B2B marketing automation is here to stay. Adoption of B2B marketing automation is now passing the early majority phase of the technology adoption curve and entering the late majority phase set of buyers.

As B2B marketing automation offerings have matured, it’s important to ask the right questions when evaluating vendors and their solutions:

  • What desired business outcomes are driving the purchase of a B2B marketing automation platform?
  • Who are the leading vendors in the current B2B marketing automation space and who are the up and comers?
  • What B2B marketing automation platform capabilities are most closely correlated to delivering the business outcomes we desire?
  • What are the alternatives to a marketing automation platform?
  • What is the objective, quantitative criteria that will be used to evaluate which B2B marketing automation platform is best for my business?

B2B Marketing Automation Definition

B2B marketing automation is software and web-based services that are used to develop, execute, manage, and automate marketing tasks and processes. Marketing automation typically focuses on the definition, scheduling, segmentation, and tracking of integrated marketing campaigns, allowing the marketing and sales organizations to nurture leads with personalized content until they are ready, willing and able to purchase.

More specifically, marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketers and organizations to more efficiently and effectively market on multiple channels online (email, social media, websites) and automate repetitive tasks for desktops and mobile prospects and customers.

Sophisticated marketers build integrated go to market plans that specify criteria (personas, stages of the buying process, content and outcomes) for tasks and processes which are then interpreted, stored and executed by marketing automation software and that increases accuracy, productivity and reduces latency.

The use of a marketing automation platform is to streamline sales and marketing organizations by replacing high-touch, repetitive manual processes with intelligent automated solutions.

In a nutshell, marketing automation is a platform that marketers use to plan, coordinate, manage and measure all of their marketing campaigns, both online and offline.

B2B Marketing Automation Overview

While most B2B organizations use marketing automation, the ones that don’t have plans to purchase — meaning overall marketing automation budgets are expected to continue to increase. However, because “every rose has its thorns,” it’s important to note that marketing automation can prick you. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Lack of an effective strategy
  • Complexity of system
  • Inadequate contact data quality
  • Lack of employee skills
  • Lack of relevant content
  • Marketing/sales alignment issues
  • Budget constraints

B2B marketer concerns about marketing automation have not gone unnoticed, and some B2B marketing automation platform vendors are responding to these customer concerns by:

  • Expanding their in-house use and training offerings
  • Making automated set-up more intuitive, efficient and effective
  • Providing pre-built programs and templates
  • Elevating self-serve training, expanding user forums and knowledge bases

The Foundational Capabilities of a B2B Marketing Automation Platform

The typical B2B marketing automation solution includes tools for email campaign development and execution ( i.e. landing pages, lead capture, scoring, and nurturing). Most platforms also include a centralized marketing database and a basic level of reporting on web traffic, visitor behavior, and campaign results.

The most common functionality found in B2B marketing automation solutions include:

  • Email marketing and landing page development, management and execution
  • Website visitor tracking and reverse lookup
  • Lead management (capture, scoring, lead passing and nurturing)
  • A centralized marketing database
  • Native CRM integration
  • APIs or app marketplace for MarTech access

In addition to existing functionality, the product roadmaps for some B2B marketing automation vendors include advanced features for B2B marketers to build, track, and manage campaigns across all channels and devices, and monitor the flow of leads as they move throughout the marketing and sales funnel.

Some of these advanced features include:

  • Dynamic content generation for emails, landing pages, customs microsite or websites
  • Account-based marketing
  • Mobile marketing (optimization, in-app push notifications)
  • Predictive analytics for segmentation, advanced scoring and personalized marketing
  • Social/lead and account profile integration

Benefits of Utilizing B2B Marketing Automation Platforms

  • Increased marketing efficiency by automating time-consuming, repetitive, manual tasks around content creation, management and personalization, campaign scheduling and execution, data and lead nurturing, the reduction of human error and latency.
  • The ability of marketing and sales to generate more (sometimes the goal is fewer) and better qualified leads.
  • Marketing automation can combine multiple criteria including firmographic, technographic and behavioral, social and intent data, to create sophisticated lead-scoring systems to generate qualified sales opportunities with a high propensity to purchase.
  • Better alignment of sales and marketing goals. Marketing automation software can help align sales and marketing efforts to ensure that marketing is playing a specific role in the sales process and that sales reps are working with only the best sales-ready leads.

The Net on Marketing Automation Platforms

Marketing automation is here to stay and the platforms are only getting better.

B2B marketing automation platform vendors now offer a wide range of capabilities that include advanced features such as ABM, predictive analytics, and open architectures to support the growing MarTech ecosystem.

Selecting, implementing and embracing the right marketing automation platform will go a long way towards improving lead conversion, deal conversion, revenue and marketing ROI.

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