In August Gleanster published the 2014 Marketing Automation benchmark report, covering 53 vendors, complete with vendor rankings (based on end-users) and analyst commentary on each vendor. The marketing automation vendor rankings showcase user perceptions across four criteria: ease of use, ease of deployment, features, and overall value. A minimum of 8 users for each solution featured on the FLASH rank these providers on a scale of 1 to 5.
What are the three most compelling trends to watch out for in marketing automation?
- Predictive marketing (also commonly referred to as predictive lead scoring, predictive intelligence, and predictive customer lifecycle) platforms are rapidly starting to demonstrate value in the Enterprise and Mid-Size market. These tools use machine-based learning and predictive models to analyze customer data and marketing lists to segment or target leads that have the highest propensity to convert. When you are dealing large organizations with lead volumes in the tens or hundreds of thousands per year, optimizing lead prioritization models can be very powerful- both in terms of marketing spend optimization and revenue lift. I see no reason why these won't be a core offering in marketing automation - particularly within "marketing cloud" providers that already have establish customers who need these capabilities. Some predictive marketing platforms (Mintigo is one that comes to mind) augment the modeling with additional B2B data, so the solution can actually build models with data you didn't even know about your customers. Gleanster will be expanding the research coverage in Predictive Marketing and capturing a benchmark survey in 2014.
- Forget inbound - unbound your marketing. It's getting A LOT harder to stand out with your inbound strategy. It's also more expensive. Inbound is beneficial, but it will never replace traditional marketing tactics. Don't let the inbound marketing messaging from vendors convolute your demands from a marketing technology platform. You probably still need to send to lists and execute campaigns that might not have "active leads" in them. Many providers are cracking down on loading purchased lists or monitoring bounce rates and punishing (or downright firing) customers for deploying these tactics. Bottom line, you need to invest in a mix of inbound and outbound marketing - and the marketing automation partner you choose ought to be open to some level of SPAM-compliant outreach to non-opt-in lists, especially if you target and segment your lists based on your relevant communication strategy. That's the key, you can't just deliver generic messages to generic lists anymore - it's bad for your brand. But you should be able to deliver targeted messages to relevant recipients without "hoping they come across a blog post or find a whitepaper". Have faith but keep rowing for the shore. Thing is, every marketing automation provider used their own platform to send campaigns to "non opt-in recipients" to grow their brand, so there needs to be some wiggle room for paying customers. With more and more innovation around predictive insights (using your existing win/loss data from your salesforce automation system) you can actually narrow down very relevant target audiences that have the greatest chance of converting. That way you don't waste boatloads of money on a top of the funnel strategy that only drives a handful of leads.
- When making an investment in marketing automation, have the vendor not only demo what it takes to create the outcome they are showing; dive into the configuration. Too many purchase decisions are based on the "promise of what the solution can offer." Take a look at what's under the hood to make the demo run. Expect to see continued innovation in reporting and analytics in marketing automation, users still struggle with these capabilities. We also expect to see some MAJOR innovation with respect to big data in the marketing automation space. Marketing automation providers are sitting on a massive amount of data about customer strategy and campaign configurations that could and should be used in aggregate to benchmark and recommend campaign strategies that deliver the best results. Next generation marketing automation solutions should be providing more than campaign template libraries, they should make recommendations about campaign tactics by industry, company size, and performance.
What should buyers be demanding more of from marketing automation solutions?
- Reporting is still abysmal in most tools. Specifically, campaign comparisons, visual insights, and custom reporting. There's a data model in there somewhere; we think marketing automation providers should be partnering with on-demand BI tools to unlock the insights in the customer data. That's where a whole new generation of marketing automation tools will start to blossom.
- Email templates and landing page templates are still a nightmare. Look for providers with a wealth of responsive design and email options that render across service providers. Why can't marketing automation email and landing page configuration be more like Unbounce? This isn't a knock on marketing automation; this stuff is hard, and it's a nightmare in email platforms as well. But if marketing automation is supposed to be the next-gen tool to consolidate and replace legacy technologies like stand-alone email, it had better not bring the same challenges to the table.
- Real-time analysis and real-time CRM integration. In the age of big data we should expect even more from SaaS platforms. It's really not appropriate for CRM solutions and marketing automation solutions to charge by the drink for computing capacity, data storage, and API calls these days.