A fly on the wall at TFM&A

Billed as the show ‘where great minds meet’, in its 13 year history Technology for Marketing & Advertising has earned a reputation for being a barometer of where the industry is going.

I don’t just mean the content and themes of the keynote speakers and seminars – excellent though they are.  I’m talking about the word on the ground as industry leaders from around the world converge on Earl’s Court for two days of networking, sharing and learning. The conversations people are having in the bars, on stands, over a coffee are an excellent indicator of the state of the industry at large.

So what was the vibe this year?

There is a sense of optimism and motivation in the air, despite most people admitting that 2013 has had a bit of a slow start. It seems that things are slowly gathering momentum and many people believe this year will mark a turning point for businesses seeking to improve their performance.

Automation was on many people’s lips. There was a lot of talk about email platforms, cloud platforms, and my own favourite topic: data.

I detected a real hunger for automation and the benefits it can bring – coupled with a little reluctance to take the plunge.

Many seasoned B2B marketers are still haunted by memories of the early days of CRM solutions, where massive software investments didn’t deliver results quickly enough. The problem then was linked to inadequate training, infrastructure and change management. People expected CRM to act as a magic bullet, but things are rarely so simple.

Word on the TFM&A street is that some of the early adopters of today’s automation solutions have had similar experiences. The problem this time is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. In their eagerness to embrace automation, its key driver – data – has been overlooked.

Ultimately, the early adopters won’t miss out. Once they find a consultant partner who can iron out their data problems they will experience the full benefits of automation, exploring its capabilities in the broadest sense, across the web, advertising and CRM as well as email.

But what of the marketers who have been a little more cautious? It seems to me that we are about to see a second wave of adopters. These marketers have been getting their stable in order and are now ready to saddle-up their data ponies.

Over the next 12 months I think there will be an upsurge in the use of automation platforms. As early adopters and second wave adopters find their feet, we can expect to see some really clever use of data to drive excellent, engaging marketing campaigns. 

Perhaps this year will be the tipping point for automation. And if enough businesses implement it effectively, it could be just what we need to accelerate a return to growth.