That abstract is a tall order for any article, so we will explore Marketing Automation (MA) through several articles and a report.
In part one I want to set the stage for what the Marketing Automation sector looks like, and discuss some specific breakthroughs to assure implementation success and quantifiable benefits.
But first let's spend a moment of brief discussion on Marketing Automation (we will discuss this sector's functional elements in further articles).
Marketing Automation is a complex and somewhat fragmented space with a variety of technologies and services, from email services to advertising consortia, as well as enterprise marketing software products that attempt to automate Marketing activities. The activities that support marketing are varied, such as Demand Creation, lead generation and tracking, list management, campaign management, Marketing Operations and reporting.
In the web world, MA has grown to encompass web analytics and tools that create and capture impressions, opt-ins, and a variety of subterranean tracking techniques that help you understand customers - their behaviors, needs, interests - the digital bread crumbs of prospects as they traverse the web. In addition, integration platforms between apps to connect these various applications can be an aid for developers, as well as firms that bought generation one solutions that they like and don't want to replace with a suite, or want to integrate to their traditional CRM solution.
Because many of these solutions sit underneath the commerce sites of companies, as well as leverage many services such as co-op advertising, common lists, etc., they lend themselves well to SaaS. (figure 1) Many of these marketing activities are 'turned on' for a campaign and then companies may not use the service again. So on-demand or transaction-based models are popular. (I can't help but comment here on the wisdom of having continuity in creating and nurturing as a continuous process, rather than an event. However, I will leave marketing management to the marketers.)
MA solutions penetration is not very high, in spite of all the chatter. There are several reasons for this:
- the collage of all these different capabilities and the fact that many players only provide some of these capabilities
- the winsome nature of marketing departments that stick to a small budget for their campaigns. (This doesn't exactly lend itself to providing serious dollars to help many solution providers build out solutions, though there are some well-established and dominant players.)
- but most importantly, both the sales models and the needs of firms are different and - good news - the major solutions providers, therefore, have solutions that address that. (This of course leads to the need for buyers to actually understand their needs better, and then understand what the market can then offer them!)
The net net: Marketing Automation as most people practice it is a lead generation technology. I think it is much more. Read on and you will see.
Marketing Automation - Why It Fails and What You Can Do About That
I hope, rather than getting into the weeds at this point (feature function), to offer a unified perspective on Marketing Automation. There are literally hundreds of these companies sprouting up on the web. I had trouble finding a model of the market as I first contemplated buying some solution for our own company, making it work, and getting success out of that. My journey has led me to a deep exploration and research so, of course, I am going to share this journey and its models with you. The major challenges to purchase, implementation and success are:
· Firstly, who is your customer? Seems like an obvious question, but we have found most companies do a poor job of market discovery.
· Understanding your business - do you sell direct or through channels?
· How and where do your customers interact and therefore what are the best channels and techniques to market to them?
· What kind of potential do you have to execute your marketing activities; and create a commitment to build an audience of interest; and nurture that so that over time you can convert - clicks to cash?
So, our research shows that most companies, unless your target market is about 50 companies (and there are those for whom that is true) have far too much data and activity to analyze. Implementation, beyond some campaigns or subterranean web tools is too much to cope with, so they are really not prepared to implement the technology well, or leverage the data and prospects they collect from their efforts.
But, the importance of Demand Creation is just too critical to give up on. If at first you don't succeed . . . and all that!
Enter Marketing as a Service
Managed service as a class of service is a growing sector. Companies that have huge data management problems already use services such as list management and POS analysis. But marketing is a strategic function that is really about customer/marketing identification, nurturing that audience, and an operational function, which then transforms prospects through to a successful sales process. This needs a lot of attention. So, a new class of Marketing Automation solution is emerging: Marketing as a Service.
Here is our simplified model:
MaaS will design, host and manage the service for you. MaaS, therefore, is unique, compared with MA solutions. With MA solutions, whether SaaS or on premise, you are on your own, as with most software application implementations. MA solutions do have a plethora of utilities, but users must master these and manage all the data and activities within the application.
MaaS providers have expertise as a class of B2B vs. B2C. So with advertising, for example, there will be solutions that are better suited for the consumer market vs. the business audience.
Revenue models can be different, as well. Funding for those who can leverage a community can be quite attractive. For example, in the Channel Management area, the OEM may set up the community (managed by their MaaS partner), but each channel partner pays for their microsite. Since this becomes the defacto method to communicating all the product and promotional activities of the OEM going forward - new products, new deals, conferences, leads sharing, etc. - partners will get on board. The cost, then, is spread across the network, as with any on-demand model. This is an excellent strategy for any type of firm with large partner networks, from software, to hardware to distribution channels.
Here are a few examples of MaaS providers.
At this point, it is important to emphasize some user/requirement issues. Users for these solutions vary from CMO to Sales, to Channel Management. These roles vary in firms, but the basic audiences for these solutions are these groups. The role and challenge of finding new markets and designing demand creation programs for them is quite different than managing a distribution or sales channel. Large marketing departments are often highly functionally segmented with ad purchasing, especially with the variety of options today, as a separate function within marketing. Again, their approach and perspective toward using MaaS will be different. We don't see a solution that is for the CMO and Channel Management. Nor would it be a good idea, probably.
Conclusions... for now...
MaaS is a hugely important step forward for the Market Automation and Demand Creation market. It takes the daunting task of implementing automated solutions, and it significantly increases the likelihood of success.
The solutions are quite different, and not to put you off, but you might be using several of these providers. Being in MaaS product directories, for example, can open another audience for you. You might be in a few. It is the same situation with co-ops of various types. But that is not unlike a marketing department today. Only a few firms use an integrated marketing agency for all their needs. And if they do, the agency is merely the middleman to a plethora of options.
We live in a networked world, from social networks and channels, to cloud platforms! In this web 2.0 word, where 'components' rule, this is not uncommon for the most sophisticated and successful web marketers as well as some very small firms to have a strategy with several players. Even small companies can master this concept. To do so, it is about choosing wisely and understanding your role in the relationship going forward.
As we unfold this series we will introduce you to more of the model on Marketing Automation, Demand Creation, MaaS, and new models for Customer Segmentation, Customer Experience, and more.