Last week Gleanster published a refreshed copy of the Marketing Automation Gleansight Benchmark Report. The 43 page report, which can currently be downloaded for free, highlights the experiences and intentions of 220+ companies and offers a comprehensive look at how Top Performing organizations are actually justifying investments in marketing automation and exactly how they utilize the tools. The report also features a full vendor landscape with 50+ marketing automation vendors. I thought I would run though some of the interesting nuggets of information that bubbled out of the Top Performer cut of the data. There were definitely a few surprises that we haven’t seen in past years.
Top Performers are Divesting of Legacy Technologies
In every marketing automation survey we expect to see companies justifying investments by anticipated gains in revenue; so it’s no surprise boosting revenue tops the list of reasons to implement for Top Performers. In prior surveys (from 2011 and 2012), Top Performers have stated that lead quality and lead volume were also top reasons to implement. Everyone wants a higher volume of quality leads. But this year one of the top three reasons to implement marketing automation for Top Performers was a stated desire to divest of legacy technologies- and they are actually doing it. According to Gleanster, the average B2B organization maintains 3-5 marketing technologies. These disparate technologies often lead to data silos and difficulty capturing a comprehensive view of customer behavior.
But it’s one thing for a company to say they want to divest of technologies, and it’s quite another to actually do it. That’s because legacy technologies are typically deeply ingrained in marketing process and the tools are often customized and/or they contain historical information on contacts; all of which makes them difficult to rip-and-replace. In 2011, Top Performers that had invested in marketing automation reported they maintained an average of 3 other marketing technologies that supported customer engagement (email marketing, list management, landing page hosting, etc.); many of these were running in parallel with marketing automation. But in 2013, that average number of technologies supporting marketing for Top Performers is down to 2. That suggests Top Performing organizations are actually working towards reducing the complexity of the marketing technology stack by truly divesting of legacy applications. Naturally, this leads to lower annual licensing costs, reduces the complexity of training new talent in marketing, and forces multi-channel customer data to be aggregated in one system of record- marketing automation.
System Ease of Use Shows Up in The Top 3 Ways to Maximize the ROI from Investments
Ease of use as a value driver was the subject of much debate because it’s quite subjective. Shockingly, Top Performers ranked tool ease of use as a critical element to successfully achieving a return on investment in marketing automation. Since Top Performers display an affinity toward process re-engineering, change management, use of lead scoring, and multi-channel campaign execution, it stands to reason that the tools must strike the right balance between features, functions, and usability to take full advantage of these best practices. That makes marketing automation investments akin to purchasing a new vehicle: You look for the features and functions you need, then the nice-to-haves, and then a style and color that matches your own personal preferences. When selecting a marketing automation solution it’s a good idea to elicit feedback from the users who will physically be configuring campaigns on a day-to-day basis. Ask solution providers for a demo or even a trial period prior to making the investment.
Top Performers are Using More Features than Ever Before
While Top Performers are 6-7x more likely than all other organizations to use more advanced features in marketing automation (lead scoring, trigger marketing, nurture campaigns, etc.) it’s not uncommon to see Top Performers failing to leverage the full breadth of marketing automation solutions. In 2011, research suggested that about 60% of Top Performers that had recently invested in marketing automation over the last 12 months, were using lead scoring. One might consider the ability to aggregate prospect behavior and assign numeric values based on the propensity to buy a critical reason for investing in marketing automation in the first place. But it turns out, actually doing it takes a little more than flipping a switch on the technology. In 2011 Top Performers still extracted considerable value from the multi-channel capabilities in marketing automation, but struggled to move beyond using marketing automation as a glorified campaign engine. In 2013, the research suggests that the number of Top Performers that are leveraging lead scoring is 10-15 points higher; 75% of Top Performers reported using lead scoring in the 2013 survey. But why the increase?
Conversations with Top Performers suggest two distinct trends that should be heavily weighted by organizations considering investments in marketing automation:
- Many Top Performers report they over-complicated lead scoring methodologies in an effort to granularity target specific customer segments. More granular nurture marketing campaigns or lead scoring campaigns really lead to increasing demands for more content and convoluted lead scores. Many Top Performers chalked this up to a lesson learned and backed away from complicated lead scoring frameworks in lieu of simplified models. That’s because salespeople need to rapidly identify why a prospect has been flagged as “Hot” and the simplest way to do this is across a handful of critical attributes that qualify the leads. The more complex the scoring algorithm, the more likely sales will reject the qualification or struggle to determine the next best action for following up on the lead. In the early stages of an investment, it’s critical to get both marketing and sales invested in marketing automation success.
- Top Performers that recently invested in marketing automation in 2013 report they are using out-of-the box scoring methodologies and then tweaking them over time to target better quality leads. It’s as if Top Performers are taking baby steps with lead scoring, which helps the organization catch up to the new dynamics of B2B marketing.
Having said that, Top Performers also rank change management and process re-organization high on the list of ways to maximize investments in marketing automation. It’s the combination of best practices and embracing simplicity that helps Top Performers generate a faster return on investment in marketing automation.