Marketing Automation in 2016

Usability and Integration Unlock Value

This is part two of our digital marketing predictions for 2016 series.

As marketing automation continues to mature, the fast-growing industry is starting to stabilize. While 2016 may not be a wildly transformative year, we expect to see incremental rather than radical change. These incremental changes will have a significant impact as they allow more users to unlock the capabilities—and value—of their platforms. It will be a year when marketing automation becomes more streamlined, more powerful and more accessible to businesses of all sizes. Here’s how:

1. Simpler system interfaces increase accessibility

As marketers we want to leverage the latest technology and the efficiencies and insights it provides. Unfortunately, most marketing departments are not well equipped to implement and use sophisticated technology systems. Expertise lies in defining buyer personas, understanding sales funnels, uncovering leads and developing persuasive content, not software deployment and customization.

For marketing automation to truly prosper, it has to become easier for marketers in the trenches to implement and use. Most small- and medium-sized businesses don’t have the luxury of having dedicated development and IT resources to produce and manage automation campaigns. The market is demanding that marketing automation become less about scripts and syntax and more about simplifying and automating the process of nurturing profitable relationships.

Most marketing automation tools already have drag-and-drop interfaces for email and landing page creation and campaign management; however, they generally only cover the most basic operations. Predictably, the output from these tools is too often clunky and ineffective. In 2016, we’ll see many platforms release versions that let us produce engaging content without a master’s degree in computer engineering.

As that happens, the market for automation tools will expand to companies with small marketing departments and limited IT resources—perhaps even mom-and-pop restaurants, nail salons and doggy daycares.

2. Personalization becomes genuinely personalized

Personalization has long been a basic function of marketing automation, and it’s easy to understand why. Personalized content converts 42 percent better than generic content and can result in a 270 percent increase in content consumption.

But while using Hello {firstName} or your {companyName} in an email might technically be personalized, it certainly isn’t customized. Truly customized content addresses the right industry data, regional nuances or company-specific pain points based on who the recipient is, their engagement with previous content, their prior purchases and their browsing habits.

Prospects are becoming numb to basic personalization but are hungry for content that addresses their individual needs and helps them solve their specific problems. In 2016, we’ll start to see tools shift toward more robust customization capabilities to help marketers predict—and address – the needs of each prospect. We can then deliver more customized content throughout the buying cycle and develop more accurate real-time lead scoring.

3. Software integration closes the gap between marketing and sales

Marketing automation’s place in the technology stack has historically been one of integrating with an existing customer relationship management tool. We’ve spent a lot of time and effort synchronizing the two tools, getting lists from one to the other and consolidating data to create unified reports. Sometimes that happens with relative ease using built-in connection wizards, but too often it requires creating an application program interface (API) or relying on inefficient manual processes.

In addition, it can be expensive—in dollars and time—to purchase, learn and manage separate tools for marketing automation and CRM. We often find there’s an inverse relationship between the number of tools and staff compliance and adoption: too many tools limits adoption and low adoption translates to ineffectiveness and a waste of resources.

To address this inefficiency, we’ll see a move toward streamlined marketing automation. This means that marketers will be able to see sales and marketing data in one place. By putting sales and marketing data together, we will increase the odds that the two departments actually work together to increase revenue. kickstarted the trend in 2013 with its acquisition of email marketing platform, Exact Target, which had just acquired the marketing automation platform, Pardot. This laid the groundwork for to supercharge its CRM by fully integrating a robust marketing automation tool.

Industry veteran, Infusionsoft, has been a standalone option since its inception in 2001. Its model of combining automation with CRM into a single tool has been an outlier. Look for this to change as platforms capitalize on the opportunity to expand their footprint—and their revenue – by consolidating disparate tools in a single platform.

A year from now, as we look back at the evolution of marketing automation in 2016, it’s likely that we’ll see a consolidated vendor landscape, tools that are simpler for marketers (not technologists) to use and more opportunities for deeper customization based on predictive analytics.


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