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.
At first glance, what does the FLASH tell us?
- Well known marketing automation brands have happy customers, and many not only value the full set of features, they use them frequently. This is an indication that marketing automation providers have done a good job listening to customers and integrating the right features into the tools. It’s okay to invest in “easier to use” solutions first, isolate the value, and then move to a more robust platform later. After overcoming the initial learning curve, it is very common for advanced users to desire expanded capabilities and integrations from the most robust tools.
- The FLASH reinforces the fiercely competitive landscape of solutions and features that largely offer commoditized core capabilities and, as a result, frequently compete on price. That is actually good news for buyers who have minimal switching costs and low barriers to adoption. Vendors combat discounting with minimum investment timeline commitments (you commit to a year or two years). In most cases it’s going to take time before you see value anyhow, so this is appropriate. Where you might experience issues is when senior management stifles investments necessary to prove the value of marketing automation. If you have a small list and only enough budget to invest in the technology but not adwords, process reengineering, content, leads, tradeshows, etc., save your money.
- Despite more than a handful of recent negative press about companies that struggle with marketing automation tools, there are just as many success stories. Top Performers using marketing automation suggest that the investment in people, change management, campaigns, and content marketing necessary to extract benefits from marketing automation was on average 4-5x the annual cost of the tool – so don’t expect the tool to magically deliver on sales targets. Eighty percent of respondents using marketing automation solutions indicated they had measured or perceived a positive return on the investment.
- Users who participated in the vendor ranking were almost exclusively mid-to-large organizations with full-time administrators and more than 10 sales reps. We mention this because, more often than not, companies that struggle with marketing automation are smaller and have fewer resources and limitations on marketing budget. In these instances, measuring results is more difficult based on lower lead volumes, and the time to value is longer because fewer resources are supporting the change.