Before we get down and dirty with all that is wrong with marketing automation, first, let’s quickly define what marketing automation is…
What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation is software that helps businesses streamline their marketing communications and management processes through automated tasks. Things like email marketing, customer segmentation and customer data management.
When businesses adopt marketing automation tools, they’re looking to:
- Scale repetitive tasks
- Increase email marketing efforts
- Improve lead management
- Enhance targeting and personalization
- Improve multi-channel marketing
- Attain and measure analytics
While these are the main benefits we should expect from our marketing automation platforms, the reality is, a lot of us aren’t experiencing a great return. Industry expert, David Raab says 70% of marketers are either unhappy or only marginally happy with their marketing automation platforms.
Why is that? After sifting through days of industry research and Vendasta’s own data, I’ve discovered three main drivers that attribute to the lack of satisfaction.
- Marketing automation platforms lack the automation part. The dream situation for any marketer is to pull the solution out of the box, turn it on, and let it go to work. Sure, we can all agree that we’re not quite there yet, but we do expect our marketing automation software to be intelligent enough to take care of a good chunk of our marketing processes. Most platforms do make this promise, but we've discovered some conflicting data, as they’re implementation, training and content creation is anything but automated.
- On average, it takes 59% of businesses up to six months, and 17% up to a year to fully adopt and implement a marketing automation platform (B2B Marketing Automation Report), and 61% agree the implementation process is difficult (Email Monday).
- Eighty-six percent of marketers say ease of use is the most important criterion when choosing a marketing automation platform (Regalix), yet 44% claim they’re not satisfied because their software is too hard to learn (Autopilot). Some of the larger platforms actually offer training-as-a-service – sounds super to easy use.
- Marketers say the number one barrier impeding their marketing automation success is the lack of content (Email Monday).
- Marketing automation platforms are too complex. It’s 2015, marketers want solutions that are prescriptive—easy to understand and even easier to use. That’s what we want, but is that what we’re getting?
- 85% of B2B companies using marketing automation platforms feel they’re not using them to their full potential (Sirius Decisions).
- Nearly one in four marketers can’t use their solution effectively (Autopilot).
Well, I’m not going to sit here and bash the larger platforms, as I agree that they do provide many great features and integrations, but are they too broad for the average user? One of the top selling platforms for example, boasts 45 features under its seven core functions of email marketing, lead management, marketing programs/lead generation, social marketing, analytics, resource management, and infrastructure.
Within the 45 features, there are myriad of tactics to accomplish—sending an email is just one of them. On top of that, there’s a list of advanced features users can tack onto their system, bringing it to a total of 68 features. Think about that—you need 68 features to fully optimize your solution. That’s likely too convoluted for what most businesses are trying to achieve with their platform.
- Marketing automation platforms aren’t specifically designed for your business. A lot of businesses aren’t using tools that are designed for their niche. It’s logical to think and say there’s going to be disparity when using solutions that aren’t designed for you, yet a lot of businesses are doing it. The larger platforms are broad, monolithic machines built to service a broad range of industries. They’re programmed with generalized data and functionalities; meaning they’re not smart enough to interact specifically to your market and the individuals on the other end of the email effectively.
The rise of niche-based marketing solutions
It’s not all doom and gloom! Marketers have coined 2015, the Year of Marketing Automation, and indeed it’s been a landmark year. There is very little doubt marketing automation has taken big strides in addressing the challenges I just pointed out with the larger platforms.
Niche companies are starting to emerge from their start up shells, and starting to grab some market share from the legacy platforms who have ruled the space for years. Why? Because they’re creating thinner platforms that focus on mainly automation and building them for specific markets—programmed with industry data, relevant API, and partner integrations that align with the niche.
An example of this: in the local market, where agencies and media companies serve local businesses, marketing automation tools are being built to source personalized data about their prospects and customers that provides them with relevant information that instantly creates lead opportunities and a clear path to conversion.
An example of someone who has used a niche-based marketing automation system the Modesto Bee newspaper in California. These stats are taken from a case study that demonstrates results from a local media company using a marketing automation platform that was specifically designed for them.
Within three weeks and 730 outbound emails, this company generated:
- 34% open rate and 49.4% click through rate (CTR) on the first email
- 59 recipients became hot sales opportunities
- 25 sales presentations secured and 11 deals closed
- Over 57K in new digital revenue
The Modesto Bee saw top notch results because they used a system designed for them. Not only was the content automated and customized for each prospect, but each salesperson was immediately alerted any time a prospect engaged with the email marketing campaign.
Marketers want marketing automation that is actually automated. Simple yet effective. Made specifically for them. While 2015 has been the year of marketing automation, we're guessing that 2016 will see the rise of content marketing automation and a shift toward ready-to-launch systems.
Download The Rise of Niche Marketing Automation Platforms study, and get key insights into the challenges marketers face with the leading marketing automation platforms and the rise of the solutions that are solving them.