Marketing automation has seen its share of acquisitions

What else has trended? How about the advent of the marketing technology suite?

"Marketing automation 
often had been positioned as a point solution used by marketing solely for demand creation," said Jay Famico, practice director for technology at SiriusDecisions, a B2B research and advisory firm that has released its 2014 Marketing Automation Report. "Teradata, through
 its acquisition of Aprimo, and IBM, via its purchase of Unica, took a more expansive approach and provided a broader marketing platform."

It's an approach, Famico said, being imitated elsewhere, such as with Oracle’s acquisition of Eloqua and Responsys,’s acquisition of ExactTarget/Pardot and Adobe’s purchase of Neolane.

Big Changes?

SiriusDecisions surveyed 17 vendors including HubSpot, Marketo, Oracle Eloquoa and Pardot, scoring them across six categories. 

It's one of two marketing reports to hit the streets recently. NetProspex’s second annual B2B Marketing Data Benchmark Report is the other. In that, NetProspex found:

  • 84 percent of marketing databases are barely functional
  • 88 percent of 61 million records analyzed were lacking basic firmographic data (industry, company revenue, number of employees)
  • 64 percent of records analyzed did not include a phone number

Famico sees marketing automation vendors' messaging evolving. Vendors until recently focused on how marketing automation could be used to drive net-new demand generation.

In his research, with the exception of Right On Interactive, Famico found limited messaging on how marketing automation can also be used to onboard new customers, engage with current customers, grow accounts and create advocates.

Things have changed. In a 2012 study SiriusDecisions found that only 8 percent of marketing automation users reported using marketing automation
 for B2B marketing. The next year, the marketing automation industry provided use cases for using marketing automation throughout the customer lifecycle, including the delivery of training materials during on-boarding to maintain service levels and monitor customer satisfaction.

Now, roughly one-third of nurture tracks are now focused on existing customers.

Skills Gap

According to Famico, marketing automation is a "very hot skill."

"You can see this by how hard it is to find and hire someone with multiple years’ worth of marketing automation experience," he said. "It is very difficult, and those with this expertise are valued and frequently very well compensated."

In about six years, he said, marketers who don't get marketing automation "will be an endangered species."

Learning Opportunities

Famico found a "growing divide" between marketers who know how to effectively use marketing automation and those who don’t.

"This," he said, "will manifest in an uptick in the number of job postings that request marketing automation expertise. Marketers who lack marketing automation expertise will need to gain this competency or risk being marginalized." 

customer experience, Plan to Adapt to Marketing Automation or Become Extinct

Vendor Focus

So where are vendors putting their focus? Famico's research tells him a few areas:

  • Usability. Many are working on improving the intuitive of the application through drag-and drop-designers, in-application help options and improved UI.
  • Training. Vendors are bolstering their certification and training options and expanding their relationships with systems integrators and consultancies.
  • Integrations with other marketing/sales technology. Marketing automation is now a key part of the B2B marketing infrastructure, and it is becoming more critical than ever to integrate with other marketing software applications, including Web conferencing vendors, data providers and social platforms.

Among the vendors Famico researched, vendors charge for 100,000 contacts from $1,750 to $4,500, or approximately $0.02 to $0.05 per contact. Monthly costs for 250,000 contacts ranged from $2,700 to $5,400, or $0.01 to $0.02 per contact.  

"While we have also represented the 100,000-contact band from smallest to largest, the 250,000-contact band reveals much more price variation," Famico said. "In both bands, some of cost differences among vendors can be attributed to functionality and the vendor’s ability to scale, while others can be explained by pricing and negotiation strategy."

What Works?

Ultimately, choosing the right marketing automation provider comes down to the amount of value the provider brings to an organization.

So what defines value for marketing automation?

"This comes by having a feature set, usability and service offerings that are aligned to their core clients needs, wants and requirements," he said. "As an example: SMB clients often place a premium on usability and a stronger focus on templates, where as larger enterprises will have different focus area such as the ability to support large teams, multiple product lines and more advanced feature set."