Marketing automation: A freak fad or the future of business?

Melissa Burns, an independent consultant for businesses, shares her experience on marketing automation which was enriched during the collaboration with GetResponse.

History shows that any process that can be automated will be automated as soon as lazy human beings figure out how to avoid doing yet another job. Some areas take longer to be automated, but in the end, even they join the club. Even marketing, a sphere that seemingly completely depends on individual insights and personal expertise of those working in it, is not an exception.

In my experience of consulting very different businesses, I often see managers who were eager to delegate a part of their responsibilities to automated software as well as those who already did so to considerable effect. Today, I can confidently say that there is nothing irrational or fanciful about automating marketing. Here is what Daniel Brzeziński, CMO of GetResponse (and he should know) told me:

“Marketing automation has been around for years and was, in most cases, connected with enterprises which have a large quantity of data to use and a large budget to spend. SMBs started to pick up interest in it only recently, as marketing automation proofed to be effective in bigger organizations”.

Until recently, marketing automation has been available mostly to large companies ready to spend considerable budgets on not exactly surefire solutions, with generally SMBs, usually more careful about their spending, only recently joining the fray. This every-growing popularity becomes evident if you simply take a look at Google Trends – it shows an ever-growing interest in the idea over the last few years, and it is obvious that this interest generally originates from smaller businesses starting to think about optimizing their marketing solutions.

Expansion Potential

Nevertheless, according to a last-year poll, about 25% of B2B businesses still didn’t use marketing automation at all, and only 7% reported to have been using all the features offered by marketing automation solutions and optimizing them to better fit their particular situations. This demonstrates that this industry has an enormous expansion potential – as more and more conservatively-minded businesses turn to it, it will create additional opportunities for providers of these services.

And it is more than certain that this tendency will continue to grow – Daniel Brzeziński mentioned to me that “according to VentureBeat, 80% of marketing automation users saw an increase in the number of leads, and 77% had an increase of conversions”. At the same time, the majority of businesses don’t try to implement their own marketing automation solutions but either utilize ready-made ones or outsource the issue completely. According to Ascend2 marketing automation survey, 63 percent of businesses outsource marketing automation strategy planning either completely or partially, and only 37 percent only used in-house resources.

The majority of these 37 percent are likely to be big businesses that can afford to maintain their own tools and dedicated specialists. In the years to come, we are likely to see more and more smaller companies joining the trend and choosing companies like GetResponse to provide them with ready-made systems to automate their marketing. It should be understood that smaller businesses usually look for solutions that can be used right out of the box, without having to spend inordinate amounts of time learning the intricacies of their use or hiring additional personnel. After all, hiring people to operate a tool that was intended to decrease the amount of manual work with your marketing efforts kind of defeats the purpose of using such a tool in the first place.

The Main Purpose of Automation

A tool that would provide you a detailed picture of who your customer is and help you understand what he wants before he knows it himself has been the Holy Grail of marketing for a long time. Big businesses spent millions trying to find algorithms that would allow them to sift through statistical information to find out secrets clients aren’t willing to reveal themselves. Perhaps SMBs don’t have this kind of resources at their disposal and cannot hope to hire statistical geniuses to do their bidding, but marketing automation can serve as an affordable alternative that will allow them to make a small but important step in this direction. Most businesses I consulted bemoaned how little information they have about people buying from them, and how limited are the ways in which they can use this information even if it is present.

As the implementation of marketing automation grows, the situation changes. Not only does it become easier to collect, analyze and use information, but the clients themselves change their attitude towards businesses doing so. Not so long ago a company that knew your birthday, name and a preferred brand of clothing was perceived as something creepily reminiscent of the Big Brother. Since then, people were taught to be more tolerant of this kind of thing. They are less often creeped out by the fact that companies spy on them; on the contrary, they grow used to it and even expect them to know these big and little facts. It is more than likely that in a few years’ time clients will expect businesses to know who they are and understand what they need, getting annoyed if a business doesn’t keep track of their prior activities and preferences.

Using the Right Tools

According to Daniel Brzeziński, “the main struggle for them [SMBs] is finding the right tool – advanced and cost effective. SMBs need solutions that scale easily, grow with the company and don’t require extensive onboarding”.

All too often automation providers don’t feel the need of their potential customers, providing tools that either don’t allow for scaling due to growing prohibitively expensive as a number of processed information increases or hide behind inscrutable and incomprehensible interfaces. What we are likely to see in the near future is an ever-growing number of SMBs making their choices in this respect and defining the future of marketing automation. Simpler, more approachable tools are likely to come out on top due to an ever-growing number of small and middle-sized clients, with the more complicated ones losing out and remaining a prerogative of big businesses.