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Marketing automation: an accelerating solution

This article appears in the issue February 2015 [Vol 24, Issue 2]
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Marketing automation is one of the fastest growing sectors in the software industry. According to some estimates, it is increasing at a rate of 60 percent per year. Because market penetration is still only 3 to 15 percent and because companies of any size can use the products, that growth rate is likely to continue for several years.

Many current users are not employing the full functionality and may add features over time, which will further drive the market. In another indication of the growing importance of the product category, major software companies such as IBM, Oracle and Salesforce have all added marketing automation products to their suites.

Designed to manage the marketing process with each prospective customer over a significant time interval, marketing automation solutions typically include landing page support, lead management and scoring, and analytics. The products are used both in the B2B market and for more complex B2C purchases such as investment products.

Although in its simplest form, marketing automation might be used to just send out e-mail blasts to a mailing list, its greatest value is in analytics, especially closed loop revenue tracking to provide the ROI of marketing expenditures. However, most companies are not yet using the most sophisticated features of the software. “Companies usually start automating what they have already been doing with prior generation tools,” says Lori Wizdo, principal analyst at Forrester, “and then make incremental improvements.”

Another key element in marketing automation is the ability to integrate with other applications such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems. The combined information from both of those systems allows for more personalized and effective communications.

Adapting to the customer

Nutricia sells supplements to individuals who have metabolic conditions. When visitors to the website indicate which metabolic condition they have, the site adapts to reflect the individual situation. “The e-mails become highly personalized,” says Ellen Valentine, marketing evangelist at Silverpop (an IBM company), which offers e-mail marketing and lead management solutions as part of its digital marketing suite.

“Visitors are then asked whether they would like a sample of the product, and an e-mail is sent to the person’s healthcare provider requesting approval,” Valentine explains. Subsequently, a survey is sent to find out if the customer was satisfied with the product, has decided to switch or would like to try an alternate product. Personalizing messaging and performing complex workflows are important characteristics of marketing automation.

Some companies have integrated Silverpop with the support desk. If a customer is not satisfied with a product, for example, an e-mail is sent out asking for details. Sales reps can also be notified any time someone calls in to the support desk. “If the rep is preparing a renewal, they will have a better idea of what is going on with the customer if they receive that information,” says Valentine. Silverpop also integrates with inventory databases. “If an item is out of stock, the customer will be notified, and they can also be notified when it is available again,” she adds.

Silverpop enables bi-directional communication with CRM systems; a change in one system is immediately reflected back into the other. “Integration with CRM systems is the most typical one for marketing automation,” says Valentine. “Some are doing more sophisticated things, though, pulling data in from internal databases or from outside sources. For example, we have one client who sells fans and only promotes them unless the temperature is over 75 degrees.”

Incremental personalization

When visitors first arrive at a website, it may seem that little is known about them, but marketing automation software can make many inferences. “In a B2B scenario, if a person visits a website from a bank,” says Mike Berger, director of product marketing at Marketo, “our software will detect that they work in the financial services industry. If they visit from a healthcare company, it will see that, and then we can present them with a highly personalized experience—despite the fact that they are still an anonymous visitor.”

The information capture process has become much more specific. “Traditional segmentation looks at age, marital status and gender, for example,” Berger says. “Now, behaviors can be taken into consideration. It is possible to see what is happening across numerous channels over time, and use that information to engage with people in more meaningful ways. Marketing is no longer about having one successful campaign, but about developing a long-term relationship.”

In addition to its marketing automation solution, Marketo’s customer engagement platform provides marketing management for planning and budgeting, loyalty marketing and ad spend optimization. With a library of prebuilt programs, Marketo’s software helps drive campaigns across multiple channels, including social media. Multi-touch revenue attribution allows companies to measure the degree to which activity across each touch point was responsible for driving a sale.


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