A new survey hit the street recently, looking at the state of B2B marketing automation strategy. The survey, conducted by Ascend2, confirms that marketing automation is now quite secure as a mainstream technology: Just 7% of firms have no plans to deploy a marketing automation platform (MAP), and 24% say they’re making “extensive use” of their MAP. Nearly two out of three of these firms say that marketing automation is “very important” to the overall success of their marketing programs.

The survey also asked marketers to rank their top challenges related to implementing a MAP. The number one response: lack of an effective strategy. In fact, nearly half of the respondents cited this as their biggest challenge.


I’m not surprised by that finding, and I think there are a few things going on here:

  • B2B marketing teams that implemented a MAP on an experimental basis, or by starting with a subset of their platform’s full capabilities, are now being forced to figure out how and why to take full advantage of their (often very substantial) MAP investments.
  • Many of these teams are tasked with measuring and tracking ROI on their automation-enabled campaigns. That means tying the campaigns to specific and measureable goals. That, in turn, means dealing with people and process issues, including marketing-sales alignment.
  • Marketing automation tends to uncover gaps in a marketing organization’s underlying competencies, such as limited visibility into buyer behavior and preferences, and a subsequent lack of a coherent messaging or content development strategy.

The good news is that crafting your MAP strategy is something that can be done incrementally; small improvements in key areas can deliver big benefits. That’s actually one of the key takeaways from our own Content Maturity Model, which breaks down many of the content development and deployment, buyer analysis and alignment, and measurement/tracking capabilities that support an organization’s marketing automation activities. By looking at the CMM and assessing your organization’s own maturity level, it becomes much easier to find areas for rapid improvement and to put together the pieces required for a more strategic approach.

For the 69% of respondents that are using MAP in a limited fashion or still planning their MAP implementation, the news is even better: You’ve got a great chance to define and apply the buyer-focused, comprehensive strategy you’ll need to make the most of your investments. Treat strategy as a prerequisite for using a MAP, rather than as an afterthought, and you’ll be in a much better long-term position.