At first look it seems to be a contradiction. Marketing automation was created for companies to integrate technology into their operations. It has been adopted and baked into the DNA of global enterprises who will spend more than $25 billion within the next five years.
So how can marketing automation move beyond technology?
The answer is hidden in plain sight.
The technology has produced its future. The future of marketing automation centers on data.
New challenges for marketing automation
The importance of recommitting
to core competencies
Our vision for a new,
more confident future
Global business in general is moving from tech-centered to data-centered.
The mission for marketing automation platforms (MAP) before this data-centric inflection point was simple. Get the MAP installed and integrated, and start generating leads for sales and marketing. That process has transitioned beyond evangelizing the technology. Marketing automation technology works.
“The business has matured, and the technology is solid,” said Perficient Digital GM Andrew Hull. “That allows us to spend a little bit more time on the people and process, because we’re not as concerned that the technology is actually functioning.
“You know, if I go back 20 years, there was a time when email campaigns went out the door, and you had to wonder if all the links worked. Will the landing page function correctly? There was actually a technical assumption that things might break in the campaign process. Now the bar is executing flawless campaigns. The technology is there for us the entire way. I think the expectations now are totally different.”
Today the challenges for marketing automation are laser focused on data.
Specifically, securing data, preparing for actual or imminent data regulations and innovating the data layer that makes that data actionable.
In its recent 2019 Trends Report presented at SXSW, The Future Today Institute issued a stern warning about data security that went beyond the consumer data hacks that have plagued companies at increasing frequency. “Rather than malicious actors simply stealing data, in 2019 you can expect to see new kinds of attacks in which hackers access and then manipulate data for long-term damage,” the report said.
“The implications are more concerning than you might realize at first: if a company’s data integrity comes into question, it could lose customers and partners quickly.”
Hull sees that as an urgent call for marketing automation platforms and the executives that rely on them to make data security priority number one. It is not a job left only to the IT department.
“As marketers, we’re going to become experts in data security and privacy, and really intimately understand how to protect those and honor those. The marketers that do it well, I think, will be the companies that will succeed, because the consumers and our buyers will trust us more,” Hull said. “As we all know, trust is paramount in making buying decisions.”
Security breaches continue to attract the attention of government regulators. Banks in particular are constantly keeping pace with changing data regulations, including changes to the Safeguard Act, which is now being updated after being on the books for 15 years. In the EU, the GDPR took effect in May 2018, and its consequences are just now being felt as marketers adjust to an “opt-in” world where two-step data verification is standard. In the U.S., the California Consumer Privacy Act becomes law on Jan. 1, 2020, bringing similar restrictions to data usage and sharing.
“Marketers have to be a lot more cautious with the way that they’re using and storing data, and I would say the vast majority of our clients have given it attention from the marketing automation standpoint,” said Tara Petre, managing account strategist at Perficient Digital. “It also amplifies the importance of communication across different systems. For example, if your CRM is not integrated with your marketing automation platform, and you have a separate data warehouse … that’s a big problem when you add the complexities of new data regulations.”
New Focus on the Data Layer
Data security and data regulations have had the positive effect of leading companies to double-down on the quality of their data. Perficient Digital Director Arvind Murali said, “The conversations we are having with clients, both B2B and B2C, are focused on the data layer and data strategy.”
Companies are laser-focused on answering key strategic questions like:
How do I unlock the value of the data I have?
How do I get the data accessible to my teams and endpoints that need it to drive engagement?
How do I leverage this across the organization to drive transformation?
What Murali terms the “data layer” is the combination of the data stores or the datasets themselves. The data that resides in the CRM system, the core data warehouse, the big data environments and/or the data lake must be clean, aligned and organized for action. These various sources of data must work together, and MAP technology has advanced to the point where it can perform this consistently. Is the data rolled up to an individual person or account level that can be identified? Is every record rolled all the way up to an individual person or account? Those are the key questions.
The subset of the data layer is what Murali calls the “orchestration layer.”
That’s what the MAP will do. It’s the set of tools and methodologies that allow the data to be placed in and taken out of its environment. The MAP then enables the data to be sent to the right client, in the right timeframe, with the right information.
The Impact of AI
Artificial Intelligence is ready to make a big impact on marketing automation platforms. The challenge will be preparing the companies who use them. A recent Salesforce survey showed that among marketers who already use AI, 64% say it has greatly or substantially increased their overall marketing efficiency.
AI is on the tip of marketers’ tongues…but roadblocks still exist.
57% of marketers
using AI say it’s absolutely or very essential in helping their company create 1-to-1 marketing across every touchpoint.
However, only 26%
of business leaders (including marketing, sales and service) have complete confidence in their organization’s ability to define an AI business strategy.
On the plus side, AI-platforms can integrate with MAPs to find new leads. They can surface new sales leads from out-of-office replies, find replacement contacts when people change jobs, and mine email signatures for new
“But understand that AI isn’t so smart that you can throw it on top of just any pile of data and have it produce meaningful insight,” Hull said. “You still need well-structured data, and other elements, that are going to help AI systems perform well. I view them as intimately connected. The better and more organized your data and the more thoughtful your marketing automation and CRM systems are, the better these current and future AI systems will perform.”
