Automation Dive: Who's Using It -- And How -- In B2B

Most B2B marketers use marketing automation to drive their email programs. But that’s not a good thing.

The trouble is that “some companies fall into the trap of thinking that triggered email marketing is marketing automation,” says a study by Econsultancy in association with Act On Software.

Email is certainly a popular application. Of the 355 B2B specialists surveyed, 73% use marketing automation for email, and 26% are planning to utilize it.

The only other widely used tactics are web forms (63%) and landing pages (56%).

The survey breaks down responses by several groups — leaders, mainstream firms, North Americans and Europeans.

Firms described as leaders are more likely to use automation in email marketing with 84% who do so, compared to 70% of mainstream firms.

North American marketers are also ahead in this respect — 80% deploy automation to fuel email, versus 67% of Europeans.

Web forms and landing pages were next, with leaders and North Americans most likely to fuel them with marketing automation.



Scroll down a little, and you’ll find that fewer companies of all types are using account-based marketing. Only 32% of the North American firms do so (compared to 11% of the Europeans), as do 35% of the leaders and 13% of the non-leaders.

But non-users should be getting on the train. The study states that “it seems strange that any business would not want to take a more joined-up approach to prospects or customers working for the same company.”

Granted, the bulk of this study is not about email or account-based marketing — it is focused on automation and the challenges of implementation.

Overall, 53% of the respondents now deploy marketing automation, and 37% are planning to do so.

Among the leaders, 62% report that they now have automation in place, as do 50% of the mainstream marketers.

At the same time, 30% of the leaders are planning to introduce automation versus 39% of the mainstream. And only 8% of the leaders have no plans to deploy, versus 11% of the mainstream.

Of the future users, 23% expect to start in the next three months, with 23% in three to six months, 41% in six months to a year and 13% in a year or more.

Why do B2B companies choose automation?

Overall, 66% say it is to generate higher quality leads. Of them, 29% specify that as a first choice, 26% as their second and 11% as third.

Lesser percentages hope to increase revenue (49%), align sales and marketing for mutual success (44%), generate more leads (41%), automate customer onboarding and retention programs (36%), measure marketing’s impact on the bottom line (31%). Finally, 30% seek to understand the behaviors of their customers.

But there are obstacles. Naturally, the leaders are less troubled by these issues.

The study shows that 47% of the mainstream firms cite acquisition of new leads as their most pressing challenge, versus 36% of the leaders.

The second hurdle is lead handoff from marketing to sales — it was mentioned by 20% of the mainstream and 31% of the leaders. Lesser percentages in both groups complained about retention of customer/install-base and building brand awareness.

What’s getting in the way of automation deployment? Of the firms surveyed, 60% say it’s resources.

That issue is followed by skilled experience (50%), data management (48%), complexity (44%), integration (37%) and cost (11%). A mere 7% cite working with an agency/implementation partner.

Is it working?

Yes. A full 93% of the leaders agree with the statement that marketing automation is delivering a return on investment, and 69% of the mainstream firms concur. 

Also, 90% of the leaders agree that automation has increased their contribution to the pipeline, and 88% that they are more efficient because of it. Lesser percentages of the mainstream companies say the same.

But the leaders and non-leaders are tied on the question of whether they have executive support — 87% say they do, versus 88% of the mainstream players.

Meanwhile, 72% of the leaders state that their system is somewhat effective, and 20% that it’s very much so. Mainstream firms are almost tied with the leaders on being somewhat effective. And 17% in that group say their systems are somewhat ineffective, compared with 4% of the leaders.

Of the respondents, 39% state that marketing met their top business goals in 2016. Another 23% say they narrowly exceeded them, and 11% said they surpassed their targets by a significant margin. Only 27% missed their goals.



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