The full potential of marketing automation is not being realised by marketers, despite its use steadily increasing over the past ten years, according to a report by CommuniGator.

Marketing automation is now an established category in its own right and has gained a lot of attention as a method of integrating prospect and customer relations across the customer lifecycle. However, there is an indication from the report that many potential features aren’t being used, suggesting a missed opportunity for marketers.

1. Adoption of marketing automation grows

While marketing automation has been around for some time, it is still a relatively new concept to many B2B organisations. Research shows that 18% of B2B marketers are not using automation at all, and 45% of those that are, are only using either the core features or not many at all. With only 2% using platforms to their full potential, there is scope for vendors to seriously improve the use of their software while targeting that remaining 18%.

As with any new marketing technology, adoption by businesses of the services and the features available will vary based on the value that marketers place on them. Given the fact that marketing automation has grown out of the back of email marketing platforms, it is understandable that they are not currently utilised to their full potential. It is, therefore, up to automation vendors to make sure they are providing support in promoting and using the additional features.

2. Email marketing techniques become more targeted

2016 showed that email marketing is still the preferred way for B2B marketers to communicate with their prospects and customers with over 68% using marketing automation to drive their email campaigns. With marketing automation giving marketers the opportunity to trigger emails in advance, as well as base them on behaviour and actions, email marketing is set to continue to be the most popular marketing communication channel in 2017.

However, while email marketing is a popular channel, there were many techniques that are not taken advantage of. Triggered, re-marketing, progressive profiling and nurturing based on lead score were all identified as email marketing techniques that have been identified and are yet to become mainstream for B2B marketers. With tools such as dynamic content and workflows being part of automation platforms, these techniques are expected to become more widely used.

We know that targeting a segment of users to tailor messages is a core email marketing technique. With the likes of B2C brands such as Facebook and Amazon creating mega-personalised content, we believe that B2B audiences will soon start demanding a similar approach from their B2B marketing communications. Organisations looking to improve their email marketing results will start adopting these targeting techniques and tools in order to lead the pack.

3. Web-based personalisation becomes the ‘norm’

There are several web-based techniques currently in use by B2B marketers, including personalised landing pages, A/B landing pages, personalisation-rules for content promotion. Landing pages were considered the most effective, according to the report. The least effective was considered predictive analysis. Given the results, it’s clear that B2B marketers recognise the immediate benefits of landing page testing and personalisation.

Other techniques, such as IP tracking and social sign in aren’t proving to be as effective in practice. Whether this is down to B2B marketers not understanding how these tools work, or the benefits don’t show the immediate results they want to see isn’t quite clear yet. As email marketing personalisation comes to the forefront, we expect web-based personalisation to become the supporting feature for email, and therefore the norm.

4. Breaking down the barriers of marketing automation

Similar to last year’s results, the biggest benefit of marketing automation was improving lead quality. Following shortly behind it was improved conversion rates, user experience and the generation of leads. Given that the main barriers appear to be limited knowledge in lead scoring, setting up rules and sequences, marketing automation vendors should be focusing on creating supporting material for B2B marketers in this area.

There were also the additional barriers of integrating data systems and lack of resource to help with implementation. This indicates that marketing automation providers need to make sure their platforms are agile, adaptable and – most importantly – offer an implementation process that B2B marketers aren’t afraid of.

The current perception is that marketing automation is too complicated and time-consuming to implement for the busy B2B marketer, let alone learning all the encompassing features. With this in mind, we expect a big push from automation providers to create platforms that are more user-friendly and offer service packages that include advice on implementing a successful marketing strategy with the platform.

5. Taking the lead with marketing automation

Lack of accountability has always been a challenge when it comes to marketing automation management. This is caused by teams not taking responsibility and can lead to a problematic, unfulfilling marketing automation approach. While 62% claim marketing take responsibility for the platform, 27% shared the responsibilities with sales. With the platform affecting both teams’ responsibilities within the sales funnel, we can see this number growing in the year to come.

In saying that, 78% found encouraging sales and marketing to work together to implement marketing automation was a challenge. Yet, those that did manage to balance the responsibility saw higher results from their automation suite. By creating an agreement, along with an action plan with clear accountability for both sales and marketing, marketing automation can be a smooth experience for all.

Lee Chadwick, CEO at CommuniGator, said: “We are always looking at the current drivers and barriers for B2B adoption in the automation arena. There is a key difference between the practices of marketing automation and the reality of use. For us, the findings from the past year are key indicators of what we can do with marketing automation moving forward.”

 

By Jonathan Davies, editor, Digital Marketing Magazine


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