Is automation the marketing stack’s Holy Grail?

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For marketers, it’s imperative to deliver relevant, personalised content to customers to be heard above the noise; and technology is the surest path to enabling today’s new vision of automated marketing.

The $1.8bn acquisition of Marketo is a recent indication of marketing automation’s importance to the growing marketing stack and driving a more personalised customer experience. But marketing challenges don’t just end once marketing automation is embraced.

For many years, especially for those who have been in the martech industry marketing automation had been an over-used, under-delivered promise, with an over-dependence on email.

Did we think we could automate all of marketing?

Similar to CRM 10 years ago, marketing technologies have traditionally been siloed and difficult to use, but that has changed, and platforms are maturing even faster now.

With early innovators like Eloqua (now Oracle Marketing Cloud) and ExactTarget (now Salesforce Marketing Cloud), to fast risers like Marketo, marketing automation has become the cornerstone of the marketing stack and is now an integral solution to achieving the customer experience vision.

Marketing automation’s influence is growing, but there’s a long way to go

Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn is another example of the great lengths (and expense) that companies are taking to get closer to their customers.

Over the last 11 years at Bluewolf, I have seen these technologies evolve, but what has been more impactful is seeing how companies have evolved their thinking around the role marketers play in the broader customer lifecycle discussion.

For the past several years, I have led a sold out marketing session at Dreamforce, the largest cloud computing conference in the world, and I ask one question to kick off: “How many people in this room were at the table during your CRM implementation?”

More than before

For many years, a few meager hands would be raised. Today, enthusiastic hands shoot up and real world case studies around marketing leading the way in terms of data quality, sales enablement, and ROI have become reality.

Marketing automation, whether we like this term or not, has become a dominant category and has changed the role of marketers. We are more empowered, have more insight into our customer and prospects, and are able to execute more effective programs.

But where do we go now?

The reality is that marketing automation, this Holy Grail, is still in its infancy. Technology integration does not yet equal data intelligence, knowledge transfer is still difficult to manage, and evolving demands to streamline marketing workflow cannot be instantly solved by adding technology.

Automated cloud platforms are undoubtedly changing things for the better, giving marketers insight into customers’ unique interests and behaviours than ever before, but there’s work still to be done.

Part of that is because the marketing technology stack is becoming as complex as the CRM stack. From making sense of a tremendous amount of unorganised data, management across multiple channels, and nearly 3,800 marketing technologies to power marketing optimisation, execution is increasingly complicated.

Is it worth the struggle?

When companies can create meaningful and personalized customer experiences that lead to loyalty, retention, and purchase, yes, it’s worth it.

But despite our focus on the marketing stack, it’s important to not fall in love with technology alone - you need to look at data, people, and process, as well as technology.

Strengthen all areas of your marketing strategy to get ahead of the curve - including data quality, data integration and governance, market readiness, content strategies, and investing in talented people.

Marketing automation’s influence is growing within the customer experience ecosystem, but like any innovative technology, there’s a long way to go, we have just scratched the surface of its potential.

Do not blindly reach for that Holy Grail; when you prioritise all areas of your marketing strategy, not just technology, only then can you uncover opportunities from insights, get closer to customers, and impact your overall business.

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