As the role of marketing grows with importance within organizations, budgets have begun to shift as well. With marketing becoming increasingly technology based, it now stands as an indisputable driver of IT purchases. So much so that Gartner research predicts that by 2017, CMOs will have larger IT budgets than CIOs.

That was the discussion at a recent Business Marketing Association (BMA) regional conference in Denver. The event was designed to bring together both marketing and IT executives to facilitate conversations on how to better work together as roles, processes and outcomes continue to evolve.

Two closely tied panels during the day included demand generation and marketing automation. Speakers from the corporate, agency and technology spheres shared their perspectives on current challenges and future trends for both demand gen and marketing automation.

No Small Change

Raab Associates predicts that 2012 revenues for B2B marketing automation systems will jump 60 percent, surpassing the 50 percent spike in 2011. Reaching US$ 525 million in revenues this year will certainly underscore the fact that not only do enterprises lean heavily on marketing automation, so do SMBs. This means that companies can now take smarter action in connecting with their customers and prospects, and also can track what’s working, what isn’t and rapidly adjust.

No More Random Acts of Marketing

Marketers need to think first about the early stages that encompass integrated marketing management -- the operations side of the house. By better understanding their processes, one company streamlined enough to increase its productivity threefold. Now, they’re also able to consistently measure their results and make smarter decisions once they engage with a prospect.

One of the transitions that panelists see from marketing holding control of their IT infrastructure, is that the skillsets that marketers need as technologists vary drastically from that of the IT department. Today’s marketers need to understand how to align the processes, platforms and people in order to accomplish business goals of the organization. This requires knowing how a technology infrastructure helps move them in the right direction faster.

What are the top things that companies can do to make their demand gen and marketing automation programs more effective today?

  1. Clean up your database: Data is everything to a marketer. Make sure yours is clean and that you’ve removed emotionally disengaged contacts. Once complete, you’ll immediately have a much clearer picture of your reach and effectiveness and how to woo sales qualified leads (SQLs).
  2. Make your content relevant: Speak to your audience from a buyer’s perspective, not yours as the seller. Keep content current. Understand your goals for the next 12 months and how you expect to interact with prospects. Automation puts the right content in front of the right buyer at the right time.
  3. Rally the troops: We’ve moved beyond the traditional art and copy aspect of marketing, and now have to integrate code into all of our decisions. This means getting everyone together -- marketing, IT, sales and finance -- in the same room early to identify key performance indicators (KPIs) and understand the path to reach them.
  4. Know your KPIs: While SQLs tend to serve as the ROI metric for most companies, those with a more sophisticated outlook have a model that allows them to push deeper into the funnel. With data feedback on multiple areas, marketers will then understand what KPIs have the most meaning, and let technology help make these areas even more effective.

What’s on the Horizon?

With all that’s changing and at such a rapid pace, understanding tomorrow’s trends is paramount for making decisions today. These panelists had consensus on a few key directions for the future:

  • Content reigns. From infographics to more experiential content, content marketing will continue to serve as the linchpin for connecting with customers. Companies have to have quality content to start with, otherwise they’re just making bad content hit their audience quicker.
  • Consolidation. From processes, platforms and people, marketers can expect simplification from one system being able to handle what previously required multiple technologies.
  • Continued rise of big data. Data adds sophistication to marketing efforts, and marketers will capture more meaningful information that enriches their databases over time.

With all that’s changed in the last few years, perhaps the most pronounced is marketing’s role in driving the strategic vision of organizations. As digital marketing becomes the heavy hitter, there’s no question that marketing and IT are inextricably connected, and future success hinges on their ability to create high-performance, cross-functional teams.

Panelists for the BMA regional conference included:

Demand Generation

  • Moderator: Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief, Technology Review
  • David Grant, vice president of industry marketing & solutions, Teradata
  • Aaron Batte, founder and partner, Faction Media
  • Andy Worobel, best practice consultant, Eloqua

Marketing Automation

  • Moderator: Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief, Technology Review
  • Jenifer McFall-Metz, global digital demand generation, CSC
  • Ted Stites, president, Numeric Analytics
  • Christy Uher Ferguson, marketing strategist B2B solutions, Aprimo

Editor's Note: To read more by Carla Johnson:

-- Content Marketing: Start With Your Story