Recommitting to Core Competencies
the Future of Marketing Automation
The Marketing Leader’s Guide to
Marketing automation can evolve and address its new data-based challenges, but not by abandoning its core competencies. The “core four” are still strategy, alignment, digital transformation and measuring for impact. All these elements will continue to improve performance and drive revenue.
“Your customers are the source of value for the business,” Murali said. “Once you establish that you can align everything else around that. We guide people this way:
“The way to have an impact is to make sure that all of your data, your systems, your methodologies are aligned to the people and the accounts that are creating the value for the business.”
Core Issue One
Defining Strategy at the Beginning
While marketing automation is almost ubiquitous, companies still have to reset their overall strategy, and others are deploying it for new and expanded purposes.
With new challenges on the line and revenue success at stake, project kickoffs are still critical.
“We orchestrate strategy sessions for our clients,” Petre said. “We’ll gather marketing and sales together and make sure they agree to their definition of each stage in a prospect’s, partner’s, and customer’s lifecycle. We’ll help them come to an agreement on department ownership. We’ll also help them decide on their technical definitions, such as the records that should be disqualified or allowed to be considered Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).”
Petre said that these meetings — and the definitions that result from them — create the framework for technical design which reinforces accountability. That kind of focus is possible, she said, because MAP technology has become so reliable.
CORE ISSUE TWO
Organizational alignment can start at the beginning of a project, but it needs to be a constant priority throughout. “Keep the focus on people, process and technology,” said Morgan Hausauer, managing director - technical delivery at Perficient. “These three things need to be in sync in order to achieve impact. The right players need to be involved, an agreed-upon Marketing-to-Sales alignment must be achieved, with a technology then deployed to support and maintain the alignment.”
That alignment should standardize an open conversation with marketing and sales, which can truly move the needle for impactful results. If sales can provide active feedback regarding leads and targets, the marketing team can adjust their tactics and strategies dynamically. With marketing automation, these tweaks and customizations can be implemented rapidly.
In a recent survey of 900 sales leaders worldwide
66% said their organization
needs improvements or a major redesign in how they capture new business.
Only 34% have a formal process
between marketing and sales for nurturing prospects and handing them off between departments. In addition, less than one-third (30%) said they have a common definition for leads.
Core Issue Three
MAPs are an essential foundation of digital transformation and will enable the data that drives that transformation. It is interesting, however, that the obstacles to digital transformation are exactly the ones mentioned so far in this eBook. An eMarketer study shows that data security and organizational alignment are two of the top three barriers to digital transformation.
“Digital transformation is, of course, a very loaded term,” Murali said. “It incorporates everything from CX to digital marketing, data to analytics, and everything in between.”
When helping clients, Murali lays out an overview of how to build a transformation roadmap. Then he helps to answer these key questions:
How do I get control of my data and leverage it across the organization?
How do I transform my customer experience and marketing programs from a focus on channels, to a focus on customers and prospects?
How do I create and integrate a marketing technology stack that is both agile and powerful enough to enable success?
How do I realign my approach to measurement so my organization is focused on key levers of value creation over the long-term?
How do I rework my internal processes
for decisioning and collaboration to best leverage the new capabilities we build
and deliver to the organization and to
CORE ISSUE four
Measuring for Impact
The questions Murali raises lead to a focus on metrics. It’s not only what data do I need. It’s what data makes a difference in driving revenue. The issue has been a focus in the marketing automation business as MAPs became reliable platforms for identifying cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. They also can be a reliable source of data for predicting customer lifetime value.
The focus on impactful KPIs has also found its way to the C-suite. A joint research project between MIT and Google surveyed more than 3,200 senior executives and interviewed 18 executives and thought leaders. It found that business leaders worldwide are struggling to strike a workable balance between tactical and strategic KPIs; operational and financial KPIs; and KPIs that effectively capture the moment while anticipating the future.
“This imbalance is a source of measurable dissatisfaction and concern as data for KPI improvements continues to increase,” the report stated. “Executives also appear torn between adding more detailed KPIs or lasering in on a smaller, simplified set. While no consensus on KPI best practice emerged from the survey, we did find a small slice of companies are exhibiting sophisticated data-driven and analytically innovative approaches to maximizing the impact of their KPIs.”
However, B2B organizations continue to struggle with measuring and demonstrating their marketing impact. More than half (58%) of respondents said that their current ability to measure and analyze marketing performance “needs improvement” or worse. This is an increase of almost 10% compared to last year.
“Think bigger,” Hausauer said. “Clicks, opens, visits are not metrics. These are tactical performance indicators. Pipeline influenced, revenue influenced, target account wins — these are metrics.”
Marketing automation is a maturing industry with a dynamic future. That future will expand the purview of marketing leaders and add responsibilities for data services, data analytics, data regulations and data security. All this will grow the importance of MAPs within data-based companies, without abandoning the core competencies that created marketing automation.
Are you ready for the future state of marketing automation?
Talk to our team about your digital transformation roadmap today.
Influencers in the marketing automation business and leaders at companies that have created a data-based sales and marketing organization embrace a maturing industry and a dynamic future. That future will find marketing leaders tasked with improving a reliable marketing automation process and moving beyond the information technology part of the job and into people and processes. Of course, the core competency of providing the data that proves marketing impact doesn’t change. But data services, data analytics, data regulations and data security are the new challenges and opportunities that marketing automation can address with impact and insight.
After reading this eBook, you’ll understand…
New Challenges Abound
New Challenges Abound
Recommitting to Core Components