Does the boom in marketing automation enterprise software mean we can put some sort of marketing Skynet into place and let the machines completely take over?
Okay well, maybe not 100% yes. But boy we’re getting closer.
In days of yore, marketing automation was a way to add to your email list and send batch emails out to said list, loosely categorized. Today, marketing automation is an increasingly essential part of any CRM platform, allowing marketers to gather reams of data pulled from a variety of sources (including social), crunch the numbers, intimately know who the prospect is, know where they are in the buying cycle, know what kind of content they respond to, and distribute messaging to them in precisely the right place at the right time and in the right way.
If you thought little saucers that vacuum your floor while you’re away were cool, marketing automation should blow your socks off.
But if sales is about relationships and the best relationships are one-on-one, how do the robots scale that into a marketing engine? The answer is, they’re actually getting better at it all the time. And corporations are believers. BtoB tells us 46% of B2B marketers use marketing technologies right now. 62% are “strong” or “full” adopters of marketing automation, compared to 40% in 2012. In 2014, it’s expected to be 81%. Focus Research says it has the fastest growth of any CRM-related segment in the last 5 years. The biggest issue with adoption, at 32%, is budget limitations and poor integration with sales. Which is sad, because the crumbling silos being brought on by the socially-enabled enterprise are pulling Sales and Marketing closer than ever before.
Still, we’ve come to know most of the research and decision process is over by the time a prospect talks with Sales. So being the source of the info they get, and leaving a trail of happy customers behind who will recommend us on social is critical. iMedia shows 93% of B2B buyers use search to start the buying process, 37% post questions on social.
The opposite of effective marketing automation is irrelevancy. Gathering data but not using it leads to irrelevant content being served, proving you don’t know the prospect and apparently don’t care. If I’ve shown interest in a product, why are you talking to me about a different one? Why are you desperately trying to close me when I just started info gathering? I’m an existing customer, why are you talking to me like I’m a new prospect? Gartner projects that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship without talking to a human. Try living in that world with no marketing automation.
If you are anti-robot and Skynet and the machines taking over, there’s still good news for you. Marketing automation is a means of learning about your audience; figuring out what kind of communication they should receive, and when, and where, and how. But the communication must still be crafted. Content is still the 800 lb. gorilla. Marketing is still as much of an art as it ever was. Your content must win applause and smiles and satisfaction. If it doesn’t, it’s perceived as expertly timed, precisely targeted…spam.