The Evolution Of Marketing Automation

mediapostWritten by Troy Burk, published by MediaPost Publications on January 13, 2014.

Marketing automation (MA) is a broad term, used frequently to describe software platforms built for marketing departments to automate repetitive tasks such as sending email communications. MA has evolved since its basic beginnings into robust solutions, geared towards every type and size of business. Forward-thinking businesses are out-pacing their competitors by leveraging the next evolution of MA.

Today, MA generates a greater number (and better quality) of leads, helps sales teams reduce dependency on cold calling, shortens the sales cycle and improves marketing productivity. However, MA is far from perfect.

Unfortunately, MA primarily concerns itself with “lead” to “qualified lead” stages: meaning, half of the customers’ lifecycle is left untouched by the system. Additionally, most MA platforms ignore the fact that leads and contacts aren’t working their way through your campaigns in isolation. Every customer’s journey with your brand is different, perhaps similar, but never the same as another’s path. Assuming a campaign can dictate how customers interact with your brand is shortsighted and dangerous.

Many MA platforms still base their design and application on a purchase or purchasing funnel developed by E. St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. Lewis’s four stages of the purchase process have been used by marketing and sales folk alike for over a century: Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. But the consumer and business buying processes have changed drastically since the purchase funnel’s inception. Consider Consumer Reports (published first in 1936), the Internet, online reviews and social media and their impact on how we made purchasing decisions in the ’80s, ’90s and today. It’s safe to say the funnel is outdated. Buyers don’t follow your process, they follow their own. Hint: Consider where you fit in the “customer’s funnel” or if it’s not a funnel, what is it?  (read more…)