Thursday, November 1, 2007
The Evolution of Marketing Automation Solutions
As a lifelong student of marketing, it is interesting to see the evolution of marketing over time. Whenever I pull out my old marketing textbooks, I don't see anything about the new direct marketing channels -- blogs, podcasts, mobile marketing, etc. And, it isn't just because I'm old and have been out of college for a while -- it's because nobody really understood in the mid-90s the full impact of what technology (the internet, telecommunications) would bring to business. Obviously, there were those who were more on target than others, but nobody expected this outcome -- i.e., that marketing needs to be consumer-driven. This will only increase as more consumers adopt the new marketing channels -- and they are doing it in increasing numbers every day.
What is interesting about all of this is that companies are now looking even more closely at direct marketing budgets. As reported by TMCnet in an article by Jon Miller of Marketo.com, "Traditional marketing expenses are loosely structured and hard to tie to revenue -- which is why many executives think of marketing as a cost center, not as an investment. And that makes marketing budgets hard to justify." This is why it is so important to be able to determine how effective your marketing campaigns are performing -- and to be able to report those results up to leadership.
This idea takes some serious consideration, particularly when it comes to marketing automation technology. Miller feels that this evolving marketing methodology will bring on a new and better stream of marketing automation products and services. And, he feels that the "old-school" marketing automation products struck out because they were too technical and direct marketers couldn't fully utilize them without depending upon their IT resources -- who probably didn't have the time or resources to translate them for marketing.
So, here's the conundrum: How do you make your company more consumer-focused by utilizing the new direct marketing channels out there that put your customers in the drivers seat -- and how can you accurately track the results of these campaigns without blowing your entire budget?
According to Miller, "The new [marketing automation solutions] contenders out there must learn from the mistakes of the past. To succeed they must provide a solution in a way that makes sense for the way marketers think and spend money. Fundamentally, this means marketing automation needs to be less like enterprise software and more like consumer software." What Miller is saying makes sense. Marketers need to be able to utilize marketing automation so that they can demonstrate to their leadership that they are positively impacting corporate profits. So, it's got to be easy to use, easy to build reports and dashboards, and it needs to take into consideration more streamlined marketing budgets.
Miller states it simply, "It means selling like a web company, providing support like a web company, and pricing like a web company. In other words, solutions for the marketing department must be easy (and free) to test drive and trial. They need to be easy to use. They need to be easy to buy from existing marketing budgets. And they need to work without any IT support."
Those in the business of providing these solutions definitely have their work cut out for them. It will be interesting to see these companies evolve to meet our ever-changing direct marketing needs!