The State of Marketing Automation

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing Automation software helps to automate and scale repetitive marketing tasks and the subsequent analysis of those efforts. Originally focused on email-based campaign management, Marketing Automation now refers to a broad range of automation and analytic tools for marketing.

While increasingly multi-channel, Marketing Automation products are largely centered on digital campaign execution, automation and measurement. The core concept is that leads in the marketing database can be nurtured through the buying process by providing them with relevant, personalized content until they are ready to purchase. Historically the primary channel was email, but today websites, mobile interfaces and social media are all integral to successful marketing efforts. Campaign workflow can be designed within the tool and then executed automatically; once a campaign has run its course, a range of analytic tools can measure its performance to understand what worked well and what did not.

Most Marketing Automation software products contain an email engine and abilities to create customized landing pages, score leads and analyze results, which provide a holistic view of the entire marketing funnel from visitor to customer. Beyond these core functions vendors tend to differentiate themselves on breadth or depth of offering, largely based upon current or historical market segment focus.

For example, at the high very end of the market some enterprise tools like Teradata's Integrated Marketing Management (formerly Aprimo Marketing Studio) and IBM Unica provide comprehensive Marketing Resource Management (MRM) functionality. This functionality focuses on internal marketing processes like budget and forecasting, project workflow management, asset management, brand management and spend management. Such capabilities have historically not been a focus for small business and mid-market enterprises, though some believe that MRM capabilities will become important for mid-market companies. Marketo recently added budget management and will be releasing a calendar feature.

Photo of Craig Rosenberg - Co-founder, TOPO“For marketing automation to move beyond demand generation to become the platform for marketing, MRM [Marketing Resource Management] is an area that they will have to include as part of their suites moving forward.”

At the small business end of the market, the emphasis is on providing a complete toolset of marketing capabilities, of which campaign management is just one element. These products are commonly referred to as “All-in-One Marketing Platforms,” and typically include basic email, social media, search engine optimization (SEO) and blogging tools. Some products also include eCommerce and basic CRM capabilities.

Inbound versus Outbound Marketing

An inbound marketing orientation focuses on the “top of the funnel,” i.e., generating new leads. Per the illustration below, primary inbound marketing tactics include publishing educational content (blogs, white papers, videos or any other content that draws people in), search engine optimization and social media.

Outbound (or mid-funnel) marketing focuses on nurturing and engaging existing leads with relevant content via email and social media, building calls to action (e.g., attending a webinar) and sending leads to personalized landing pages. As these leads become increasingly engaged, they become Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and ultimately Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) that are ripe for closing. Some marketing automation tools aim to cover the full funnel, while other tools emphasize individual stages.

At the small business end of the market, the emphasis is on providing a complete toolset of marketing capabilities, of which campaign management is just one element. These products are commonly referred to as “All-in-One Marketing Platforms,” and typically include basic email, social media, search engine optimization (SEO) and blogging tools. Some products also include eCommerce and basic CRM capabilities.

Steven Shattuck - Content Funnel Diagram
Source: Steven Shattuck, The Top 1 Ways to Fail at Content Marketing March, 2013