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Michelle Huff

Better B2B marketing fuelled by investment in automation, says Act-On

15th August 2017 • Notebook

There is a correlation between marketing automation investment and business performance, a new study has concluded.

The State of B2B Marketing Automation was commissioned by Act-On Software, a provider of adaptive marketing automation solutions, and performed by Econsultancy. More than 350 B2B marketing professionals in North America and Europe were surveyed.

The study found that ‘Leaders’ are 24% more likely than their peers to say they are currently using marketing automation, and almost two-thirds of these companies employ marketing automation technology, compared to 50% for the Mainstream. ‘Leaders’ are identified as businesses with high-performing marketing departments, defined as those companies with marketing functions that exceeded their top business objective in 2016.

The study set out to investigate how marketing automation helps companies operationalise and grow. The goal of the research was to better understand how companies use and value marketing automation, looking specifically at the technology’s adoption, use case sophistication, and perceived effectiveness. While marketing automation is a prevalent technology in North America, the research wanted to find out if this was true in Europe, and what differences, if any, existed in how marketing automation is used and valued across countries.

While just over half of B2B organisations surveyed are using marketing automation, only 27% firmly believe that it has increased marketing’s contribution to pipeline. This could be because marketers are just only scratching the surface when it comes to using marketing automation. The research shows that there are only three areas where more than half of those surveyed are using marketing automation: email, web forms, and landing pages. These are the more basic functions within marketing automation, which can point to a potential misalignment between system, strategy, and skill-set.

“Despite the important role marketing automation plays in helping marketers to deliver against commercial objectives, the research found that 47% of companies are not yet using the technology,” said Andrew Warren-Payne, Partner Content-Marketer and Industry Analyst at Econsultancy. “Companies need to ensure that they have as much clarity as possible around their sales and marketing goals, and have the processes in place – along with the technology – to help them achieve their revenue targets. Marketing Automaton appears to be a competitive advantage for most businesses, so it is important for those companies who have not yet invested to rethink their current growth strategy.”

Lead nurturing, a standard practice facilitated by marketing automation, is an area showing a noticeable gap in sophistication between Leaders and their peers. There is a 23-percentage-point divide in the level of usage of marketing automation for lead nurturing. Similarly, significantly fewer non-Leaders are using their systems’ lead scoring capabilities (37%, versus 48% for Leaders). It was seen that both these areas are very much on the radar, with 50% and 47% of companies, respectively, planning to use these tactics.

Across all areas, North American organisations are 14% more likely to use marketing automation than their European counterparts. In some categories, such as CRM integration, social, web forms and account-based marketing, this is by a significant margin. As elsewhere in the survey, the responses suggest that North America remains ahead of Europe when it comes to marketing automation sophistication, and results. A significantly higher proportion of respondents based in North America indicate that marketing automation has delivered their organisations with return on investment than those in Europe (91% versus 72%).

Michelle Huff (pictured), CMO of Act-On Software, concluded: “Marketers today face a changing, daunting world: a crowded vendor landscape, online channels that are fast-multiplying, a digitally disrupted customer journey, but more importantly, the customer they serve is more empowered and more in control than ever before. As marketers, we must navigate through this change to succeed. Increasingly, we are seeing companies embrace modern marketing technologies like marketing automation to help them better compete and achieve their business goals.”

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