Marketing Automation Software Research and Resources

What is Marketing Automation Software

Marketing Automation Software is designed to enable marketing departments and organizations more effectively market to customers via multiple channels, such as email, social media, and websites. The software automates cumbersome repetitive tasks, minimizing the effort required to publish marketing campaigns. Most major marketing software is available as either a hosted or Software-as-a-Service model, which reduces IT needs and simplifies system management.

Major Features

Marketing automation platforms provide a variety of features to facilitate digital marketing. Some of the more prominent tools include:

  • Campaign Development – Creation of campaigns, asset management, and other tasks involved in setting up future campaigns.
  • Social Marketing – Publishing and managing social media campaigns to various platforms such as Facebook and Twitter
  • Email Marketing – “Traditional” email pushing to lists of customers, albeit with automated management and data collection
  • Campaign Management – Management of an entire marketing campaign, regardless of content or desired channels. Campaign Management includes scheduling and publishing of campaigns.
  • Marketing Analytics – Analyzing the success of marketing campaigns, buyer habits, market trends, and other data points which impact marketing efforts
  • Transitioning Contacts into Leads – Aiding in converting marketing-identified prospects into sales leads.
  • CRM Integration – Some marketing automation systems can integrate with Customer Relationship Management platforms to enhance campaign efficacy.
  • Customer Data Management – Logging of customer information (if not relying upon a CRM) and tracking the customers’ interaction with campaigns.

Functional Areas

On a high level, marketing software features fall into one of the three below categories. Not all systems provide extensive support for each category.

Marketing Intelligence

Marketing Intelligence tracks online interaction with marketing campaigns. Tracker codes are built into emails, social media posts, and webpages. The codes are in turn recorded by the marketing software, which can analyze and report on buyer behavior. Marketing professionals can then tailor campaigns to be more successful based upon the analyzed customer behavior.

Marketing Automation

Marketing Automation tools help speed the process of converting potential leads into actual customers. Potentials are automatically scored based upon various criteria, and then are prioritized for handling based upon the score. At this point, the prospects can either be fed marketing campaigns geared towards the profile of the customer, or passed on to direct sales personnel for nurturing.

Workflow Automation

Advanced Workflow Automation capabilities help automate overall marketing processes in an organization. Calendar synchronization, scheduled publishing, digital asset management, and business processes all fall under the umbrella of Workflow Automation. Essentially, any marketing-centered process which is not encompassed by Marketing Intelligence or Marketing Automation can be handled by Workflow Automation.

The Future of Marketing Automation Software

Marketing Automation Software has reached a turning point in its evolution. Up until the present time, most MAS systems have been based on the concept of email blasts, with occasional features tacked on to this core. Email is no longer the main form of marketing, and the clunky “me too!” manner in which the systems behave is outdated and painful to work with.

Here are three areas which Marketing Automation Software solutions will focus on in the near future:

Big Data Integration

Gone are the days when simply maintaining a list of email addresses is sufficient for marketing automation. Upcoming systems will have to absorb information from a myriad of sources, and be able to process the data effectively. Particular focus will be on integrating with Big Data platforms for storage and processing of large volumes of disparate data points.

The source of information will come from linking previously unrelated systems. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Business Intelligence (BI) systems all contain information which can be mined to enhance marketing efforts. By pulling data from all systems which contain customer and sales focused information, marketing automation solutions can utilize a company’s full knowledge to help design and target campaigns.

Aside from syncing with company-held information, upcoming marketing automation engines will pull data from external systems. For example, social media platforms, which are currently one of the most important avenues to acquire customer information. Which leads us into the next area.

Predictive & Personalized Marketing

Customer engagement will become increasingly personalized. In social media for example, customers can be presented marketing campaigns which are tailored to their habits and preferences. Marketing software will be able to take a customer’s previous interactions, post history, “likes”, and other data into account to present messages which are more likely to garner a response.

In order to present such targeted information, the automation solutions will utilize ever increasingly complex predictive analytics algorithms. With the wealth of data available due to Big Data integration and the processing power of distributed cloud computing, highly powerful analytic packages will be able to help automate the composition of marketing campaigns, rather than just their delivery.

Ease of Use

Circling back to one of our first points, the next generation of marketing automation software will be much easier to use. Historical systems have been very complex and often require special training. Just configuring workflows to automatically score potential leads can be extraordinarily complex, and result in a slew of hard-coded actions. The interfaces for workflow design can resemble a Jackson Pollock interpretation of Jenga.

Upcoming systems will reduce such complexity, helping turn marketing automation software into a universally accessible tool, rather than a specialized skillset. This simplification is being driven by the new focus of targeting small & medium businesses (SMBs) who do not have automation specialists on staff.

Our team of marketing automation and software selection experts evaluated more than 60 marketing automation solutions to bring you this list of top marketing automation platforms. Leaders include Marketo, Eloqua, Act-on, Hubspot, Outmarket and more.

Michael ShearerMarketing Automation Software Research and Resources