Are you ready to evolve beyond marketing automation in the next era of B2B marketing?
Columnist Scott Vaughan says marketing automation's "teenage years" are resulting in some soul-searching for B2B marketers and the leading marketing automation providers.
Marketing automation is a gangly teenager going through its awkward phase. At the same time, C-suite and customer expectations of marketing’s contribution to the business are changing, shaking up the world of B2B marketing.
Our strategies no longer focus solely on inbound marketing and generating (qualified) leads. Today, it’s about targeting the right accounts (new and existing), delivering a personalized customer experience (beyond just your website and social presence), generating multiple streams of revenue and driving lifetime value.
With these shifts, B2B organizations and marketing automation (MA) providers are re-examining MA’s role, purpose and potential. And that’s a very good thing.
As you make investments that drive your company’s revenue and customer success, it’s important to understand what’s churning beneath the water and what these shifts mean for both your business and career. Here are key trends to follow as you plot your company strategy, build out your martech stack and manage your next professional move.
Customer life cycle is the new mandate for B2B marketing
Marketing automation came to prominence with the promise that B2B marketers — using shiny new tech platforms — were going to move from brand marketers to revenue marketers. A decade-plus into this effort, the reality has set in that it takes way more than a single platform to drive multiple forms of revenue and types of customers.
It’s no longer just about net new customer acquisition to drive growth. As businesses and business models move to the cloud, marketers must take a full customer life cycle view.
The scope of B2B marketers’ effort no longer starts when an inquiry is generated on your website, nor is it completed when a new customer is inked.
Today, more effort is being applied to discovering and engaging the right prospective customers, using data to identify in-market buyers and accounts before they raise their hands for an inquiry. Moreover, the revenue mandate means marketing must also contribute to cross-sell, upsell, renewal and advocacy for existing customers.
This means marketing is collaborating with more groups within their company, and the technology, processes and data required to make it happen have had to extend well beyond marketing automation platforms. In addition, account-based revenue strategies have moved to the top of the priority list both to accelerate new customer wins at specific companies and to expand across divisions within existing customers.
Most of the marketing automation players have been playing catch-up to evolving B2B marketing needs, adding account-based solutions and full customer life cycle capabilities.
Leading MA platform providers are trying to evolve, figuring out who their customers need them to be
This is where marketing automation’s teenage years meet tough questions: Who am I? What do I want to be when I grow up? It’s soul-searching time. This is likely why many of the leading marketing automation players now have second- and third-generation executive leadership teams in place.
Marketo is racing to expand beyond MA and become the customer “engagement” platform. Eloqua, acquired by Oracle, wants to mash up their MA with a dozen other marketing, data and sales technologies to become the ultimate cloud. Salesforce and Adobe don’t even tout “marketing automation.”
In most B2B marketing organizations, marketing automation has become synonymous with automated emails, nurturing and scoring of qualifying leads. These capabilities are a vital part of the B2B effort, but far from everything that’s required today to create new customers and retain and expand customer relationships.
The leading vendors born during the dawn of marketing automation are looking to develop and acquire the other central components needed to deliver on the customer life cycle objective.
Revenue creation takes much more than MA
We all knew that adopting MA was not going to deliver instant revenue, but many of us bought into the dream. We know that today, it takes –– at minimum — an integrated technology stack that taps into intelligent, actionable customer and performance data, a unified process that links customers with sales, marketing and customer service/success, and the steadfast commitment to hire and develop modern marketing talent.
Marketing automation today is surrounded by and arguably blended into the rest of the tech stack, processes and data required for customer revenue generation, in all its forms. There are many other pieces that have emerged and are playing an increasingly prominent role in the B2B process, including:
- top-funnel marketing — discovery and engagement of key personas within targeted accounts before nurturing kicks in.
- intelligent data — predictive, intent, machine learning and analytics to better target your effort.
- sales tech — tools and process to more efficiently and effectively develop opportunities into pipeline and manage customer relationships.
- customer success/service and experience — platforms and processes to delight, service and create loyal, vocal advocates.
Being MA platform-certified is table stakes, no longer career-making
Not too long ago, being platinum or five-star certified on the Marketo, Eloqua or HubSpot platform was a guaranteed ticket to a lucrative career. While still valuable today, this alone will rarely get you the killer job working for the top organizations.
The ability to understand and manipulate marketing automation systems is table stakes. As we look forward, successful B2B marketers will have a well-rounded view of:
- full customer life cycle processes and tech stacks.
- company go-to-market strategies across multiple markets and product lines.
- intelligent customer data and analytics being applied every day.
- account-based revenue strategies and tactics.
What role will marketing automation platforms play in your next chapter? Now is the time to re-examine your requirements, take inventory of current capabilities, and talk to your marketing automation and other marketing and sales tech providers. Start by expanding your view, and make sure you understand the full customer life cycle and what’s required.