Three Predictions About The Future Of Marketing Automation

We’re now reaching a point where simple marketing automation—based on recurring or trigger-based messages—no longer gives companies an edge.

Three Predictions About The Future Of Marketing Automation

Between endless meetings, hundreds of emails, and mountains of data waiting to be crunched, it only makes sense that today’s marketing departments need to streamline and automate their processes as much as possible.

That’s where marketing automation comes in: It made its debut in the early 1990s, and it’s now so ubiquitous that sometimes we forget how much it changed the game.

Marketing automation flew under the radar for a long time. Back in the days of scrunchies and grunge, most businesses weren’t collecting a substantial amount of user data; actually, most of them weren’t even online.

By the end of the decade, though, marketing automation finally began making a name for itself. When Eloqua came onto the scene in 1999, its success inspired competitors like Infusionsoft and Marketo. Thanks to faster Internet speeds—and the increasing ability of computers to handle heavy-duty software—they became quick successes.

Today, using marketing automation software is a standard practice. Its capabilities are massive, allowing marketers to automate email campaigns, A/B tests, social media outreach, and much more.

But we’re now reaching a point where simple marketing automation—based on recurring or trigger-based messages—no longer gives companies an edge. Today’s most advanced marketing software is predictive: It can anticipate exactly what will influence someone and deliver it at exactly the right time.

Off-The-Charts Growth

The number of marketing automation vendors has grown like crazy, and costs have gone way down as well, so more and more businesses have the ability to use it. And this is just the beginning. If venture capitalist investment grows as expected in marketing technology companies, we’ll see a lot more vendors in the coming decades.

While marketing automation has always been about amplifying messages through speed and scale, the next wave is about being predictive, personal, and more selective about tools. Here are my three big predictions for the future of marketing automation:

1. Marketers will approach automation in terms of stacks, not all-encompassing solutions: There are now more marketing technology companies than ever, which results in marketers having more options than ever. As these companies continue to specialize, smart executives will focus on their brands’ primary needs—and then find specific technologies that address each of them.

What this means for you: Before implementing a new program, make sure you have a clear understanding of what you want each piece in the stack to accomplish and how you’ll measure success. Otherwise, you’ll be shooting blanks at an undefined target, leaving you no chance of knowing if your program is working (or if you’re even using the right one).

2. The best marketers will prioritize process over technology: With all of this technology to manage, it can feel like automation barely saves you any time at all. Over the years, many marketing leaders have learned this the hard way. Rather than choosing automation tools simply based on their features and capabilities, savvy marketers will choose them based on how seamlessly they integrate into predetermined processes.

What this means for you: Don’t get caught up in cool, flashy features, which are sure to show up in the pitch. Instead, maintain a laser-like focus on the kinds of processes you need in order to be successful. Also, make sure you hire people who are tech savvy enough to get things working quickly.

3. As predictive marketing takes over, rules-based automation will fall out of favor: Not all marketing automation is created equal. Rules-based automation doesn’t learn or improve over time, and any error you make goes out to thousands of people. Machine learning-powered automation, on the other hand, keeps getting smarter (hence the name). It can crunch enough data to make better decisions than any single human ever could, and it’s proactive. Rather than reacting to past data or campaign success, proactive (i.e., predictive) marketing uses data to determine what will create future growth.

What this means for you: Essentially, the difference between rules-based automation and machine learning-powered automation is the difference between someone who can follow your orders and someone who can tell you when the orders don’t make sense. While rules-based automation might feel safe, you have to be willing to let it go in favor of software that can learn and grow with your company.

Marketing automation has come a long way since its quiet inception in the early 1990s. Now, as it enters its predictive phase, marketers will fall into different camps: those who’ll see the wave coming, those who’ll ride the wave just in time, and those who won’t notice it until it passes them by.

To learn more about marketing automation, attend the Adobe Summit, March 20-24. Click here to view the agenda.