3 reasons to be cheerful about Marketing Automation

To paraphrase Ian Dury, I think we have 1, 2, 3 reasons to be cheerful looking at marketing automation (MA) today.

1. MA is the new norm

Huffington Post recently covered Marketing Automation, defining it as a tool that is here to stay "Marketing departments must automate repetitive tasks such as emails, social media, and other website actions. The technology of marketing automation makes these tasks easier".

Whether its 49%, 55% or 78% of UK companies now using marketing automation tools (depending on which stats you look at) the evidence is clear that MA has reached the tipping point to become a mainstream tool for mid to large companies in b2b and b2c, with more and more SMEs adopting it too.

So why is this good news?

Obviously, good news for MA vendors and marketing agencies who are using it as a tool to deliver some truly amazing campaigns. But, it means that along with the US, the UK is leading the way in deploying new ways of marketing. Consultants like myself are busy exporting this expertise to the rest of Europe, creating centres of marketing excellence for global companies, with these tools at the hub.

2. More choice

There is more choice and competition than ever before; with options for large or small budgets, or even open source MA tools such as Mautic. However, there is now a growing acceptance that one size does not fit all.

Client needs are driving specialised applications, allowing you to build your own martec stack from a range of suppliers. Perhaps surprisingly the most common area for this is companies choosing to use dedicated email software, in addition to their MA tool. Why? Simply the functionality and results are better.

More choice can mean more confusion, so selecting the right MA tool has got harder not easier!

3. Customers first

I think 2017 will see a significant shift in focus from leads to revenue. Last year's Ascend2 "Marketing Automation Trends Survey" (2016) found:

The most important strategic goals of a marketing automation strategy are Increasing lead generation (61%), lead nurturing (57%) and sales revenue (47%).

A focus on increasing sales revenue means more companies deploying marketing automation for cross selling and upselling, as well as for loyalty and retention campaigns; not just acquisition or lead nurturing. Don't just take my word for it, Tom Ryan, Digital Director at UK-based MacramI, puts this as his number one prediction.

But as Irving Berlin wrote "there may be trouble ahead"...

Companies who have invested in marketing automation platforms are still struggling to maximise its benefits. Why? Too many marketers may have oversold the benefits of MA, and underestimated the timescales for returns, driven by FOMO, or fear of missing out.

So how do you avoid becoming the scapegoat? Ensure you have board level support, involve sales in your plans to adopt, or increase the use of MA. So for 2017, identify some quick wins, where MA can help accelerate sales lead conversion.

Don't forget the IT Team

Whilst vendors push the ease of APIs, lack of systems integration is still one of the major barriers to success. By not involving your IT team in the original purchase decision, you may find they will block every step to rollout as it's not an approved platform. Or worse still, it doesn't meet their security policy because it's in the cloud!

These are real IT objections, which have successfully derailed some MA projects, or at least prevented companies from accurately measuring ROMI (return on marketing investment).

The lack of business integration is exacerbated by the fact that many organisations, especially in b2b, are still product focused. Until a company is truly customer centric, MA will never be able to deliver on the promise of brilliant relevant personal customer experiences, no matter how good the behavioural scoring, or predictive modelling.

Up-to-date and accurate data is key and poor data will continue to undermine the efficacy of marketing automation. Spend time and money on cleaning your data, improving your data collection processes, training staff and recruiting what is starting to be termed data wranglers!

In the words of Adele, "Give me a memory I can use", marketing automation, when used correctly, has the ability to wow customers, by reminding them why they should buy from you by providing timely, relevant and engaging communication.

If you'd like to find out how Marketing Automation can help your business, then enrol onto the IDM's Digital CRM course.

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