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Marketing automation to become the core for customer engagement in 2015?

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27th Jan 2015
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Marketing automation has been gathering momentum as a technology over the past couple of years. And with software giants such as Salesforce.com, Adobe, Teradata and Oracle making significant acquisitions in that time as they bolster their marketing suites, it’s little wonder that some have suggested we’re witnessing a “critical mass” of investment in marketing automation.

In response to marketing becoming more and more technology-driven, the chief marketing technologist (CMT) has become a critical role, with Gartner reporting that the majority of large corporations have now appointed a CMT, and are spending more of the marketing budget on digital marketing as a result.

The technology and deployments are certainly maturing, but there remains plenty to still learn, insists Leslie Stretch, CEO of Calliduscloud, who points to some of the lessons that have been learned over the last year.

“The biggest development is engagement, and not just engagement with your customers,” he notes. “In fact, for marketing their most directly connected customer is sales in many cases. So making sure sales have access to the powerful tools in an easy to use mobile friendly form is critical to improve their ability to be successful, and that’s the key to marketing success in the boardroom. The reality is that you can’t sell effectively unless you market effectively, too.

“The painful thing for us to watch, however, is that so many marketing automation deployments are contained entirely within marketing departments. This is a major error – it rebuilds the data silos we’ve been so keen to destroy, and it blinds sales to the lead generation process. Vendors need to work with their customers to realise that, just like CRM isn’t strictly for sales, marketing automation isn’t strictly for marketing – sales should have visibility into it and have the opportunity to use it when appropriate.”

This, Stretch suggests, is part of the reason that the consolidation within the marketing technology sector has been gathering pace.

“The consolidation is, I believe, driven by the view that customers aren’t extracting enough value from siloed marketing automation platforms,” he says. “Sales marketing learning and customer experience teams all need to be in sync to deliver the right journey to the right customer. Marketing as a silo, or sales as a silo doesn’t deliver the experience customers want. It was estimated that almost $6 trillion was spent in 2013 as a result of poor customer experience.”

Marketing automation reappraisal

And Stretch believes that while enterprises have been leading the charge towards marketing automation, this will trickle down to smaller businesses in the coming year.

He says: “There should be a significant increase in the penetration of marketing automation, especially into the mid-sized business market, in 2015. The technology has been well proven, and yet only about 10% of mid-sized businesses are using it, according to Raab Associates and enterprise adoption is not much stronger. When technology is there it’s often not proving as a successful as the CMOs would have liked and this goes back to the need to tie back marketing investment to results and sale success. Overly-sophisticated, silo solutions will find a hard time gaining ground; we expect easy-to-use but function-rich applications to claim much of this audience over the next several years.”  

As for other trends that could characterise this sector this year, there are suggestions that 2015 could witness a major reappraisal of what marketing automation is used for.

For instance, Atri Chatterjee, CMO of Act-On Software, notes: "Marketing automation will not just be categorised as a lead-to-revenue platform and instead leveraged throughout the customer lifecycle; for communication programmes beyond acquisition and through retention and expansion. The use of marketing automation has just scratched the surface. Today, marketers are primarily using the technology to acquire new leads and convert those leads through scoring and nurturing programmes. Marketing automation will become the central conduit for monitoring, measuring and engaging with customers across the entire lifecycle.

“With marketing automation, marketers can ingest customer data at all stages, and manage and trigger communications based on the stage in the customer lifecycle or customer behaviour. Companies need to rethink their overall use of marketing automation and increase the usage beyond acquisition of new customers, through retention and expansion of the current customer-base.”

Furthermore, Chatterjee believes that 2015 will be the year that marketing automation establishes itself as the front-end technology for CRM.

“Marketing is currently the first touchpoint for customers and it will also continue throughout the relationship,” he explains. “A marketer’s role in the customer experience will continue to be more pervasive as the use of marketing automation expands to other initiatives. The customer lifecycle needs a leader; though managing the relationship will always require multiple internal functions, marketing can play a unique role in enabling the communication and facilitating the engagement that goes into shaping brand perception. Marketers are in an ideal position to lead customer relationship management as long as the organisation can align CRM and marketing automation technologies and attribute measurable objectives. Marketing will be the one department that can measure qualitative and quantitative efforts across the entire customer lifecycle.”

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