Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Marketing automation is reaching a tipping point that will see it become more readily adopted across organisations, according to new research from Ovum’s Digital Marketing and Connected Customer practice.
Ovum’s senior digital marketing analyst, Gerry Brown, said the need to more effectively and efficiently attract and retain customers is driving organisations to seek tools for automating marketing functions, and the market has now achieved sufficient successful implementations to give later adopters greater confidence.
“People are seeing that marketing and customer orientation are becoming increasingly important, and executive boards are much more likely to sign off deals for marketing automation,” Brown claimed.
To date, however, he said technology suppliers have been their own worst enemy, with many rebadging what are effectively sales lead management systems as marketing automation tools.
“It has confused the marketplace and in some ways has slowed the growth,” Brown said. “Return on investment of using some of these tools is very substantial, so there is no reason why there shouldn’t be much greater wholesale adoption.
“But marketing departments as a whole have been sceptical of the hype associated with marketing automation and have held off when they should have been investing.”
In some instances, the broken promises of CRM implementations have also caused CMOs to be cautious regarding which suppliers they spend their money with.
“CRM was used as a tool to beat sales people over the head with when they weren’t hitting their targets, rather than helping them understand customer needs and the quality of the relationship and how they should pull the right levers to deliver strategic profitable deals for the organisation,” Brown said.
Suppliers such as Marketo, Eloqua and Responsys now have sufficient implementations where they can demonstrate dramatic gains in customer acquisition to assuage the fears of CMOs.
“The main thing in marketing now is the need for speed – to respond in real time to changing customer needs and be able to exploit spikes in demand as they occur,” he said. “Using a system like Eloqua means you can see very clearly the impact of marketing campaigns and the level of marketing influence within campaigns.”
Despite this, Brown warned many organisations will still need to invest significant resources in cleaning up their databases before marketing automation will prove effective, and added many are still sufficiently immature as to need specialist skills to extract value.
“The tools are very competent but they don’t have all the controls that an enterprise IT system would have, so you need to have someone who is a super power user in charge,” Brown said.