Needle in the Marketing Stack: Marketing Automation Faces its Biggest Challenge

7 years and 250 customers since we first kicked off, we’ve seen some big changes in Marketing Automation here at CleverTouch.

The MA industry was originally developed by technologists with a marketing or marketing- technology background, who understood the marketplace and were able to empathise with marketers. But today, many MA platforms are being sold as just one part of a complex plethora of many technologies in the ‘marketing stack’ product set.

The traditional big IT vendors are buying up companies and promoting an end-to-end marketing stack based on this acquisition strategy, not on how the products will be used.

The product management and product marketing guys inside these vendors have applied their IT thinking to Marketing, and it doesn’t work.

These end-to-end marketing stacks are simply not appropriate for most marketers; either they don’t have the need, budget or resources to invest in them in their entirety.

In effect, managers of big vendors are overlaying the same approach to selling their marketing technology solutions as they did to IT and DataCentre technology solutions, and for most marketers, this is just a step too far. By promoting a one-size-fits-all marketing stack, these vendors are losing sight of real, customer-centric marketing principles.

The salespeople within such ‘marketing stack’ organisations now have such a wide range of technologies to sell that they often lose sight of customer-centric strategy, and gravitate towards the products that drive the most revenue, or those that are easiest to sell. This can present a challenge to MA, as while it is often a cheaper, lower value sale than a large scale B2C managed service offering  it is none the less a complex and strategic in nature and can take quite a while to sell in and deploy effectively.

 Making the Most of MA

What the marketing stack approach fails to grasp is that Marketing Automation is a multifaceted infrastructure from which organisations can hang off other technologies. It should be the automated central nervous system linking organisational workflow and business rules, to email, to web, to social and to CRM and beyond. So, while the revenue may not be the largest, if it is properly sold in and implemented as part of a change programme, then the results can be stunning.

It seems that there are fewer and fewer MA vendors out there with a true understanding of marketing, and its challenges and needs. It is these vendors with the single minded focus, together with the already-established CRM vendors from which to ‘land and expand’, that will be the most successful.

Most of our work today comes from mature organisations that are taking a considered programme-management approach to Marketing Automation as a driver of change and new thinking inside the organisation. The organisations that once made knee jerk reactions and bought on the back of the demo were on the wane, a thankfully declining customer base; however because of the huge sales effort now taking place as MA becomes mainstream it is these type of organisations that have had a technology implementation devoid of any linkage to a marketing strategy. Ironically, because of the sales hype, this second type of customer are now rising again.

For businesses to make the most out of Marketing Automation and to prevent it from getting lost in the vast plethora of other technologies, marketers need to reject the one-size-fits-all notion of the marketing stack and design a solution that suits their own business, based on their individual marketing goals and priorities.

Marketing stack vendors, on the other hand, need to ensure that the product management and product marketing teams do not design the marketing stack to fit the IT infrastructure. Instead, vendors need to build a team of marketing experts that are able to empathise with the company’s new customer base, who are able to tailor their sale to the customer’s requirements, as MA was initially designed to do.