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B2B Marketing Automation Market Trends

b2b-marketing-automation-evIt’s data’s world, and we’re just in it—at least, that’s what it feels like sometimes when you consider the exponential amount of information generated, collected, and stored in the digital marketplace. This big data explosion has changed everything for marketers, including how (and if) we approach automation. To that end, the B2B marketing automation market is growing rapidly, as more information about customers, coupled with an increasing number of channels, leaves that automation door wide open. What do you need to know about the trends shaping the B2B marketing landscape? Let’s explore.

The State of B2B Marketing Automation Today

An in-depth report by Marketing Land—B2B Marketing Automation Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide—defines marketing automation as follows:

“The use of software and web-based services to execute, manage, and automate marketing tasks and processes to more effectively market on multiple channels (i.e., email, mobile, social media, and websites). Marketing automation focuses on the definition, scheduling, segmentation, and tracking of marketing campaigns, allowing the marketing and sales organizations to nurture leads with highly personalized content aimed at attracting and retaining customers.”

Besides that thorough overview, the report also gives us a glimpse into the state of automation adoption by companies today. At last count, the systems revenue totaled a whopping $1.8 billion in the U.S. alone—a 50 percent year-over-year increase for the third year in a row. Almost two-thirds of the marketers polled in the Q4 2015 report indicated they planned to increase their marketing technology budgets this year, and nearly 20 percent of those respondents were planning to do so significantly.

While that growth is impressive, it could be even more significant if end users were more educated on the potential of the technology, if old-school marketers could move a bit out of their comfort zones—and, of course, if budgets were open-ended. Unfortunately, none of the above are quick or easy solutions. A recent Smart Insights report, for example, found that only 14 percent of current marketing automation users consider themselves advanced, leaving a lot of untapped potential.

There could be a good reason why the number of automation ‘experts’ are so few and why nearly a quarter of companies have opted out of automation at all: In my experience, the top five marketing platforms from a revenue perspective are not easy to use. As unfortunate as that is, it’s fixable and will likely be improved upon as the industry matures.

Trends to Watch

While the technology has its challenges, it’s hard to doubt that marketing automation in the B2B space today is a big deal, and it’s getting bigger. Here are a few of the trends you need to be watching.

Vendors enhancing data-driven ad capabilities:

Display ad networks have recently been focusing on integrating with marketing automation platforms, due in large part to the increase in the effectiveness of retargeting ads that are heavy on visuals. They’re accomplishing this by acquiring data management platforms (DMPs), essentially data warehouses that store first party data and other information, like demographics. Think of this budding relationship as a treasure trove for marketers and advertisers, and they’ll be better able to target campaigns and ads.

Predictive analytics leading the charge toward personalization:

Predictive analytics are as powerful in the B2B space as they are in the B2C space—the allure of a personalized consumer experience, after all, isn’t limited by what is being consumed. Individual and account-based lead scoring, for example, is just one of the draws of the technology. Note that over half the respondents to Smart Insights’ report indicated they weren’t using predictive analytics to tell how likely a customer was to purchase. That could be a big mistake, though, because their research also shows that 85 percent of those organizations lagging behind would benefit from this strategy.

Marketing and sales aligning:

Look for automation to not only aid marketers, but also lend a hand to the comrades in sales through more effective lead nurturing programs and the aforementioned personalization achieved through predictive analytics.

Rapid growth causing strategy challenges:

Marketing automation can wear many different hats within an organization, but not all those hats coordinate with one another in terms of scope and overall strategy alignment. In other words, integration of this powerful tool will be—and already is—a struggle for some organizations.

Final Thoughts

Do you currently use marketing automation tools in your B2B company? If so, what has been your biggest success as a result? Have you faced any strategy challenges as a result of the implementation? If you’re on the other side of the fence and haven’t yet adopted marketing automation, is something other than budget holding you back? Tell me in the comments.

Eric Vidal
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