The Automation Blueprint: What Email Marketers Want

It’s hard to believe, but 84% of all companies are successful at marketing automation. 

That statistic comes from “State of Marketing Automation: Benchmarks for Success 2017,” a study conducted by Adestra with Ascend2.

Of 70 companies surveyed, 33% describe themselves as very successful --best-in-class. And 51% say they are somewhat successful. The remainder admit they are having a hard time.

Why is the majority doing so well? Adestra lists three market changes:

  • Greater access to data as customers are more willing to provide it.
  • More services by email providers that make automation easier to implement with features like drag-and-drop editing. 
  • A growing recognition by marketers that they need automation to achieve their corporate goals.   

And email marketing is usually at “the center of the conversation with your customers,” Adestra adds. 

First, a definition: Adestra describes marketing automation as “software applications designed to streamline repetitive marketing tasks.”



The proof of this is in the automation goals specified by marketers: The top one is organizing productivity, not acquiring more customers. 

“marketing automation helps level the playing field for marketers on small teams, allowing them to accomplish more by reducing the time spent on repetitive tasks,” Adestra argues.

Here’s the list of objectives:

  • Organizing productivity — 43% 
  • Increasing marketing ROI — 41%
  • Improving campaign management — 40%
  • Improving database quality — 39%
  • Acquiring more customers — 39%
  • Measuring performance — 37%
  • Aligning marketing and sales — 24% 

But some of those tasks are difficult to perform. The most challenging are: 

  • Increasing marketing ROI — 46%
  • Improving campaign management — 44% 
  • Measuring performance — 39% 
  • Optimizing productivity — 38% 
  • Acquiring more customers — 35%
  • Improving database quality — 33%

To further illustrate this difficulty, 46% say that implementing automation is extremely complicated. And 35% gripe that it’s somewhat complicated. But companies should not be daunted by that.

“Suppose it takes you 120 hours (roughly 3 weeks) to create a marketing automation program,” the study says. “It sounds crazy, but if you take that total time and amortize it over the year, a time when you will increase revenue and contribute to your company's success, it's not unreasonable.”

How does a firm go about putting in a marketing automation system? 

Of those polled, 59% outsource it to a specialist, and 38% use a combination of outsourcing and in-house resources. Only 3% rely totally on in-house capabilities.

When choosing systems, convenience is more important than pricing. Users look for: 

  • Ease of implementation — 64%
  • Technical support — 42%
  • Cross-platform integration — 41%
  • Industry analyst ratings — 32%
  • Analytics capabilities — 32%
  • Cost of ownership/pricing — 32%
  • Clients/recommendations — 23%

Of the respondents, 62% have a long, complex sales cycle with many influencers. Another 26% have a direct, short cycle with few influencers. And 12% say their cycles have both of those attributes.

Companies in the first category should make sure that their sales and marketing teams work together when implementing automation. 

And if you’re among the 51% that are somewhat successful, Adestra recommends that you follow these best practices to move into the top ranking:

  • Identify the gaps in your own program.
  • Figure out what your competition is doing better.
  • Assess whether automation is your best option at the time.
  • Pursue progress through incremental innovation.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Aim for intent.
  • Shorten the cycle.
  • Create personas.

Of the companies polled, 46% are B2B, 28% B2C and 26% both. 

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