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What is Driving B2B Marketers to Adopt Marketing Automation Technology?

by: Adam Needles (@IBMforMarketing)
22 January 2010

This week we're finalizing the schedule and agendas for our Spring 2010 B2B Marketing University series (Twitter:  #B2BUniversity) -- a program Silverpop launched this past September to deliver top-quality, in-depth education to B2B marketers to help them tackle the 'brave new world' of B2B marketing.  (BTW -- We will be posting updates on this 2010 program shortly, but for now I'll put out a 'save the date' for our March 3 event in Washington, DC, and our March 17 event in London.)

The big thing on my mind -- naturally -- has been nailing down those issues most front-and-center for B2B marketers today, to make sure that these issues guide our agenda.  But on a related topic, I've been thinking a lot about why B2B marketers actually adopt marketing automation technology?

In my mind the two questions are tightly interwoven -- on one hand B2B marketers have issues they're trying to address, and on the other hand they are looking to build out infrastructure to give them leverage in addressing these issues.

Growing Adoption of B2B Marketing Automation

Over the course of two and half months of the Fall B2B Marketing University series, we polled the nearly 600 B2B marketers who attended the series, asking them questions about the state of their marketing automation adoption.  (In fact, I reported on some early results from these surveys in a post last November.)

Based on survey results (n=290), we found 24.8% of B2B marketers in our sample had already adopted marketing automation, and 17.9% said they plan to invest in marketing automation within one year or less.  Below I've got a more-detailed break-out of these numbers.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Source: Silverpop; click to enlarge graphic"]Marketing automation adoption[/caption]

Now, I recognize there likely is a skew to this data; anyone who attended the program is a forward-thinking B2B marketer and probably is a little ahead of the pack.  The actual rate of adoption is probably not greater than 20% (maybe in the 5 to 15%+ range, depending on whose numbers you use and how you define marketing automation).  What interests me, though, is the proportion of those who own marketing automation relative to those who plan to invest this year.  So I crunched the numbers a bit.

I came up with results -- using quick back-of-the-envelope math -- that indicate the potential for somewhere in the range of 70 to 75% net increase in total adoption of marketing automation technology in 2010.

Is this the best projection of market growth -- i.e., is this 'the number' for 2010?  Beats me -- I'm not a full-time industry analyst -- but given this data and some other recent insights I've read, including this article on the DemandGen Report site,  it seems as though 2010 is going to be a big year for marketing automation.

Adoption Drivers

I often write and speak on my belief that B2B marketers' greatest challenge lies in responding to a rapidly-changing B2B buyer.  A Web 2.0 world has fundamentally changed the dynamics of buyer-vendor interaction.  B2B buyers not only have greater access to information than ever before through the Internet, but increasingly, that information comes from industry peers and third parties (often via social media), versus coming from their vendors or from traditional media outlets.  Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff wrote about this loss of control in their book, Groundswell, and they noted "[t]he groundswell has changed the balance of power."

Thus, I believe that -- in addition to the ability of marketing automation to improve operational efficiency -- the strategic reason to adopt marketing automation is as a way to manage buyer-centric, mass one-to-one marketing on a scale basis.  (In fact, this is something I focused on in my recent post on the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog -- analyzing the strategic versus operational definition of B2B marketing automation.)  Thus automation is a way to chip away at the power vendors have lost.  This is what I believe is actually most driving marketing automation adoption today ... because it's the only way to improve the impact of marketing activities on ultimate sales results.

I also believe this is what is driving expansion of the agenda for marketing automation, and -- to be clear -- the agenda of marketing IS expanding.  Over the coming 24 months, we will see marketing automation become a more holistic platform for operating the entire marketing function -- moving beyond e-mail, encompassing a range of digital interactions with buyers

These developments are all about extending the platform's ability to deliver buyer-centric, mass one-to-one marketing.  "It’s all about the buyer now," explains Jep Castelein (a.k.a., The Lead Sloth) in a round-up he published on his blog on 2010 predictions for marketing automation.  And so the natural evolution is features and capabilities that reach further upstream into a buyer's decision-making process, strengthen our engagement in the middle of this process and reach further downstream into when that process naturally intersects with our sales organization.

This seems self-evident in some of the other results from our survey of B2B marketers at the B2B Marketing University series (referenced above).  When asked what operational issue is most top-of-mind for B2B marketers, the ecosystem of concerns seemed to be closely aligned with a desire to adopt marketing automation.  Plus, we saw some stand-outs, such as increasing interest in social media/inbound and marketing accountability/ROI -- both which speak being able to connect with a buyer over a broader range of his/her decision cycle and then being able to perform closed-loop tracking of when/where interactions with buyers are most effective.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Source: Silverpop; click to enlarge graphic"][/caption]


Your Thoughts

What do you think will drive adoption of marketing automation?  What is the pain point you believe marketing automation is best positioned to address for B2B marketers?

I'd love to hear your feedback.


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