A report on marketing automation buyer habits produced some surprising and not-so-surprising results.
But it depends on who you ask.
Ask the creator of the report, Software Advice, and you'll hear that it’s surprising small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) represented 50 percent of the buyers interested in marketing automation.
“I was most surprised to see so many small to mid-sized companies in our sample,” Software Advice marketing analyst Derek Singleton told CMSWire. The report tracked 896 interactions with marketing automation buyers in 2013. He continued:
Historically, large and enterprise-level companies have been the ones to aggressively adopt marketing automation systems so I would have expected the buyer sample to be more weighted toward companies with significant employee counts and annual revenues. This might be an indication that marketing automation is moving downstream. Vendors are certainly starting to create more solutions that focus on serving the needs of small to mid-sized businesses.”
One of those vendors was not surprised to see growth with SMBs in marketing automation interest.
“We are seeing tremendous interest from SMB sector,” Atri Chatterjee, chief marketing officer of Act-On Software, told CMSWire. “This is where the most innovation occurs, and they know that modern marketing techniques will transcend their business and keep them competitive against the larger enterprises.”
Chatterjee said he was also surprised to see only 7 percent of those surveyed report using an email marketing system.
“Seems very low,” he told CMSWire. “We see 25 percent of our wins coming from companies currently using email marketing software and looking to bridge the gap from email to digital with marketing automation.”
The report did go on to say email marketing was a “highly desired” feature, with 47 percent of buyers citing the need for the capability.
Chatterjee was also surprised to see that tracking and reporting didn’t top the list of requested features and that only a handful were seeking this feature.
“This is actually a key selling point for marketing automation,” Chatterjee said.
The top features buyers requested are consistent with their need to improve lead management, according to the report. The majority of buyers told Software Advice they required lead management features -- 81 percent requested lead nurturing, while 64 percent requested lead scoring.
One thing that may also be surprising is the 21 percent of buyers who reported using no software at all, instead relying on manual methods such as pen and paper, spreadsheets or one-off emails.
Nurturing Prospects the Goal
In the “least surprised” department, Singleton referred companies primarily evaluating marketing automation to improve their lead management -- and that lead nurturing and lead scoring topped the list of desired features.
“In most people's minds, improving lead management is the primary benefit that a marketing automation solution can offer, so I expected to see this top the list of reasons why companies are evaluating systems,” Singleton told CMSWire.
Christian Nahas, CEO of marketing automation provider Salesfusion, told CMSWire that first-time buyers are drawn to marketing automation because they want to nurture prospects.
“Replacement buyers,” Nahas added, “understand the power of marketing automation already, but many are disgruntled with the complexity of the solution they are using. Features such as automated lead scoring and segmentation that just work are important because this allows marketers to focus on marketing, not running the marketing automation tool. Easy to digest reporting is table stakes, regardless of what deeper functionality a buyer is seeking.”
Hurdles for First-Time Buyers
So what are the struggles for first-time marketing automation buyers, and what can they do to overcome these challenges?
The biggest hurdle, Singleton said, is understanding how to use the system to its fullest.
“Various reports have come out showing that while many companies know they need lead nurturing and lead scoring capabilities, they have difficulty making full use of the functionality because it is more complicated than it seems on the surface,” he said.
Email branching logic, as a concept, is not that difficult to grasp. However, deciding what to do after a buyer opens a lead nurturing email, or doesn't, and understanding what content to deliver to keep that buyer moving through the sales cycle is much more complicated, Singleton added.
“As a result, first-time marketing automation buyers can sometimes become overwhelmed once they get into their new system,” Singleton said. “To counteract this, I'd recommend thoroughly researching exactly what you need from a marketing automation system before you buy. Once you understand your needs, start preparing for how you'll use the system well in advance of making a purchase.”
Asked what marketers need more of and less of, Singleton said more functionality to personalize their marketing messages and lead scoring capabilities to facilitate a smooth transition between marketing and sales.
And less social media marketing capabilities within their marketing automation system. Only six percent of buyers were interested in managing social media marketing within a marketing automation system.