If ever there was a name that under-states what it does, Marketing Automation would be near the top of the list. I’m surprised that the vendors in this space haven’t tried harder to find a term that better connotes the value to marketers, but sometimes it’s easier to stick with a recognized term. While one of the benefits of Marketing Automation is to help companies scale their digital interactions and increase efficiency, the bigger benefit is to make those interactions more effective, helping to increase conversions from interest to sales and decreasing the time to achieve those conversions. Of course, increasing effectiveness is more difficult than increasing efficiency, so it is necessary to consider a number of capabilities when comparing different offerings from the myriad of vendors.
Marketing Automation technology initially started as a way to manage email marketing, so all the vendors do this pretty well. As digital marketing has expanded, so too have the needs for solutions to assist in managing interactions across channels, as well as to handle those interactions in a cohesive, intelligent manner. Again, it’s not just about automation, but about effective engagement. While there are detailed lists of criteria to consider in a solution (for example, here is one from Marketo), here are a couple areas to consider and assess the level of capabilities that are provided:
|————————— Interaction Channel(s)||————————— Email, SMS||————————— Email, SMS, Web, Chat|
|————————— Lead Progression||————————— Single Path/Campaign||————————— Variable Path||————————— Dynamic|
|————————— Prioritization||————————— Simple scoring rules||————————— Multi-dimension rules||————————— Rules, Events, Models|
|————————— Campaign Testing||————————— A/B||————————— A/B, Multivariate (MVT)||————————— A/B, MVT, Analytics|
|————————— Reporting/Analytics||————————— Static reports||————————— Segmentation||————————— Segment., Attribution|
Depending on your organization and its needs, you may not need the most advanced solution available. Also, while many solutions try to provide comprehensive capabilities, they may not be as complete as what you can get from point technology solutions — these may also be helpful if you need certain capabilities that span different systems.
Speaking of different systems, one item I did not address is integration. Marketing Automation does not exist in a vacuum. The most important point of integration is with CRM systems, which sales teams rely on for managing their prospects and accounts. Make sure to look at how different Marketing Automation systems can pass information (preferably bi-directionally) with your CRM system, including the level of information that can be passed. This will become very important, as you want as much context as possible, relating to customer interactions, to be available on both sides. Best of luck in moving beyond Marketing Automation to Marketing Optimization!