The Big Challenge
In the beginning, marketing automation was focused on email marketing, which is still a core function today and still most widely used but due to the evolving feature set, the ease of implementing is more important than pricing. Many B2B organizations struggle with using the full feature set of their marketing automation platform with the challenges of onboarding, ongoing use, and training.
To cope with B2B marketer challenges, vendors of marketing automation platforms have expanded training programs and added on professional services to improve platform ease of use. This includes online communities for both customers and developers to strengthen platform support, advocacy, and market penetration. Today, evolving features such as advance lead management, account-based marketing tools, predictive analytics and open architecture make it evident, more support from vendors is needed to support the ever growing martech ecosystem.
Still, only 33% of marketers believe they are successful at achieving important objectives based on Ascend’s State of Marketing Automation. Vendors should focus on a comprehensive training program and provide go to market strategies to generate faster results and prevent churn.
B2B Platform Capabilities
Almost all B2B marketing automation offer tools for email development and execution. Most all of them provided centralized marketing databases and a basic level of reporting on web traffic, visitor behavior and campaign results.
- Email marketing and landing page development
- Lead management (capture, scoring and nurturing)
- Native CRM integration
- API or app marketplace for faster martech system access
While email marketing is the root of all marketing automation platforms, lead management is now integrated as a core function.
Comprised of three functions: lead capture, lead scoring and lead nurturing.
Leads are captured from numerous sources that integrate into the marketing automation database, including website visitors, social media, paid digital campaigns, and email marketing respondents.
Lead scoring assigns a value to each lead based on a predetermined set of rules or criteria. Most models are based on two sets of data values: behavior (site purchase, browsing and social posts) and demographic/firmographics. Now B2B marketing platforms offer predictive scoring, which incorporates hundreds of data points by sourcing websites, social networks, and internal systems such as the CRM.
Lead nurturing is the process of keeping prospects engaged with the brand through periodic, personalized communications or campaigns until they are ready to buy. Marketing automation platforms may offer a number of pre-built nurturing steps or actions, as well as allow users to customize their content and process. These efforts are meant to build a relationship between the brand and its prospects and drive interaction with sales if and when the prospect is ready.
The Future of Marketing Automation
The level of sophistication of marketing automation platforms is constantly changing. Platforms now have integrated with CRM and account-based marketing (ABM). This also includes many using the platform for more sophisticated drip and nurturing campaigns, multichannel marketing, mobile, and event marketing.
We are now seeing the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) with the goal of providing customers with machine learning insights. AI-generated features include automated targeting and personalization, predictive optimization, recommendations and smart tagging. In the future, we expect to see predictive pathing and automated segmentation.
B2B Advanced platform capabilities
As the market continues to evolve so do marketers demand for advanced features and integrated marketing functionality that leads to a healthier bottom line return. Some advanced features include users the ability to build, track, and manage campaigns across channels and/or devices and monitor the marketing and sales coordination.
- Dynamic content generation (email, landing pages and or website)
- Account-based marketing (ABM)
- Mobile marketing
- AI-based predictive analytics
- Social/lead profile integration
Dynamic content creation
The ability to create, send and measure personalized email campaigns with the difference on how email, landing page, and website content is created and personalized. Some use content templates, wizard-based campaign design and some with a more customized approach.
As a standard set of analytics that tracks quantifiable data such as website visitor activity, pages viewed, time spent on site, emails opened, content download and campaign response. This is based on machine learning, which uses algorithms to process data and surface trends or insights that personalize a visitor experience or marketing campaigns. Some platforms go a step further beyond machine learning and use technology to “mimic” human intelligence and recommend marketing actions or outcomes. This can include highly personalized website content or product recommendations based on the analysis of consumer trends, on-site behavior, firmographics and CRM data.
As mobile continues to drive the market, creating an engaging experience is a must. Marketing automation platforms include responsive templates for email, landing pages, and web forms. Advanced mobile marketing features include SMS/texting, in-app marketing, and remote platform management. These can include push notifications or ads based on geography or during events.
Account-based marketing (ABM)
A big priority for a majority of marketers is aligning marketing and sales initiatives. The goal is to target marketing programs to prospect or customer buying teams, rather than individuals who may have moved into new positions or firms. Additional enhancements include account nurturing and predictive scoring capabilities.
Social/lead profile integration
Most offer some level of social media publishing, sharing and tracking within the platform for networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Linkedin. More advanced social media tools monitor social posts and add social behavior to lead profiles, often using social media engagement as a scoring factor. And some go as far as enabling the use of social media sign-on to capture social profile data and build lead profiles.
Native CRM integration
Aligning marketing and sales is more important as ever and the need to integrate with CRM systems is critical. Data is synchronized between the two systems and share between both systems.
We see that marketing technology budgets have hit a wall in 2017, forcing marketing leaders to understand what they have, rethink spending and focus on how best to use the marketing automation technology. As CMOs evaluate their martech ecosystem, marketing automation is critical to streamline expected repetitive tasks such as email marketing and lead management, but also leverage other more complex features within their marketing automation platform.
Yet to fully maximize marketing automation ROI is complicated for marketers. These advanced features including AI-based predictive lead scoring and product recommendations, ABM and social media integration while robust, often leave marketers questioning the validity to integrate and utilize with these enhanced features. To ease marketer’s frustration, vendors continue to expand their training programs, consulting services, and online communities to encourage comprehensive platform use and be rewarded with a higher return on marketing automation investment.
Read our next series, Choosing Your B2B Marketing Automation Solution.
Learning how to identify the marketing automation platform vendor that is the right for your organization.