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Serious Lessons from SiriusDecisions

You know that feeling you get when you hear something that, deep in your gut, you knew all along but didn’t want to believe? Like when you found out that there is no jolly fat man in a big, red suit putting presents under the fir tree in your living room? Or that Kim Kardashian doesn’t wake up looking fresh-faced and glamorous; it’s the result of hours in the makeup chair?

That’s how I felt when I read that a recent study by SiriusDecisions found that only 16% of B2B companies use marketing automation. It’s not surprising, but it is a bit disappointing that the majority of B2B companies are missing the opportunity to streamline and maximize their lead generation strategy.

I get it, though. From email marketing to drip campaigns, marketing automation can be a very confusing landscape. Many businesses don’t even understand the range of marketing automation benefits or what’s available in a platform like Marketo. Even really successful businesses with younger leadership don’t quite grasp marketing automation yet. That makes educating businesses on the potential of marketing automation—from integration to implementation to execution—the top priority in the marketing technology revolution. Tell teams there’s a better way to nurture leads and grow revenue faster, and you’ve got their attention.

People need to understand what marketing automation really means. That education needs to go beyond defining marketing automation (which, if you’re wondering, is simply a software platform that lets you build content such as landing pages or emails and then present it at the right time to prospects) and communicate results-oriented strategies.

It also needs to address any misconceptions that are holding businesses back. Say “automation” to people and they make think of convenience, but they may also think of stilted, robotic materials that alienate prospects. The fact is, the right skills partnered with the right platform can deliver very engaging content.

On the education front, we all need to remember there is still room for innovation and growth in the industry. Even Marketo, which is positioned in the “Visionaries” quadrant in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, has room to refine and evolve its customer engagement platform. This is only the beginning. Anyone who thinks they’ve seen all marketing automation has to offer is short-sighted. As with all technologies, with more widespread use comes a greater braintrust – and that means more expansive vision and inventive tactics.

Internal Education

Some businesses with savvy marketing departments already know they need marketing automation, of course; they’re just unsure of the best solution or how to implement it effectively. Even businesses with one or two areas of marketing automation in play already likely aren’t using their tools to the fullest potential.

This is, quite frankly, because marketing departments also have a lot left to learn. Yes, marketing teams can take advantage of the webinars, videos, articles, calls and other resources marketing automation vendor offer — but that’s not the kind of learning I mean. It’s the skill sets those marketers have or, more importantly, don’t have.

To run a successful marketing automation team, you need individuals well versed in content, messaging, inbound, outbound, strategy, data, CRM and so on. Marketing automation isn’t just plugging in some software and following directions. It’s about understanding buyers and creating programs to reach the right customers. Yet truth be told, these skills are absent in many companies’ marketing departments. There’s a gap between the skills they have and the skills they need.

As a result, most marketers will need to master a new set of skills. They’ll need to understand how they can create and define intelligent strategies, generate demand and convert leads. And they’ll learn this in part by doing and by identifying the building blocks they need to garner results (and ensuring they don’t underestimate the human resources required to drive successful marketing automation strategies).

When people think of good marketers, they think of many traits – creative, determined and flexible, to name just a few. Yet one trait that doesn’t get prized enough is ambition. As marketers we need to always look beyond our current tools and strategies and reach for something better. Given that trends like personalized messaging will extend into the future of B2B marketing, I believe the adoption rate of marketing automation will continue to grow. It’s just a matter of education – of helping companies see the tremendous revenue opportunity that could be their future.

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