There is some evidence suggesting that marketing automation is the next target market for enterprise software vendors. Here are a few recent signs that something is afoot:

• Dell’s announcement in June that it has added Pardot marketing automation to its list of Dell Cloud Business Software applications.
• Intuit’s acquisition in May of local marketing vendor Demandforce.
• FICO’s announced in May of its purchase of Entiera, one of the few remaining enterprise class marketing automation products for the B2C market.
• Salesforce’s and Google’s investment of $32m last year into HubSpot.
• IBM’s acquisition of Coremetrics in 2010, as well as Unica and Netezza.
• Oracle’s acquisition of Market2Lead in 2010.

These moves make sense when marketing automation is viewed simply as a set of labour-saving workflows that trigger marketing events, such as sending an email based on online behavioural analytics.

However, when marketing automation is seen as a component of a broader demand generation software category, then Big IT has some way to go to offer their customers an integrated solution that helps them attract relevant prospects online and convert them into leads that can be nurtured using marketing automation.

In the B2B market, one of the biggest obstacles to small to medium sized companies’ adoption of marketing automation solutions is that they cannot conceive of a complex set of nurturing process flows when they have neither the traffic numbers, nor content volumes to require more than a simple set of triggers.

The top of their marketing and sales funnel needs to be brimming with qualified and converted traffic and they need to have implemented a strategy that has produced valuable content in a wide variety of formats and channels.

At that point SMEs will look more closely at events such as Dell shipping Pardot marketing automation software. And it is at that point that they will perhaps turn to Big IT to help them generate and convert the demand they need to justify the major investment.