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Marketing automation has become a major buzzword in the business world. Over the last couple years, the use of marketing automation software has grown so fast you’d think it was on steroids.
But as its immense success proves, the strength of marketing automation lies not in muscle, but in the way it is revolutionizing the customer conversion process. In this post, we’ll cover the current marketing automation trends as well as predict trends for the future.
Marketing Automation Today
The top three trends we see in marketing automation right now are its growth, its advantages, and its disadvantages.
The Growth of Marketing Automation
Marketing automation optimizes a company’s marketing efforts by personalizing the buyer’s journey through the use of automated software. At 9 Clouds, we define it as sharing the right information with the right people at the right place and right time.
Though marketing automation is still a fairly new concept, its effectiveness among business-to-business (B2B) companies proves it’s here to stay. In fact, there were 11 times more B2B organizations using marketing automation in 2014 than there were just three years prior. Right now, almost 70% of all businesses use or are implementing marketing automation software. And the ones that are tend to be more profitable. Higher revenue tiers are correlated with higher percentages of companies using marketing automation.
While marketing automation use is highest among bigger B2B companies, the software is being implemented by all sizes and type of organizations. In 2013, one study found that the largest group of marketing automation buyers were companies with fewer than 500 employees. Industries across the board are taking advantage of the time-saving software–and they’re using it across all channels, not just a single one (like email).
All this means that marketing automation is becoming more widespread, not just among different industries, but within individual organizations too.
Current Advantages of Marketing Automation
78% of successful marketers claim that marketing automation is their biggest factor in increasing sales. The reason for this is that marketing automation provides so many different benefits for marketers. Here are some of the current advantages:
- Improved lead management. More tailored marketing means more qualified leads. A 2014 survey showed that better lead generation was the number-one priority for marketers (64%).
- Improved marketing productivity. Because marketing automation takes the place of many repetitive tasks previously done by marketers, it frees their time to focus on more important things. The same 2014 survey above proved this to be the second most important benefit for marketers (48%).
- Improved conversion rates. Automated marketing targets contacts more personally, so they convert to leads and customers at higher rates. One study found that companies using marketing automation had a 53% higher conversion rate from initial response-to-MQL (marketing qualified leads) than those that didn’t.
- Other advantages. Other benefits cited by organizations using marketing automation include better engagement rates, better segment targeting, shortened sales cycles, increased Web traffic, and lower marketing costs.
Current Disadvantages of Marketing Automation
While marketing automation does make marketers’ jobs much easier, using it is not without its disadvantages. Some of the biggest barriers currently include:
- Limited budget. Many companies would like to use marketing automation but simply don’t have the funding (or approval) for it. 54% of marketers who do not use marketing automation claim this to be a main reason they have not yet implemented the software.
- Lack of skilled staff. Marketing automation requires training and management, and often companies aren’t able or willing to hire employees to do that. This was the second biggest obstacle cited in a 2014 study (36%).
- Complexity of software. Some companies believe that the cost of marketing automation software isn’t worth the technology, which is still somewhat difficult to figure out. 57% of those using marketing automation say their infrastructure is separated by channel, not well integrated, or lacking completely.
- Other disadvantages. Additional drawbacks to marketing automation include perceived lack of need, insufficient amount of content, and poor integration with sales and marketing efforts.
Marketing Automation Tomorrow
The top three trends we predict for marketing automation in the future are more streamlined software, more mobile optimization, and more focus on the future.
More Streamlined Software
Marketing automation is expected to experience 50% growth from the start of 2014 to the end of 2015. And in just five years, 85% of companies are expected to manage all partner relationships through marketing automation rather than through actual human interaction.
As marketing automation continues to take off, the software will need to improve to become even simpler to use. Since the variety of companies utilizing the technology is becoming more and more diverse, marketing automation platforms will have to adapt so that businesses of all sizes and industries will be able to operate it.
Of course, the range of features available through marketing automation will improve as well. New algorithms based on browsing and purchasing history, combined with a new focus on creating good content, will make marketing automation even more personalized and effective than it is today.
More Mobile Optimization
With the arrival of smartphones, companies have had to transform the way they think about marketing by refocusing their efforts toward mobile optimization. It’s clearly paying off–the impact ratio for mobile marketing is currently $1 (spend) to $20 (sales). And mobile marketing will only continue to skyrocket as time progresses. In fact, mobile retail is expected to own about 30% of all sales by 2017.
For marketing automation to keep up, it will need to start developing for mobile first. Optimizing for mobile will give marketers better insight into their contacts based on their location in real-time.
More Focus on the Future
While scoring leads in real-time is great right now, soon it won’t be enough for marketers. They’ll begin to shift their focus from the present to the future, predicting customers’ actions based on behavioral data. In fact, 71% of marketers want predictive analytics right now. And before long, their wish will come true.
In the next few years, marketing automation technology will advance so that companies will be able to anticipate the conversion path for each customer. This will allow them to target even hotter leads and pinpoint their very best customers.
Photo: Francisco Osorio