Marketing automation is hardly new. 

But the increase in touchpoints and data sources is creating more opportunities than marketers can even identify, let alone implement on an individual basis.

In order to effectively manage lead acquisition, lead nurturing and scoring as well as triggered communications, organisations from all sectors and disciplines are seeking to maximise the opportunities Marketing Automation technology can help uncover.

The latest edition of the Econsultancy Marketing Automation Buyer’s Guide, published earlier this month is a comprehensive guide for organisations searching for the right solution.

The buyer’s guide features the profiles of 20 leading marketing automation technology vendors, along with an industry SWOT analysis, tips and pitfalls for buyers and an in-depth overview of recent trends.

While opinions vary regarding the rate of growth going forward, there is no doubt that recent years have seen a significant uptick of interest in marketing automation technology.

After tech-savvy organisations led the way in terms of adoption, a broader range of affordable, user-friendly solutions became available to meet the mainstream and diverse need for the technology.

According to one of the vendors detailed in this buyer’s guide, interest in automation technology will continue to climb as marketers are charged with the challenge of doing the following: 

Simplify processes, better understand customers, accelerate marketing time-to-market, eliminate data and technology silos, and delight the customer by providing a superior customer experience.

This is no small feat and is yet another example of marketing being used as the means to drive digital transformation.

However, one of the common misconceptions regarding marketing automation is that it’s just a software solution. Such thinking ignores the complex set of processes and techniques that go into creating and developing the marketing/sales pipeline.

Preparing the customer journey for automation

Before software can be used to automate marketing tactics and techniques, organisations must have a thoroughly robust understanding of its customer journey. 

Attempting to lay technology over ill-defined processes and journeys will be costly in time spent automating, then re-automating the processes in question, not to mention the missed opportunities that will occur from inefficient systems.

Naturally, the larger the organisation, the more complex the operations and thus the longer this process can take. One of the UK’s largest telecom organisations spent around a year merely mapping the customer journey in preparation for a rollout of automation technology.

Doing this effectively will require more than just representatives from sales and marketing, so it’s important to include stakeholders from all over the organisation when defining the customer journey.

Not only is this the only way to map out the entire customer journey, it can also begin the process of breaking down internal silos which often stop different teams working together.

Automation requires humans to control the rules

Automating existing processes that may currently be manual comes with obvious benefits in time saved, increased accuracy and ultimately, more relevant communications across the board.

However, what may not be considered as much is how much human resource is required to manage and govern this. 

According to this report, businesses are unable to meet this need internally. 

[many businesses are] outsourcing marketing automation in its entirety to specialists who either have built their own platform in-house or resell one of the [software-as-a-service] platforms.

While there may always be the need for external specialists, especially in areas where the need for technical competence can be high, it may be less than an optimal solution.

It would arguably be far more beneficial to have internal specialists who understand the business and can lead the optimisation of the processes over time, rather than an external professional tasked with the challenge of encouraging change through the organisation in a set space of time.

For more trend and analysis on the state of Marketing Automation, as well as to find out more about the 20 leading vendors listed, download a copy of the Marketing Automation Buyer’s Guide.

Bola Awoniyi

Published 9 June, 2015 by Bola Awoniyi @ Econsultancy

Bola Awoniyi is a Digital Consultant at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Rhoan Morgan, CEO at DemandLab

This is a great review article! Thank you. We at DemandLab provide this sort of service and I would love to see some input from the readers about the last comment. Personally, as someone that has served the Marketing Automation customer space for nearly 7 years I'd say there are a couple of categories of clients 1) those that need a kick start and the right methodology to follow to map out the business processes and that human touch (as much of this is new to them) and then layer it into their new technology (also very new) -- but will take controls once they get rolling, and we happy hand over the keys and 2) those that just don't have the bandwidth and believe in the power of outsourcing to strongly skilled and deeply experienced partners on an ongoing basis. We've had successful, long term, relationships with both of these client types. Any other thoughts or comments on this? It would be great to hear and learn from the audience here.

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