Before You Invest in Marketing Automation Software, Consider This

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The last few years marked some very critical milestones for the marketing automation industry. Industry leaders Eloqua and Marketo both filed for initial public offerings, which ultimately helped validate the technology and proved that marketing automation was more than a passing fad. Then much-anticipated consolidation by the big suite players started to take shape. Oracle acquired Eloqua for a whopping $871 million, or 9 times revenue. Salesforce.com acquired Exact Target (which brought with it the former acquisition of Pardot). Microsoft acquired Marketing Pilot and Adobe acquired Neolane (which became Adobe Campaign). This consolidation brought a new set of dynamics to the marketing automation landscape, and in some respects it opens the door to more questions than answers. Can industry tier-one marketing automation solutions continue to innovate and grow at the same accelerated pace under a broad suite of offerings? Consolidation certainly has its benefits, particularly when it comes to up-selling and cross-selling to existing clients.

One thing is for sure: The value of marketing automation is not limited by industry verticals or business model. The future of marketing is all about data-driven rules-based customer dialogs. While early adopters of the technology were largely B2B organizations with complex sales cycles, Top Performers from a variety of industries are using marketing automation to power relationship marketing, which benefits both B2B and B2C organizations. What largely differentiates a marketing automation solution from, say, an email marketing or campaign management tool is the ability to engage customers on two or more channels, lead scoring features, and integration with CRM. For the most part, any viable provider can check these boxes on features like lead scoring and multi-channel campaign delivery. That means the decision making considerations tend to weigh heavily on setup and support, usability, email deliverability, and pricing.

2014 FLASH Vendor Rankings for Marketing Automation

Click here to view the FLASH vendor rankings for Marketing Automation

Click here to view the FLASH vendor rankings for Marketing Automation

Today there are largely two classes of marketing automation technology: solutions built with robust functionality that can address the demands of the enterprise and solutions built to address the basic needs of a small-to-midsize organization. Enterprise class solutions tend to be more expensive and generally lock the buyer into a long-term commitment (which is somewhat justifiable because setup and optimization inside the bureaucracy of an enterprise can take longer, which extends the return-on-investment timeline). Enterprise solutions have more robust role-based security features, customizable data fields, single sign-on integration, performance scalability, multiple instances, and sophisticated data integration capabilities. Reporting and campaign management can get quite complex inside of a large enterprise, so enterprise-class tools walk a fine line between robustness of features and ease of use. There are a handful of providers that are more appropriate to address the needs of the enterprise including: Oracle Eloqua, Marketo, Callidus Cloud Leadformix, SalesFusion, Hubspot, Saleforce.com Pardot, and Act-On. For small-to-midsize businesses there are about a dozen different providers that feature all of the basic marketing automation necessities. Last year, integration with social media and web conferencing platforms became a popular add-on in marketing automation tools. Low barriers to entry in the space have led to a flurry of new entrants, even over the last few years. In many cases, new incumbents have very viable offerings that have been built and designed using the latest technologies and often address some of the shortcomings of established solutions. One thing to specifically look out for is the level of integration with CRM and the level of customer service provided. Some providers have deeper packaged integration with a handful of CRM tools. Customer success coaches are another added benefit to look out for. It behooves marketing automation providers to get clients set-up and happy with the solution as quickly as possible. In some cases, customer success coaches will even help configure existing email and landing page templates inside of the tool, which could shave weeks off of the setup and reduces the burden on marketing resources who should be more focused on re-thinking marketing processes and alignment with sales.

For a more complete analysis of key considerations before you buy Marketing Automation (including reasons to implement, top challenges, how to measure success, and a comprehensive analysis of the vendor landscape check out the 2014 Benchmark Report on Marketing Automation or visit the Marketing Automation Research Portal.MarketingAutomation-Promo-Graphic

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Michiels
Ian Michiels is a Principal & CEO at Gleanster Research, a globally known IT Market Research firm covering marketing, sales, voice of the customer, and BI. Michiels is a seasoned analyst, consultant, and speaker responsible for over 350 published analyst reports. He maintains ongoing relationships with hundreds of software executives each year and surveys tens of thousands of industry professionals to keep a finger on the pulse of the market. Michiels has also worked with some of the world's biggest brands including Nike, Sears Holdings, Wells Fargo, Franklin Templeton, and Ceasars.

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