“Email Marketing Automation” – Where did that come from?


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An interesting thing happened when we published the Marketing Automation and Email Marketing CheatSheets.  A massive volume of traffic was being driven by a search term we had not considered “Email Marketing Automation”. In hindsight seems pretty obvious.  While this may be a byproduct of a lack of education around the capabilities that exist in Marketing Automation and Email Marketing solutions, it’s also a killer opportunity to educate buyers around a new trend, which is commonly being referred to as “relationship marketing.” Relationship marketing stresses a more intimate approach to engaging customers- it’s about relevance, context, trust, and a 1:1 dialog with the customer.  These “relationships” are informed by demographic, sociographic and behavioral customer data.  In fact, data is the only way to engage customers in contextually relevant ways.   Technically, no solution providers sell “email marketing automation” tools, because all marketing automation tools offer email.  But there are nuances to this concept of “email marketing automation” that are worth exploring.

Over the last 5 years, tools that were traditionally used by business-to-consumer (B2C) sales models (i.e. Email Marketing Solutions) and tools that were traditionally used by business-to-busines (B2B) sales models (i.e. Marketing Automation) started to head towards a collision course. It turns out, best practices techniques and tactics for relationship marketing are not unique to B2B or B2C. This is a trend that vendors like Silverpop, Exact Target, and Oracle Eloqua recognized early on.  This is also why marketing automation solutions saw early traction in Retail, Publishing, Media, and Sports & Entertainment industries.  In fact, Silverpop was a one of the most active advocates around the term “behavioral marketing” because they constantly saw demand from B2B and B2C clients that blurred the traditional lines that delineated marketing automation and core email marketing.  Best practices in B2C  environments are very powerful when applied to B2B environments and vice versa. 

Birth of "Email Marketing Automation"

Over the last 2-3 years the market has placed more and more emphasis on the customer relationship and personalizing the individual interactions in the customer experience. That’s because the customer is in control.  This demands a technology platform that not only offers the scalability of an email marketing solution (the ability to send millions of communications each year) but also the personalized and contextual messaging to engage recipients at an individual level. It’s all in an effort to optimize the path to conversion using behavioral data- so it doesn’t matter if you are selling to a business or selling to a consumer.

We don’t need to coin a new phrase here, but the clarifying point is that an “email marketing automation” technology,  should enable large scale email communication AND the ability to capture customer data (through web forms), track behavior through analytics, infer the propensity to purchase through lead scoring, automate business rules, micro-segment customer audiences, and execute multi-channel communications (to name a few).

There are a variety of technologies that exist on the market today that are capable of executing large scale marketing communications AND data-driven contextual engagement.  Not all marketing automation tools are created equally, and buyers looking for high volume email (or other channels) will have to make sure their short-listed solutions can support this type of engagement model.  Unfortunately it gets very confusing for buyers because technologies are often marketed with a wide variety of terms: digital marketing platform, marketing automation, multi-channel marketing solution, cross-channel marketing, email marketing, integrated marketing, etc. Over time, these tools will likely gravitate towards a universal term like  “Marketing Automation”.  That isn’t to say that marketing automation is the ideal term for enabling relationship marketing.  For a new buyer a term like marketing automation really only describes a tiny subset of what these solutions actually do (i.e. it’s not just about automating marketing).  Regardless, the term marketing automation continues to gain exponential traction in the market and will likely be a term that continues to drive mature growth in the relationship marketing technologies.

In the future, email marketing as a stand-alone solution won’t be all that compelling. No successful Top Performer uses email as the only customer communication channel. Eventually, marketing automation technologies will be the comprehensive solution that optimizes multi-channel marketing- regardless of the sales model (B2B or B2C). We aren’t there yet, and for this reason, 76% of organizations we survey still invest in a fragmented variety of marketing technologies to get the job done. But in the long term, it won’t be feasible to manage the complexity of multi-channel engagement at an individual customer level using fragmented tools. Given the fact that 98% of companies Gleanster surveys report they use an “Email Marketing” solution, it makes sense for buyers to frame the search for future technology investments using terms like “email marketing automation.”  We are therefore likely to continue to see bastardized search terms in the immediate future; the trick is to get in front of them early and route buyers appropriately to the solutions that are the best fit for their needs.

For more information on the above technologies check out the related Cheatsheets:

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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