Marketing automation providers generally offer really helpful tools for marketers. But even if the tools are helpful, they’re not necessarily perfect. Today’s solutions still have plenty of room for improvement. Let’s take a closer look at three great opportunities to move marketing automation to the next level in the year ahead.
1. Intelligent Learning
The goal of marketing automation has always been to treat prospects and customers as individuals and to present them with the right message through the right channel at the right time. The problem? Thus far, marketing automation tools work like databases, requiring marketers to manually build segments. Such solutions are missing intelligent learning. They fail to apply the data we collect, which means we can’t continuously optimize the next message.
If Bill, for example, only reads emails between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., then that’s when the system should automatically send emails to him, regardless of when the formal send is scheduled. If Jill only responds to SMS campaigns, then marketing automation platforms should be smart enough to proactively create a new segment for people like her and to recommend to the marketer that an SMS campaign be run for these particular people. If Steve likes videos and Jen likes written content, the system should be able to present the right version of content based on their click history.
“Tools should take some of the burden off of marketers and give us new insights into how to best engage our specific audience,” says Heather Teicher, vice president of marketing at TurnTo. “They should help us deliver those aha! moments that make campaigns successful.” According to Teicher, marketers shouldn’t need to dig through a campaign history to identify what an audience responds to best. They should be getting active recommendations. “The data exists,” Teicher explains, “it just needs to be delivered cleanly to marketers and updated continuously as our audiences grow and get more sophisticated.”
Every marketer wants to know what works and what doesn’t. That’s why attribution is so important. And while we might not yet be able to do as much tracking and crediting as we’d like, marketing attribution vendors are improving their capabilities all the time. A marketer can now easily see the full chain of media touch points (multiple-touch attribution) that consumers are exposed to before they make a purchase or take a desired action on the marketer’s website. Those vendors can track click-through and view-through across the majority of paid, owned, and even some earned media.
Marketing automation providers have also invested in attribution but their capabilities are very limited. The only things tracked are owned media (email and website) and the last click before the first visit to a marketer’s website. This means that marketers can’t really understand the full chain of events that drive a conversion. If marketing automation providers move away from outdated models that rely on last click and incorporate more sophisticated metrics, 2015 could prove to be a true turning point for the industry.
3. More Message Delivery Options
About three years ago, I was excited to roll out my first marketing automation platform. It felt almost magical to be able to segment prospects and clients and then send them semi-personalized emails. But as great as the platform was, and still is, it can’t do some very important things. First and foremost, the platform can’t reach the anonymous prospects at the top of the funnel. In other words, it can nurture leads but it can’t drive new customers.
This is why it was so exciting when Oracle acquired BlueKai earlier this year. With BlueKai’s data, Oracle is now in a position to create a platform that targets new customers with personalized messages across all channels. Put another way, Oracle now has the ability to take customers all the way down the marketing funnel.
Let’s hope that more automation vendors will be using more data and expanding their capabilities beyond emails in the year ahead. With more data, intelligent learning, and better attribution models, marketing automation could be transformed from a helpful but limited tool into a breakthrough, must-have technology.
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