The world of marketing automation never stays still for long. With new technologies and practices constantly coming to the fore to challenge the way marketers work, CleverTouch MD & Co-founder, Adam Sharp, looks at the top trends making waves right now, and gives his top 10 predictions for the future of marketing automation.

1. Consolidation of Providers

We’ll start to see massive consolidation among email providers, as some move up the stack to add some marketing automation functionality to their platforms in order to survive. The marketing automation world is already highly consolidated, with the top 5 vendors occupying over 80% of the space.

2. Changing Role of Inbound

The fascination with inbound will begin wane. The importance of email as a tool has been much maligned, but it will be the bedrock of digital personalisation and digital dialogue now and in the future. Where inbound will really succeed is where it is seen as a better and smarter replacement for unintelligent and expensive media planning.

3. Always-On Campaigning

Companies will continue to develop advanced frameworks and multichannel campaigns where email is at the heart, facilitated by the shift from customer journeys to total customer experience. Always-on will become the norm - that is, customers, prospects and other stakeholders will be able to join a campaign from email, social or web journeying at their own chosen speed.

4. B2C Catches up to B2B

In marketing automation B2C will start the catch up with B2B, as the importance of customer lifetime value and maintaining dialogue post-purchase starts to be recognised. Marketing automation is one of the few areas where B2B marketing practice is way ahead of B2C.

5. Leaving Lead Scoring Behind

Clients of marketing automation and marketing automation vendors themselves will realise that preference centres and reputation management are as important – or possibly even more important - than lead scoring. Again, this another area where B2B is actually ahead of B2C. Where B2B’s grasp of preference centres and digital frameworks is already relatively mature, B2C is still operating on the philosophy of click thrus and open rates.

6. Self-Managing Marketing

Reputable companies are self-managing their reputation, and see the governance and frequency of communication as the responsibility of marketing. ICOs are no longer needed to wade in with overly draconian threats; marketers are already taking ownership of out of control marketing by investing in marketing automation platforms, which help manage their compliance and customer and prospect preferences in a responsible way.

7. Own It to Win It

Companies where marketing owns the customer technologies will outcompete those where they are owned by IT. Marketers are now placing greater emphasis on soft deployment skills, rather than over-emphasising platform features and failing to look beyond the purchase to wider organisation adoption and change.

8. Importance of Operations

Organisations that have really strong Sales and Marketing Operations will outperform those that underinvest in these functions. Getting by with individual heroics rather than incremental improvements and rigour, especially around the effective deployment and use of technologies, will no longer be sufficient.

9. Moving Beyond Marketing

Marketing automation will become central to the customer experience, extending beyond the marketing function alone. Just because it says ‘marketing’ in the title, marketing automation should not be siloed to the marketing function - in fact, leading marketing functions are already using marketing automation in new ways, including internal communications, customer satisfaction initiatives and channel optimisation.

10. The Fight for Digital Talent…

The war for and shortage of digital talent will intensify, as the subtle but seismic shift in skills requirements across organisations continues. The best sales people are the ones that think like a marketer and develop their own campaigns, harnessing the digital and physical resources around them intelligently. The same is true of marketers; those that are pragmatic and think like a salesperson by being commercially driven, and genuinely comfortable in meeting, greeting and listening, will be at a distinct advantage to those that came into marketing from a product perspective, or an MBA on their CV

…And How to Win it

The best marketers in the future might not have a marketing degree at all - a systems or computing degree, or a successful sales career would stand them in as good stead. It will be the ability to translate what marketing technology can do not just for marketing, but for the wider business that will set them apart, and lead the development of the marketing function in the future.