9 Things Marketers Need from Marketing Automation Vendors and Consultants – Part 1

Approximately 12 years ago, a new technology emerged and a new software category called “marketing automation” was born.  Since then, the marketing automation space has grown consistently and significantly, and is now is at the precipice of going mainstream.  According to SiriusDecisions,  40% of organizations will own automation by the year 2016.

As with any space that is in its early stages, the marketing automation space has had its fair share of new businesses and vendors emerge.  It seems each and every week that a new consultancy is born or another marketing automation company jumps into the fray.  According to some who track this space, there are over 110 technology vendors alone.  For such a young and small market segment, it’s already quite crowded with many options.

Of course, all these new providers are vying for the same customers.  With the many voices clamoring for attention, the noise can seem deafening to the buyer.  The amount of content and messaging being generated by solution providers and consultants seems overwhelming (Note of full disclosure:  The Annuitas Group is one of the consultants in this space vying for customers).  This tidal wave of information has been confirmed anecdotally by conversations I have had with our clients. They’re asking questions such as, “I read this article, is this right?” or “There are so many reports of monumental improvements, is this really possible?”

With these questions and conversations in mind, I have compiled a list of nine things marketers need from marketing automation solution providers and consultants.  Here are the first four:

1.    More education beyond the technology

A recent study conducted by Focus and The Marketing Automation Institute (Full disclosure #2 – The Annuitas Group is a founding member of the Marketing Automation Institute), showed that 77% of marketers rate themselves as somewhat or not at all effective.  This is staggering!  While the automation vendors do a great job of educating users on how to use the features of their solutions, there is a gaping hole that exists in users knowing the process, strategy or tactics the tool is actually automating.  This needs to be addressed if marketing is going to meet the demand of today’s business.

2.    More transparency

The best vendor event I ever attended was a Salesforce.com road show.  The main attraction was five customers on stage who in their words were there to share “the good, the bad and the ugly of working with Salesforce.com”. Believe me, there was definitely some ugly.  One of the customers on the panel spoke of their frustration with implementation, lack of service and even at one point cancelling their contract. (Talk about transparency!)  Ultimately they came back, but they made Salesforce.com work for it.

This is a great example for the marketing automation market.  Rather than ascribing to a “we can do everything for everybody” mindset, vendors and consultants alike would better serve the market by being transparent about their capabilities, both what they do well and what they DON’T do well. After all, no company can do everything.   Let your buyers know what you can do for them.  If there isn’t a fit, recommend them to a company that can address their specific needs.  This approach will serve our space well, earning us a level of integrity in the eyes of the buyer.

3.    A true view of technology

As mentioned earlier, the array of solution providers that occupy this space give the buyer almost endless choices when looking for a marketing automation solution.  However, despite what some of the vendors are proposing, technology is not the ultimate solution to the marketers’ problems.

Marketing automation is an enabling technology. What this means is that marketing automation will automate whatever process or system exists in an organization.  If a company’s lead management process is broken, the automation will simply automate the broken process. Solution providers who brand their technology as “Lead Management Automation”, and position it as providing lead management process have an improper view of technology. They are leading buyers astray.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a big fan of marketing automation.  But I don’t believe that technology alone will be the savior for all that plagues marketing departments today.  The market will be better off when more vendors educate their buyers that marketing automation technology cannot create systems, processes or strategy.

4.    Stop publishing numbers that are just too good to be true

Reading some of the research press releases and articles from vendors and consultants is sometimes like watching a ShamWow commercial.  The claims are phenomenal!  764% increase in leads!  834% increase in funnel conversions! Trillions of dollars in revenue added to the bottom line! Really?!  If these numbers were so attainable, don’t you think that more companies would be using marketing automation?  (According to SiriusDecisions, only 18% of B2B organizations are using it today).

While I do not doubt that many companies have achieved great transformation over time through the use of technology, it’s in the best interest of our buyers that we portray an accurate picture of what is possible, and what resources beyond technology they will need to achieve results.  Anything else is just fiction.

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