Marketing Automation: A Well-Oiled Machine That’s Ready to Roll

The announcement that Adobe was acquiring Web analytics firm Omniture took many in the marketing industry off guard last month. However, it’s less surprising in view of trends that have recently been gaining traction: integration of social media technologies to mainstream platforms; mergers and acquisitions in general; a surge in demand for marketing technology.

Given that context, marrying the ability to tag and track Web content with creative tools makes a lot of sense, Jereme LeBlanc, principal of TM Capital, told CRM Buyer.

The deal speaks volumes for other industries as well, he said. That it is relevant to marketing automation is illustrative of some important changes that have been under way in this space over the past year or so.

For example, traditional marketing automation areas, such as email marketing, have become commoditized.

Growing Demand

The defining characteristic of the last three months or so is the embrace by vendors of niche areas — particularly social media — to stay competitive and to address demand for this functionality as it gains momentum.

“There is less talk about what will happen if we press the button [to invest in an application] and a lot more on actually hitting that button, Adam Sarner, a research director with Gartner, told CRM Buyer.

“There is 12 percent compound annual growth expected for the next five years for this space — we are still talking about double-digit growth, even with the world ending last September.”

For vendors, the fastest way to address that demand — and the need to stay current on technology trends — is through acquisition, LeBlanc said.

“The pace of M&A activity in marketing automation has picked up considerably over the last three months,” he noted. “It is exceptional to the rest of the software world, and to mergers and acquisitions in general.”

MPM, Lead Generation

Marketing performance management is a key area of interest, said LeBlanc. “It can be dissected into predictive analytics and Web analytics — which is where Omniture plays, of course.”

B2B on-demand lead generation is also becoming an application in high demand, said Gartner’s Sarner. “This part of the industry has proven to be fundamentally recession-proof. In November, when everyone got very scared and the world stopped, Marketo was signing on customers left and right and saw a 30 percent growth rate compared to the overall marketing automation market.”

There has also been a great deal of traction lately in integration, Suresh Vital, a marketing analyst with Forrester, told CRM Buyer: integration of inbound and outbound campaigns into a single platform, and integration of online and offline communications.

“The promise has always been there, particularly with online and offline communications,” said Vital. “Now, though, we are finally starting to see the this vision coming together on a single platform.”

The premise is that a company should be able to plan a channel-agnostic channel using the application, instead of relying on siloed functionality such as an email campaign manager, he explained. Examples include Unica’s interactive marketing SaaS application and Aprimo’s new marketing application.

Portrait Software has developed a new release that focuses on inbound and outbound integration, Vital added — all examples from recent months. “And surely we will start to see email providers jump into this space as well.”

A Home for Social Media

The area generating the most buzz in the last few months has been social media. Until now, the use cases for these applications have been experimental or just fun.

“I think marketing automation is going to be the business home for social media and social CRM when it’s all said and done,” predicted Gartner’s Sarner.

Businesses are starting to get serious about these technologies, noted David Raab, principal of Raab Associates.

Of course, businesses have had them on their radar ever since Web 2.0 emerged from the wreckage of the dot-com bust. The difference, now, Raab told CRM Buyer, is that they are being incorporated — successfully — into marketing applications.

“We’ve seen a lot of applications where different automation vendors try to do different things under social media rubric,” he observed, “but it’s only been within the last few months that they’ve used these apps to respond to distinct business needs.”

For example, social media tools are being leveraged for better case management, allowing a marketer to respond on a one-to-one basis, he said.

Another example is Alterian’s acquisition of Techrigy in July, he said.

A major marketing platform vendor, Alterian is among the first of such companies to make an acquisition — with plans for integration — in the social media space, he said. Techrigy provides social media monitoring and analytics software.

Another example is a product developed by Genius, Raab said — a custom URL shortener.

“It allows a marketer to track who used that URL in a Twitter post, for example,” he explained, “and connect it to the campaign from which it originated.

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