Marketing Automation Redefined

When the majority of us hear the phrase “Marketing Automation,” we think along the lines of this Wikipedia definition: “Software platforms designed for marketing departments and organizations to automate repetitive tasks.” However, I think we are currently selling marketing automation short, at least by definition. My belief is that marketing automation is evolving into something much more intelligent and strategic.

Currently, if you are in the business-to-business marketing industry, the mention of marketing automation may bring to mind names like Oracle (Eloqua), Marketo, and Salesforce (Pardot). Business-to-consumer marketers may think of solutions such as Kenshoo, Adobe, and Google (DoubleClick). These are all excellent solutions and without them the marketing industry would need much more caffeine than it already consumes.

A growing trend in the marketing industry is the movement toward the marketing stack (or marketing cloud) and programmatic buying. With these solutions, the promise is the ability to manage the majority (or all) of your online marketing channels from a centralized area. In some cases, this is done by an individual marketing team compiling and integrating point solutions. In other cases, companies such as Google, Adobe, and Oracle are building and integrating stack solutions.

To a marketer, the idea of having all of your data in one central area is a dream come true. In reality, this dream is short-sighted. Yes, your data will be in one place and you will likely have suitable management capabilities for the majority of your online marketing. However, soon after this moment of relaxation, will come pressure from your executive team to start showing real gains from the marketing stack you’ve purchased or compiled.

How will we show significant gains from the investment in our new marketing stack? Going back to the C-level and saying, “All my data is in one place, I am saving so much time!” isn’t going to cut it. This is the point where marketing automation will move past its current definition and represent much more.

Let’s start with a new definition and then we will dig into the components:

Marketing automation refers to the process in which artificial intelligence and predictive analytics are used to automatically deliver and manage custom advertisements or communications to the person most likely to take a marketer’s desired action.

This new definition not only covers the previous definition by stating the following “automatically deliver and manage custom advertisements or communications.” But it now takes the definition away from an application or technology and recognizes that marketing automation is a process that marketers must manually initiate. This process is the development of audience intelligence, prediction of optimal communication methods, deploying/managing advertisements or other communications throughout various marketing channels, and tracking the actions that deliver on set goals.

Breakthroughs in three key areas are leading us to a point where this new definition moves beyond concept and into action.

  1. Artificial Intelligence: Seamless integration of customer data, data warehouses, and data augmentation providers are enabling knowledge extraction through advanced data mining. This allows marketers to not only leverage their existing data but quickly take action on new data. 
  2. Predictive Analysis: By implementing machine-learning, marketers are presented with preset audiences that combine propensity to complete desired actions with core attributes of optimal channels, products, and ads/content. This preset audience is then paired with an advertisement or piece of content and awaits deployment based on the opportunity to reach the person at the optimal time. Programmatic buying platforms activate this approach for search marketing, social media, display advertising, video advertising, and mobile advertising. 
  3. Deployment and Management: This is becoming the “high-frequency trading” of the marketing world. As algorithms and automation enable marketers to reach target audiences with speed and precision, competition drives the race for the most relevant ads and content at the optimal time. This leads to further emphasis on the prediction of trends and forecasting of results. The marketers who “win” will be the fastest moving, most precise, with an ability to shoot where the target will be, not where it is. 

In summary, if you compared marketing to flying a plane, we are somewhere between the Wright brothers era and the days of flying 747s on autopilot. The key to continued innovation is reaching for the sky and, in our world, that starts with broadening the definition of marketing automation.

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