B2B Marketers Not Getting Maximum Value from Marketing Automation Software

4/28/2015
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In the spring of 2015, Spear Marketing Group, a leading full-service B2B demand generation agency, conducted a market research survey designed to document the level of maturity (or lack thereof) present in the typical marketing automation deployment. 

It was the firm’s hypothesis, based on anecdotal evidence and its own work with marketing automation clients, that under utilization of marketing automation software was rampant in the B2B community.

To test that hypothesis, the agency designed a survey that targeted B2B marketing executives, marketing operations titles, and other marketing automation users. More than 100 respondents completed a series of 33 questions that asked how much their organizations were either: 

1) Using specific features, in a way that would illustrate full utilization of the functionality available to them, or 

2) Enjoying business value in areas consistent with generally accepted best practices.


Respondents were then assigned a “grade” based on how many of their responses aligned with those best practices.  Taken as a whole, the average respondent answered 56% of the questions “correctly” and scored a grade of C. Whereas that single grade would suggest a general lack of maturity in most marketing automation deployments, responses to individual questions tell a more complex story.

In some notable areas, the average marketing automation user is achieving real business value. In other categories, adherence to best practices is relatively uncommon, even in areas that one would otherwise assume to be a primary business case for marketing automation. For example:


The Good:

  • 77% of respondents indicate they measure and report on pipeline contribution from specific campaigns

  • More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents employ both behavioral and demographic lead scoring

  • 85% of those surveyed said they currently segment email communication based on persona or job function on some or all campaigns


The Not-so-Good:

  • 40% of respondents employ no type of auto responder (follow-up email) to new leads

  • More than half (54%) of respondents indicate that more than 25% of their database is old, inaccurate or otherwise unusable

  • Almost three-fourths (74%) indicated that fewer than 50% of their email campaigns are triggered or automated vs. simply “one-off” (batch) programs


Any amount of under-utilization of marketing automation is a problem in that it, at the very least, prevents companies from generating a maximum return on their investment. Based on this survey, the average marketing automation user has a long way to go before utilizing the software in a way that would help him or her achieve the most business value.

But all is not doom and gloom. The results of this survey indicate that the average marketing automation user uses lead scoring in a reasonable sophisticated manner, is able to track pipeline contribution from specific marketing campaigns, and segments email campaigns based on persona or job title. These are not small feats. Data points like these reflect a maturing market in which use of more basic marketing automation functionality is becoming the norm.


What do marketing automation vendors and customers alike need to push marketing automation maturity to the next level? Here are some suggestions:

  • Filling the “talent gap” by making it easy (and inexpensive) for new and prospective hires alike to get up to speed on (and hands on with) marketing automation software

  • Increasing ongoing training and education for existing customers, not just in technical know-how, but also in strategy and best practices

  • Promoting and cultivating the development, growth, and awareness of third party professional service partners— consultants and marketing agencies—who can help clients achieve greater levels of sophistication.


Excerpted from the report: “The State of Marketing Automation Maturity”.  Complete report available for free download from the Spear Marketing Group Website.


Howard J. Sewell is president of Spear Marketing Group, a 25-year B2B marketing veteran, and a frequent writer and speaker on topics that include demand generation, lead management, and content marketing.  For the last three years, he has been named one of the “Top 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management.”