Even though it is widely used, customers would be hard-pressed to find vendors who agree with the label "marketing automation," according to Jon Miller, VP of marketing content and strategy at marketing automation software provider Marketo.
Marketing automation is "one of those terms that nobody really seems to love but at the same time it’s what people use," Miller told AdExchanger. "It has been associated with a fancier way of sending spam when in reality it gives you the ability to listen to and respond to your customers in real time with relevant information—these are things that actually make the marketing more personal...for the customer, not less so."
Other marketers would seem to agree with Miller's assessment. Tech research firm IDC predicts the marketing automation market will reach $4.8 billion in 2015, up from $3.2 billion in 2010.
At a time when marketers must juggle multiple channels and increasingly empowered customers, many are turning to marketing automation software to manage, track and scale their digital campaigns.
For Justin Keller, associate marketing director at Visage Mobile, one of the reasons he uses marketing automation is because it allows him to better target his customers. Visage Mobile, which currently serves about 200 companies and has 40 employees, provides clients with the tools to monitor and manage the ways their employees use mobile devices.
"We have to produce a lot of content to educate our prospects about the things they need to consider and how they need to proceed with their mobility plans,” Keller said. “Marketo has helped us analyze and identify which prospective customers are becoming high value customers, which white papers are performing well, and other tasks.”
The San Francisco-based company was initially interested in Marketo mainly to capture leads “more intelligently,” according to Keller. “Instead of just getting a phone number or an email address we wanted to understand exactly what a prospects’ needs were and then we found we could construct much more sophisticated marketing programs that were tailored to the needs of the specific leads and prospects,” he explained.
The company’s goal was to have the ability to analyze the ROI of its marketing efforts to turn leads into customers. Keller points to a previously dormant lead as an example of how far the company has come in reaching its goal.
The prospective customer had been inactive for a year and a half and was not being actively pursued. One day, Marketo showed Keller that this person had been exploring Visage Mobile’s website, as well as reading the company’s blog posts and signed up for a white paper. “We knew every page that person had been to and we were able to tell which things on our blog he was interested in and it turns out it was around some bring-your-own-device (BYOD) issues his company was having,” Keller said. “Since we were able to see all that activity attached to one guy, we were able to send him nurturing emails that were related to the stuff he was interested in, and when our sales guy picked up the phone, he was able to speak about the specific examples [the prospect] had read and have a conversation like he’d known the guy for months.”
To avoid alienating customers by revealing how much they know about them, Keller reminds his sales team to “not be creepy.” In general, people are “flattered that we’re keeping a close eye on what they’re doing, but we never say, hey I know you were looking at this blog post and then this blog post and then you opened this email. We temper it,” Keller commented. “And when we send a well-timed and relevant email, that tells people that we’re great at what we’re doing if we can identify their needs so well.”
With Marketo’s help, Visage Mobile has seen the number of raw leads converted to viable customer prospects grow every quarter since it began using the platform nearly one year ago. After the first quarter of using Marketo, the company’s opportunity creation increased 5X and has doubled every following quarter. The first quarter bump can be attributed to waking up a large number of dormant leads that were not being marketed to through the company’s Salesforce.com database, according to Keller.
The company also saw 62.1% more leads captured through its Google AdWords and content campaigns since implementing Marketo, compared to the same time period in the previous year.
In terms of lead scoring capabilities, Marketo lets users filter the leads they assign to their sales teams by assigning scores to each lead based on a specific behavior. As a result, the sales team is only following up on leads that have met a minimum score and sales reps know “that the lead is warmed up, familiar with what we do, and have an idea of what problem they’re trying to solve,” Keller said. “Our sales guys love that they don’t have to cold call anymore.”
Achieving those kinds of results takes time, however. Given the steep learning curve, it took one month to implement the platform and ensure that the company had the tools to drive the analytics it needed and to integrate Visage Mobile’s Salesforce databases with the marketing automation platform. Other platforms take less time to implement, Keller acknowledged, but Marketo offered “a lot more under the hood.”
Looking ahead, Keller said he looks forward to employing more sophisticated listening and rules-based programs through Marketo. “We’re getting to the point,” he said, “where we know what customers are clicking on and which path they’ll go down, that determines which marketing program they’ll get.”
Kaila Garrison, marketing manager at Compendium, an Indianapolis-based content marketing firm, and an Eloqua customer, agrees that marketing automation offers value from a time-saving perspective.
Eloqua (which was recently acquired by Oracle) makes it possible, Garrison said, for her and a colleague to handle the company’s marketing tasks in an organization with 25 employees in total and more than 300 customers. “When we looked for an automation platform, it was to find a tool that makes our jobs easier and allow us to work on other things,” she explained.
Garrison said she and her colleague chose Eloqua for its ease of use and best practice resources, which was one of their top criteria since they didn’t have the time or ability to do a lot of testing.
The marketing automation platform has proven useful for streamlining and automating tasks around the company’s webinars. “We host a lot of webinars and it’s very convenient to be able to plug in the content, and automatically send emails that remind users to register and follow up with them afterwards,” Garrison commented.
Instead of quantifying the amount of time saved, Garrison preferred to describe the benefits in terms of what she could do instead. “Because I can easily clone a webinar, I can spend more time thinking about how I would make it better or spend time on other marketing tasks,” she said. “We can just check and see how many people are registered, how many of them signed up for the webinar and follow up with other content afterwards.”
Garrison declined to discuss ROI stats, except to note that the webinar attendance rate has increased 15% since the company began using Eloqua. In terms of segmenting information, Compendium divides its nurturing campaigns into several categories: the day-to-day user, marketing managers, and the CEO or executive IT user. Each user that interacts with the company receives a tag that tracks where he or she is in the marketing funnel.
The ability to “deliver the right message to the right person at the right stage in their buying process has increased the speed to conversion,” Garrison said.
As the marketing automation landscape matures, customers can expect to see more consolidation and similar functionalities among vendors, according to Gavin Heaton, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research.
“A lot of vendors are starting to offer the same capabilities and we’re starting to see some overlap from [vendors] that are not traditional marketing automation vendors,” said Heaton, who pointed to Sprinklr, an enterprise social media management platform that includes automated features, as an example.
As it gets more difficult to distinguish between the platforms, it becomes more useful, Heaton added, to take advantage of any free trials that vendors offer. Run a full-scale project if possible—marketers will be surprised at how much value they can get out of it, he advised.
Even after you have selected an automated platform, remember to “constantly feed it with great content and pay attention to what people are responding to,” said Visage Mobile’s Keller. “Marketing automation,” he noted, “is not a silver bullet.”