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Survey Results – The 6 Key Needs of Actual Marketing Automation Buyers

Marketing automation software has become an integral component of a marketing budget.  According to an Email Monday report, 49% of companies, including 55% of B2B, have adopted marketing automation software.  And there’s proof that it actually works, too: Marketo found that 91% of successful users believe that marketing automation is “very important” to the success of their marketing efforts.

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Because of these increased adoption rates, we decided to do a little study.  We surveyed some companies that were looking to buy marketing automation software.  As we dug into this data, we found some of the latest marketing automation buying trends.  This data was gathered from conversations held over the past 15 months.  The full breakdown of companies by size is in the chart below:

Marketing Automation Buying Trends Company Size Chart
While analyzing the decision maker responses, we created a report of every requirement and its frequency of mention. What we found were buying trends that were both expected and unexpected, what these companies saw as challenges to making a decision and, if they were looking to switch vendors, what their old software failed to do.


We first wanted to find the buying trends of companies in search of a marketing automation tool.  As you may have guessed, there were a plethora of responses.  While some companies required a lot of features and others had very few, there were a few requirements that we heard repeatedly.

It comes as no surprise that we heard more often than any other response was “cloud-based.”  Of the respondents, 48% were at least willing to choose a cloud-based marketing automation vendor, including 30% preferring a cloud-based vendor.  This only goes to show that the cloud is continuing to be accepted by business.  Even more to the point: not a single respondent preferred an on-premise solution, as the other 52% didn’t specifically address deployment.

Following the cloud, email automation capabilities (39%) was the second-most popular requirement. This was an expected response, as the popularity of segmented email marketing has increased over the last few years, as has the practice of automating emails to help move leads down the funnel. The third-most popular response goes hand-in-hand with email automation: lead nurturing (36%). This requirement included all conversion funnels, and is reflective of how marketers are attempting to increase the efficiency of their lead nurturing processes.

Tied for fourth-most popular requirements were campaign tracking, customer tracking/lead scoring and access for multiple users at 23% each.  These two types of tracking can be time-consuming to implement manually, so it’s no surprise that they were near the top of the list.

What surprised us most about the buying trends we found was how few businesses prioritized CRM integration.  Before analyzing the data, we assumed that CRM integration would have been among the top 3 responses.  However, it came in at a whopping 10th, with only 14% of respondents mentioning CRM integration as a priority when deciding on a vendor.

Marketing Automation Buying Trends Chart

Decision-Making Challenges

The second set of responses we analyzed were the challenges decision makers faced in choosing their marketing automation vendor.  The variety of these responses were much more limited, as there were only five total challenges that respondents identified.  Nonetheless, the results are interesting to see.

Logistics dominated the issues facing marketers in search of a marketing automation platform.  The most common challenge decision makers faced was the time-sensitivity of their decision, with 55% identifying this as a challenge.  We defined “time-sensitive” as wanting to implement and go live with a solution within 6 months.  Several respondents indicated that they needed to go live “ASAP,” which included 44% of companies that were searching for their first solution.  In many cases, these companies were in the searching process for several months to a year, but couldn’t find a solution that fit their needs and/or weren’t aware of very many options on the market.

At 39%, the ability to fit a marketing automation tool into their budget was the second-most common challenge.  Most of these companies fall into the smaller size brackets (less than 500 employees), so a heavier emphasis on sticking to a budget is to be expected.  However, it still reveals that a large portion of companies are budget-conscious when it comes to implementing a new system.

Coming in third with 16% of responses was companies searching for their first marketing automation solution.  The majority of these companies (67%) had a short list of requirements, most of which weren’t customized to their business.  This can probably be attributed to a lack of exposure to the capabilities of marketing automation since they haven’t used a system previously.

Two other challenges identified by respondents included ease of use and suitability for B2B uses (4%).

Marketing Automation Buying Trends Challenges Chart

Vendor Failures

Lastly, we took a look at the reasons why companies that have adopted marketing automation tools were looking to switch. For this data set, we excluded those businesses that were searching for their first marketing automation tool (since there were no failures they could report on).

Comprising 36% of respondents, identifying a lack of sufficient features in their marketing automation system is the most common vendor failure we found.  What this data suggests is that the automation needs of companies of all types and sizes are increasing, and if vendors don’t keep up they’ll soon be outdated.  Specific features that respondents listed as lacking included automated email marketing capabilities, automated lead nurturing (one of the top requirements for companies) and automated reporting functionality.

Vendors whose systems were too complicated accounted for 13% of vendor failures, second-most among all responses. When switching to a new vendor, the last thing a company wants is for a new system to be difficult to learn.  Difficult systems lead to long adoption time and slow production until employees learn the ins and outs, which hurts the ROI.  Depending on how long it takes to learn, the ROI could take a significant hit, especially in larger companies.

The third significant vendor failure included being too manual, which included manual data entry, manual reporting and barely- (or not at all) automated lead nurturing.  Marketing automation software that includes any kind of time-consuming manual tasks defeats the point of the system, so it’s logical why companies tend to switch from vendors that can’t automate important functions.

The last failure that respondents identified was a vendor being too expensive for the features offered, amassing 2% of responses.

Marketing Automation Buying Trends Vendor Failures Chart

What It All Means

For buyers of marketing automation software, these buying trends reveal what companies today are prioritizing as they seek to automate more and more of their marketing efforts.  Automated email marketing, lead nurturing and tracking capabilities are key features to search for.  Cloud-based deployment is the standard.

For vendors, the data shows that marketers are searching for software that is well-rounded and includes several dynamic features that eliminate time-consuming tasks.  And although the system doesn’t have to be intuitive enough for a two-year-old to use, it still has to be fairly straightforward so that it doesn’t take long to learn and use effectively.

Finally, companies that have been searching for marketing automation solutions for a while tend to find themselves in a time crunch, especially if they have to fit it into a budget.  If you’re looking for a marketing automation platform, take a look at our Marketing Automation Leaderboard to help kickstart your search.  Feel free to drop us a line as well, and we’ll do all that we can to speed up your search and get you live as soon as possible.

Get our top 10 marketing automation vendor report.

SelectHubSurvey Results – The 6 Key Needs of Actual Marketing Automation Buyers

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  • Rebecca - April 14, 2017 reply

    Great research. For us the challenge was to find something easy to use. Right now we’re using getresponse. I think that it’s one of the most important things to find something that is easy to use.

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