Three Trends That Made Marketing Automation a Must-Have

by Lizzy Funk

posted on 02-08-2019

Marketing automation is a key technology that makes it possible to scale many modern marketing practices, such as segmentation, lead generation, lead scoring, relationship marketing, cross-selling, up-selling, and more. Many of today’s B2B and B2C businesses from large to small have adopted marketing automation in order to manage their valuable customer relationships in real time.

Though more popular in recent years, marketing automation is not a new concept. According to the Google Ngram Viewer, the term started to gain traction in the late 1990s, during the same period as the dot-com boom. The boom brought an explosion of marketing automation vendors, including Annuncio, Broadbase, Epiphany, MarketFirst, Paragren, Revenio, SAS, Siebel, and Unica, just to name a few. After the bust, only the privately held SAS emerged as a stand-alone vendor.

In the mid 2000s, marketing automation got hot again — much hotter than before — and produced a new generation of vendors like Eloqua (now part of Oracle), InfusionSoft, and Marketo (now part of Adobe). This was likely due to the following three trends:

Trend #1: Changing consumer behaviors forced companies to change marketing and sales tactics

Before the internet and social networks, consumers relied on sales representatives to obtain the information they needed to make an informed purchase. When consumers gained the ability to access the information online, they could delay engaging with sales representatives until they knew as much (or more) than the salesperson did. For example, the way consumers approach car buying today is much different than it was only a decade ago. Today, many buyers don’t set foot on a lot until they know the exact car make, model, and purchase price they’re looking for.

This shift in power meant that marketers had to play a larger role in the revenue process, nurturing relationships with self-empowered consumers until they were ready to convert. But this solution posed a challenge of its own: the problem of scale. The job of managing individual dialogues with hundreds of thousands — even millions — of potential customers is precisely why marketing automation platforms became so critical in the mid-2000s. There literally wasn’t any other way to keep up with the demands of modern marketing. As Lucille Ball famously demonstrated at a candy factory, attempts to implement such massive processes without the right systems quickly create colossal messes and lost opportunities.

In his 2012 book Revenue Disruption, Phil Fernandez, former Marketo CEO wrote, “In a business of any size — especially one with an engaging web and social media presence — buyer interactions can number in the thousands, millions, or even hundreds of millions. Without the right tools to automate the planning, execution, and measurement, even the hardest working marketer can be overwhelmed by the complexity.”

Trend #2: Increasingly tighter budgets altered how companies approach revenue generation and measurement

While some organizations hunker down to weather tough financial times, taking actions such as cutting resources and head count, leading companies have recognized that growth is their ticket not only to survive, but also thrive. By reorganizing their processes and investing in marketing automation technologies, these companies have been able to increase revenue effectiveness even as budgets decrease. They refuse to tolerate traditional dysfunctions between marketing and sales departments, and those associated with measurement tools like spreadsheets.

Marketing automation tools have also made it possible for marketers to measure the effectiveness of their marketing investments, which became critical when digital channels raised the expectation for measurement across touchpoints. Empowered with these new tools, marketers can determine what is working and what isn’t, and then strategically reallocate their resources to operate more profitably.

Trend #3: A new software delivery model unlocked access to automation tools

Unlike prior generations of marketing automation software, today’s solutions are available via a software as a service (SaaS) delivery model, meaning marketers can access the tools they need in a browser with little or no IT support. It also means the tools can be purchased as a recurring subscription, so marketers can pay for them with operating budgets instead of making capital investments.

These two factors were critical to marketing automation growth. Because marketing is unfortunately seen as a cost center at most companies, gaining buy in from finance and IT decision-makers to purchase traditional solutions was extremely difficult. By enabling companies to buy marketing automation software like many other services, SaaS-based vendors removed the largest obstacle in the way of widespread adoption.

While hosting Marketing Automation Crash Course in 2012, Carlos Hidalgo, co-founder of ANNUITAS said, “This is the first time in the history of B2B marketing in which marketers are responsible for purchasing and managing their own technology.”

Marketing automation is for everyone

As the marketing automation industry has matured, businesses from all sectors crossed the chasm to join early adopters from tech-savvy organizations. Now, even traditionally conservative and pragmatic companies use marketing automation — which has resulted in the phenomenal growth we see today.

In his 2017 blog post Why Automation Is Your Strategic Advantage in the Personalization Wars,, Kevin Lindsay, Director of Product Marketing at Adobe wrote, “By tapping into artificial intelligence and machine learning to create spot-on relevant experiences and automation to scale, brands can curate unparalleled customer journeys that far exceed what human marketers can deliver.”

Learn why Gartner says Marketo Engagement Platform is leading the industry in marketing automation. Read Gartner Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management.

Topics: Digital Transformation, Campaign Management

Products: Marketo Engage