Marketing automation software has become an integral component of marketing budgets. According to an Email Monday report, 49 percent of businesses — including 55 percent of B2Bs — have adopted marketing automation. Additionally, Marketo found that 91 percent of successful users believe that marketing automation is “very important” to the success of their marketing efforts.
Due to these increased adoption rates, we decided to do a little study. We surveyed businesses that were looking to buy automation tools and created parameters for each set of questions we asked. After collecting data over the course of 15 months, we found some of the latest marketing automation trends.
There were many responses we anticipated, while others were unexpected yet insightful. From this information, we created a report of every requirement and its frequency of mention using analytics from decision-maker responses. Listed below are the 6 key needs of marketing automation buyers, along with the challenges they faced and the failures they experienced.
We first wanted to find the top requirements of companies searching for marketing automation platforms. While some businesses required a lot of features, others had very few. Overall, there were a few requirements that we heard repeatedly and took note of.
It comes as no surprise that cloud-based marketing automation software was a top requirement. Of the respondents, 48 percent were interested in a cloud-based marketing automation vendor, including 30 percent who explicitly preferred it. Interestingly, not a single respondent specified a preference for an on-premise solution.
Following the cloud, email automation capabilities (39 percent) was the second-most popular requirement. This was also an expected response due to the increased popularity of segmented email marketing over the last few years.
The third-most popular response goes hand-in-hand with email automation: lead nurturing (36 percent). This requirement included all conversion funnels and is reflective of how marketers are attempting to increase the efficiency of their marketing campaigns.
Tied for fourth place were two methods of managing leads and customers, campaign tracking and customer tracking/lead scoring, as well as access for multiple users. Each of these requirements were identified by 23 percent of buyers. Campaign and customer tracking can be time-consuming to manage manually, and are equally important for a company to be able to provide the best service to their customers. The emphasis on access for multiple users demonstrates the increased need for collaboration among marketers.
What surprised us most about the most popular requirements we found was how few businesses prioritized cross-platform integration. Before analyzing the data, we assumed that CRM integration would have been among the top 3 responses. However, it came in 10th place with only 14 percent of respondents prioritizing it.
The second set of responses we analyzed were the challenges decision makers faced when choosing a marketing automation vendor. The variety of these responses were much more limited, as there were only five total challenges that respondents identified.
Logistics dominated the issues marketers deal with when searching for marketing technology. The most common challenge was the time-sensitivity of their decision (55 percent). We defined “time-sensitive” as needing to implement and go live with a solution within 6 months.
Several respondents indicated that they needed to go live “ASAP,” which included 44 percent of companies who were searching for their first solution. In many cases, these companies couldn’t find a system they wanted even after searching for up to a year.
The ability to fit a marketing automation tool into their budget was the second-most common challenge (39 percent). Most of the companies we talked to had less than 500 employees, so staying on budget was a major factor in their decision-making process. The data revealed to us that a large portion of companies are budget-conscious when it comes to implementing a new system. This wasn’t shocking, but it was interesting to see just how many companies make a point to be cost-efficient.
Coming in third, with 16 percent of responses, was companies searching for their first marketing automation solution. The majority of these companies (67 percent) had a short list of requirements which can be attributed to a lack of exposure and knowledge of marketing automation capabilities.
The remaining challenges identified by respondents included ease of use and suitability for B2B uses at 4 percent each.
Lastly, we took a look at the reasons why companies were looking to switch their marketing automation tools. For this dataset, we excluded businesses that were searching for their first marketing automation tool. They had no failures to report on so the data would not have provided any help in our research.
Comprising 36 percent of respondents, a lack of sufficient features was the most common vendor failure we found. What this suggests is that automation needs are increasing across the board, and if vendors don’t keep up they’ll soon be outdated. Specific features that respondents listed as lacking included email automation, automated lead nurturing (both among the top requirements) and automated reporting.
Vendors whose systems were too complicated accounted for 13 percent of vendor failures. When switching to a new vendor, the last thing a company wants is for a new system to be difficult to learn. Systems that aren’t user-friendly lead to a long adoption time and low productivity until employees learn the ins and outs. This hurts your ROI and can contribute to significant drops.
The third significant vendor failure identified was that the system was too manual for users. Specifically, this related to manual data entry, reporting and lead nurturing. Marketing automation software that includes any kind of time-consuming task defeats the point of the system. Therefore, it makes sense why companies switch from vendors that can’t automate important functions.
Some vendors were identified as being too expensive for the features offered, amassing 2 percent of responses. This failure is the reality for many companies because they don’t have the means to purchase better products like larger competitors can. Vendors can learn from this data by considering what features they offer and how that compares to their pricing.
What It All Means
For software buyers, these marketing automation trends reveal which requirements today’s marketers are prioritizing. The majority of those requirements center around automation, showing that marketers are pursuing the elimination of manual work.
For vendors, the data shows that marketers are searching for software that’s well-rounded and includes dynamic features that eliminate time-consuming tasks. Although the system doesn’t have to be intuitive enough for a two-year-old to use, it still needs to be straightforward. This eliminates the time it takes to learn the program and start using it in their day-to-day operations.
Finally, companies tirelessly searching for marketing automation solutions tend to find themselves in a time and budget crunch. Something has to change so that companies aren’t stalled in software selection purgatory.
For those of you who feel stuck in the marketing automation search process, you’re not alone. There’s no shortage of your peers who feel exactly the same. That said, it’s time to speed up the process. Vendor-specific guidance can help get you out of the rut. Take a look at our Leaderboard, featuring the top marketing automation systems and features, to find that guidance. With it, you can find your best-fit marketing automation tool in no time at all.