Let’s look at some simple findings from Econsultancy’s State of B2B Automation report, in association with Act-On, to add weight to this view, and to offer some advice for marketers wanting to get more from their tech stack.

Correlation between marketing automation and company success

Okay, this isn’t a stunning revelation but it’s a useful wake-up call for those B2B marketers yet to properly make an effort with marketing automation.

The chart below shows that 62% of Leaders have marketing automation in place, compared to just 50% of the Mainstream. The Leaders in this case are roughly one third (34%) of the total sample of 335 B2B marketers, and defined as those respondents who said their marketing functions exceeded their ‘top 2016 business goal’. The remaining 66% are designated as the Mainstream.

marketing automation in use?

Of course, automation isn’t the absolute – whatever channel it is employed in, it needs to be done sympathetically (see Glen Hartman’s article, ‘Personalization is nothing without creative empathy‘).

Marketing automation is under-utilised

Here’s a pretty conclusive stat, shown in the chart below, from the survey: Only 4% of respondents strongly agree they are using marketing automation to its fullest capacity. More than half disagree.

automation underused

Where are B2B marketers not doing enough?

The chart below shows how the Leaders and the Mainstream are using the functionality of their marketing automation software. It’s unsurprising to see email out in front, but more of a shock to see lead nurturing used by only 35% of the mainstream. Remember this is a B2B sample.

Even amongst Leaders, use of A/B testing (40%), account-based marketing (35%) and dynamic segmentation (32%) is well below half of the sample.

ma functionality

What is causing this inertia?

Resources is cited by 60% of the sample as the biggest challenge with marketing automation – this is somewhat of a vague and overarching term, considering the other options may fall under this label, too. Therefore, a lack of skilled experience, cited by 50% of respondents, is perhaps the biggest challenge with this technology.

This is symptomatic of our industry – lots of amazing tech but not enough practitioners that know what they’re doing with it, or that can navigate legacy technology (integration and data management cited by 37% and 48% respectively).

challenges to automation

How can marketers make better use of marketing automation?

There’s plenty of advice in the report. Here are four important nuggets:

  • Do your due diligence when researching marketing automation to ensure that you adopt the system that’s the right fit for your company size and business needs.
  • Build a watertight argument to sell the business case internally and have clarity of purpose.
  • Make use of third-party services to support in-house efforts.
  • Be prepared to pay for skilled experience and make your company a great place to work. A mix of data skills and management/marketing nous is required but hard to find.