Marketers seeking to make sense of the lead-generation process face a daunting task: deciding among the large number of available marketing technologies which, for them, will do the best job.
First there's the lineup of marketing automation solutions that nurture leads that flow over the transom. But marketers also have to sort through social publishing platforms, content-creation solutions, landing page-optimization tools, digital asset-management applications, test and targeting tools for optimizing Web pages at their disposal, as well as marketing management and work-flow solutions, to name a few options.
“It's definitely a fragmented marketplace for b2b automation,” said Lori Wizdo, principal analyst at Forrester Research. Wizdo co-authored a Forrester analysis about automating marketing end-to-end in a process she calls “lead-to-revenue management,” a combination of dashboards, sales portals, CRM systems, demand-gen engines, listening tools and data-mining platforms.
“Yes, marketing automation solutions have automated the core customer-engagement process, attracting traffic to a website, nurturing, scoring and so on,” Wizdo said. “But all it does is automate something we had been doing manually. You still need niche solutions that help optimize that end-to-end. And for marketers, it can be exhausting making sense of it all.”
Wizdo cited the example of one Forrester SMB client with $5 million in annual revenue. The company uses Act-On for its marketing automation platform, Sales-force.com for CRM, Sprout Social for social media management, EveryoneSocial for employee social publishing, XYDO and Curata for content curation, Unbounce for landing-page optimization, Jigsaw and Leadspace for database list-building, Bunch for lead scoring and SalesWays to optimize sales cycles.
“This is just a $5 million company, and they really need this stuff,” Wizdo said.
Nick Panayi, director-global brand and digital marketing for information technology company Computer Sciences Corp., said he gets three or four sales pitches about new technologies a day. “The ones that pass the sniff test get passed to a domain expert, because we don't want to lose a chance. If we find something interesting, we'll put them on a video call and invite our whole staff to participate.”
Panayi said he pays such close attention to new marketing technologies because they present marketers an opportunity to make a real impact in the digital space.
“We were in front on that one,” Panayi said. But Demandbase is only one of many tools within CSC's marketing department, he said, noting that CSC's content management system alone sits at the center of a galaxy of more than 45 separate systems and tools.
The fragmentation of marketing technology has brought with it the fragmentation of marketing expertise, which can make for staffing headaches. According to a recent BtoB study, “Marketing Automation: Best Practices for the Management of B2B Digital Marketing Companies,” based on an online survey in April of 204 marketers, the inability to find trained or qualified marketing automation professionals is a significant issue for marketers.
“Ten years ago, marketing was pretty simple: You worked on branding. You distributed various tchotchkes. You did direct mail and some adverts,” said James Rogers, CMO of OneSource Information Services, whose technology aggregates information about prospects and companies to optimize sales contact lists. “Today, it's very complex and broad, creating the necessity to have lots of marketing specialists to execute the various activities.”
Further complicating matters, Rogers said, is that fact that different specialists might use the same tool in different ways. A retention marketer might employ a tool like OneSource to find other contacts within a single account. A social marketer could use the tool's business intelligence capabilities to better understand social conversations; and a prospecting marketer might use its lookalike feature to find leads.
This has created the rise of marketing consultancies and implementers, and an increasing reliance on vendors and vendors' partners. Enterprise resource and marketing company SAP, for example, has approximately 3,300 partners that help its customers sort out and implement the company's many technologies.
It also helps to have other marketers to consult. Marketo Inc.'s Marketing Nation community, less than a year old, already has 30,000 marketers and partners who share ideas on implementing Marketo's marketing automation system and its API add-ons.
It's a process that may be complex, but is becoming increasingly necessary, Wizdo said.
“I'm impressed by how much rich functionality there is to manage the customer engagement process,” she said. “Without all these processes, marketing would have no choice but to throw leads to sales. Yes, you could build a house with a Swiss Army Knife, but it's probably not the best single tool to use,” she said. “You'd also need a great saw, which is what is behind marketing technology fragmentation.”