Marketing automation has come a long way. It started with mail merge systems for direct mail, automated fax systems, and then email marketing. These systems then paved the way for lead scoring, segmentation, tracking, and engagement tools. In the hands of the right operator, today's tools are incredibly powerful. And therein lies the rub - in the hands of the right operator.
Two weeks ago, I got an email pitch from a staffing agency with the subject line, "Overcoming the Shortage of Marketing Automation Talent." The email went onto say, "When it comes to marketing automation, the talent shortage is dramatic..." My interest piqued, I read on.
The second paragraph laid out just how they plan to address this shortage of talent - take a proven marketer (logical start) and pair them with a Georgia Tech database/technical expert to create a duo able to deliver complete marketing automation solutions.
What? It takes a technical degree from one of the leading engineering schools in the nation to run a marketing automation tool? When did that happen? How did that happen? Somewhere along the way marketing automation tools got complex. Really complex.
Providers of marketing automation technology raced to deliver feature after feature in an effort to win customers with the most feature-rich solution. The end result of this feature war is marketing automation systems that have more features than most marketers will ever need presented in a fashion that, apparently, requires an advanced engineering degree to get the value out of. We can do better.
Like many technologies before it, marketing automation started simply and got complex over time. There was no grand plan to be complex. The plan was to be robust. The result was, as marketing industry analyst David Raab reported in a blog from January 2013, marketing automation and lead nurturing are the only two inbound marketing tactics where the difficulty score was significantly higher than the effectiveness score. It doesn't have to be that way.
Robust and complex are not synonymous and simple and powerful are not mutually exclusive. We have the technology and we can do better. We can deliver robust, powerful, simple solutions to marketers that don't require an engineering degree to run.
The next wave of marketing automation will be smart. Complex manual tasks like lead scoring will become automated for the marketer. The marketing automation solution will actually tell the marketer and the sales person exactly who the hottest leads are. This information is based on each lead's profile and how that profile matches every lead the company has won and lost over time.
Automated lead scoring will revolutionize marketing automation software as complex systems give way to powerful tools that deliver simple, actionable solutions to marketers and salespeople. Marketers will rightfully expect smart solutions that learn the buying behaviors of a company's most profitable customers and constantly score each new lead against those behaviors.
Automated lead scoring is just the beginning of smart marketing automation. There are prescriptive nurture designs that offer campaign suggestions based on what is working rather than a marketer's best guess. Also, smart social nurturing functionality that separates the social signal from the mountains of social noise and nurtures those signals into leads directly in the platform where they were found.
Each of these concepts shares a common theme - they take the guess work out of marketing automation. They take complex concepts and deliver powerful solutions simply. They learn and get smarter over time and, ultimately, they remove barriers to widespread adoption of marketing automation tools.
By many accounts, marketing automation tools have less than 10 percent adoption in the technology market (and less than 3 percent outside of the market). Perhaps this low adoption rate is due to most marketers not having the engineering degrees required to run these systems.
We have the ability to deliver solutions that learn what the marketer needs instead of asking a marketer to learn what the solution needs (or hire an engineer to run it). Not only do we have the ability, these concepts are becoming a reality and they are the basis for what will be the future of marketing - smart marketing automation.
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Christian is CEO of Salesfusion, a marketing automation company in Atlanta that empowers marketers to more effectively attract new opportunities, convert them into customers and nurture them into lifelong relationships.
Christian has 16 years of experience as a hands-on technology professional. He has built a career on a foundation of hard work and persistence and is known for his passion and drive to help businesses connect with their customers. Prior to joining Salesfusion, Christian was part of Radiant Systems and NCR Corporation. While at Radiant Systems, he led the growth of the small and medium retail business market, turning a one-time sale business into a recurring revenue model for 2/3 of its revenue.
Once the company was acquired by NCR Corporation, Christian was able to use his software expertise and motivational leadership to launch NCR's return to the small business market. The solution he developed from concept definition through brand development to launch led a Renaissance for NCR, positioning the company once again as the technology leader for small businesses.
March 19, 2014