What is marketing automation and how can it help B2B marketers?
Marketing automation platforms offer some common core capabilities, but vendors are looking to differentiate their offerings with a range of more advanced features.
What factors are driving marketing automation platform use, and what capabilities do MAPs provide for B2B marketers?
MAPs help businesses identify potential customers and automate the process of nurturing the leads to sales readiness using channels like email, social media, webpages and display ads to bring customers and prospects to customized landing pages and through other experiences designed to move them down the purchase funnel.
Our new report, “B2B Marketing Automation Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide” is now available for free download.
These platforms integrate tightly with CRMs and CDPs, continuously collecting more data about leads to fuel insights and further personalization, often with the assistance of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
MAPs are often overlooked by marketers amid the chase after the shiny new thing. They are taken for granted in part because of their ubiquity and critical importance as the central hub of many businesses’ marketing stacks.
Marketers double down by replacing MAPs
Perhaps that’s why, in a time of rapid change, marketers are replacing their MAPs more frequently than other technologies — it is critical the MAP does what the business needs it to.
MAPs were replaced by 23% of the respondents to our MarTech Replacement Survey in 2022, similarly to the 23% that reported replacing MAPs in 2021.
Digging down into the motivations for replacement, the marketers who said they replaced MAPs in 2022 generally went from one packaged commercial solution (rather than a homegrown application) to another commercial tool, with most seeking better features (58%) and improved integration (23%).
How vendors differentiate on capabilities
The more basic functions of marketing automation have become somewhat commoditized, so platform vendors mostly try to differentiate on the ability to scale (especially to new marketing channels), usability, ease of implementation and customer experience features.
Vendors continue to expand training programs, as well as add-on professional services, to improve platform use. Online communities — for both customers and developers — are also increasingly important to strengthen platform support, advocacy and market penetration.
Many MAP vendors have roots in email marketing, which continues to be a core function and
is often the only function customers use. However, many platforms offer an evolving range of
email marketing features, including advanced lead management, ABM tools and predictive
Core and advanced functionalities of an MAP
Virtually every marketing automation solution comes with tools for email campaign development and
execution (including landing pages), as well as lead capture, scoring and nurturing. Vendors continue to add features, including the following:
Dynamic content creation and delivery
Virtually all MAPs let users create, send and measure personalized email campaigns. Where
they differ is in how email, landing page and website content are created and personalized.
Some offer wizard-based campaign design or content templates, while others provide a more
This encompasses lead nurturing and scoring and is based on leads captured from the various sources feeding the marketing automation database. These include, but are not limited to, website visitors, social media, paid digital campaigns, email marketing respondents, trade show attendees and purchased third-party lists.
Marketing automation vendors generally provide analytics that track quantifiable data such as website visitor activity, pages viewed, time spent on site, emails opened, content downloaded and campaign responses. More vendors are offering predictive analytics and models based on machine learning. This uses algorithms to process data and surface trends or insights that enable marketers to customize visitor experiences and marketing campaigns.
Creating an engaging experience for mobile prospects and customers is a must-have capability.
As a result, many MAPs include responsive templates for email, landing pages and web forms. More advanced mobile marketing features include SMS/texting, in-app marketing and remote platform management from mobile devices.
Vendors continue to add new ABM features to enable marketers to address the buying group as well as individual members, including enhanced account nurturing and predictive scoring capabilities.
Native CRM integration
With more businesses seeking to align marketing with sales, native or out-of-the-box integration with
CRM systems has become a critical feature for MAPs. Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Oracle NetSuite and SugarCRM are some of the most commonly available connectors. Data is synchronized between the two systems and shared in both directions at frequent intervals.
Other advanced capabilities
Some MAPs also offer matching of leads to social media profiles; APIs and app marketplaces to access and integrate third-party software solutions; and AI-based recommendations for next-best-steps.
The market is quickly evolving, as B2B marketers demand integrated marketing functionality. For much more detail on this rapidly changing space, download the latest edition of our free report, “B2B Marketing Automation Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide.”
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