59% of B2B Fortune 500 Companies Use Marketing Automation

The world's biggest companies are beginning more and more to see the value of marketing automation systems. Why is the adoption rate growing so quickly?

Beginning in 2013, adoption of marketing automation by the world’s biggest companies was only at a meager 25 percent. Since then, the adoption of marketing automation among the largest B2B companies has risen by 34 percent, bringing it to 59 percent.

The growth of marketing automation adoption within the Fortune 500 segment is continuing — and for good reason. For example, one Fortune 500 business cited a 165 percent increase in email click-through rates after adopting marketing automation. With the amount of digital noise in today’s market, driving meaningful engagement is difficult, and Fortune 500s have the most to gain and lose from the success and failure of their marketing campaigns. Marketing automation is proving its value for the world’s biggest companies, and adoption continues to grow among their smaller, more nimble counterparts.

Marketing automation for B2B companies is all about revenue. Similarly, the number one concern for large, publicly traded companies is revenue — but the past decade has brought us a new era in business and consumer relationships. The Consumer Executive Board cites that a B2B buyer currently does more than 60 percent of their entire research cycle without a sales person, and relies completely on content they find online. This disconnect between businesses and buyers is proving to be a critical issue in modern revenue cycles.

Most modern marketers understand this statistic, and have moved to create more content to support the buyer’s cycle. This chart from Google Trends shows the rise in the term content marketing. You can see how many marketers are searching this term out to better produce content for their own organizations, and how many people are writing about the topic. IBM reports that over the past two years alone, we’ve created more content online than has ever existed in history.


This trend of increasing content production has created its own problems for businesses as well. Consider the following issue: With so much content, how do companies determine which lead is sales-ready? If the buyer is engaging with content for 60 percent of their buying cycle, how do you know when to engage sales and pass the lead over?

Enter marketing automation. This is why the adoption of this technology is proving to be so crucial to Fortune 500 companies. In fact, there are a few major reasons we are seeing large companies adopt marketing automation at such a growing rate. Let’s take a look:

1. Lead Generation

Because content marketing is such a hot topic, and the amount of content we are creating continues to increase, the major issue facing businesses is now identifying leads. If everyone is engaging with content, how can we identify the correct leads to send to sales? This is where marketing automation plays a critical role in lead generation by using behavioral-based tracking to identify sales-ready leads and pass them to sales in real time.

In a case study produced by Eloqua, Oracle was able to shorten the time it took to identify a lead and get it to their sales team by several days. Before they had adopted marketing automation, it took them five days to pass a lead to sales. After, they were able to pass a hot lead in three hours.

This is so critical in today’s market, as highlighted in this Harvard study. Harvard researched 29 B2C companies and 13 B2B companies and detailed their follow-up times starting when a lead took a “hand-raising action.” They found that the companies that followed up within a few hours were 60 times more likely to win the business than those who followed up later. Marketing automation enables companies to achieve this fast follow-up through tracking and real-time notifications, and is therefore helping the world’s largest companies drive revenue from their content marketing efforts.

2. Lead Nurturing

Think of lead nurturing like the process of hatching an egg: for an egg to hatch it needs to be nurtured and cared for over a period of time. It must be protected and kept warm, and when it’s ready it comes to life.

As I discussed earlier in this article, today’s buyer is engaging with content over a very long timeline. Research from FierceCMO report found that 41 percent of B2B buyers waited longer before they wanted to engage with a sales rep, than they did in 2014. Also a Pardot State of Demand study from 2013 found that 77 percent of B2B want content tailored to the stage of their buying cycle.

So it is the job of modern marketers to identify a prospect’s stage in the buying cycle, and then to help nurture them to a sales-ready state. This isn’t a totally new concept, yet the ability for a marketing team to actually do this, and do it at scale, is unprecedented. And the process is fairly simple: behavioral-based tracking allows marketers to identify where leads are based on the actions they exhibit, place them on the appropriate lead nurturing track, and automate on-going communication to ensure they receive appropriate content at the correct time.

According to a recent study, 59 percent of Fortune 500 companies have already adopted this technology and this new strategy to nurturing cold leads — and as I mentioned before, I believe we’ll continue to see this number grow. But if you compare this adoption rate to the adoption rate amongst more smaller, more progressive companies, you’ll find that the Fortune 500s lag behind by a whopping 35 percent. In fact, 95 percent of the 19 largest SaaS-based companies are currently using marketing automation, leading the way in current adoption of this technology.

So why are Fortune 500s slower to adopt something that can have such a massive impact to their revenue? These faster-moving, SaaS-based companies have a few advantages over the Fortune 500s; namely, their younger, fresher look at marketing principles, as well as their agile go-to-market strategies. After all, it’s much easier to start with a progressive mindset than to change to one. And while many of the Fortune 500 companies were late to the digital marketing landscape, the marketing strategies of their SaaS-based counterparts already relied heavily on digital marketing, and they were quicker to understand the real value of adopting a marketing automation solution.

I do expect to see the Fortune 500 continue to rise in adoption of marketing automation over the next few years, and expect it to continue at a steady rate. The benefits are there for companies of this size, yet it is their size which is holding them back from utilizing this technology. It is very possible that within the next five years we will see 100 percent adoption of marketing automation among many verticals — not just SaaS-based companies.

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