer, if you’re looking for a justification to invest in marketing automation, start with these four. Couple the right platform with the right modern marketer to guide the strategy, and you’ll soon understand the power of marketing automation.
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Agree? Disagree? Think I missed a key driver for growth or think I’m just a geek pushing software? Please share your take in the comments below.