What the heck is Marketing Automation then?

Well, this week has been a mixed bag! With the snow staying away, business has actually been able to proceed!

We also visited the TFM&A Exhibition (along with Confex) – with a view to looking at exciting developments in technology to support marketing.

What did I learn?

I now know there are more CRM and automated emailing systems than you can shake a stick at.

I also discovered that “Marketing Automation” is the new buzz phrase.

I also learnt that while a lot of companies talk about Marketing Automation, what they actually mean is “automation of one part of the process” such as email sending for example.

Marketing Automation in itself is in its infancy – which I suspect is why many are talking about it, but still working out how to do it. What concerns me is that the term itself will become diluted as organisations jump into the sector, but have offerings that don’t stack up.

It was also interesting to see the divide in these systems when it comes to B2C  and B2B – while B2C platforms looked very robust, and talked about understanding B2B it was clear that the systems could not easily translate between the two. Not surprising in that the two disciplines require different approaches, processes and management – what is suprising is that the providers didn’t seem to want to specialise in one or the other.

Which brings me to my point (there is one) – ultimately, like any technology platform, unless the system is completely aligned to the goals of the user then it won’t do what’s needed.

In marketing, there is definitely a place for technology that enables the marketing process – but without the underlying expertise and process management, the success of campaigns managed through these technologies will be limited.

Take email platforms for instance – they have enabled a large increase in companies bringing email sending in-house (37% increase in 2009 according to the DMA), but this has been accompanied by a decline in the quality and effectiveness in email communications.


Imagine if you could bring TV-quality production in-house using a video camera and some fancy software – would the company be guaranteed to produce successful and good quality TV shows? Probably not. Some might, but most wouldn’t.

It’s the same with email – the DMA acknowledges this and found in its research that a large percentage of companies sending emails from their internally managed systems are ambivalent about the technology (which can impact how your reader sees the email in their email client), and worse, aren’t processing unsubscribes, and hard and soft bounces correctly.

I don’t want to pick on email, but it highlights that we probably need to wait to see a solid marketing automation platform that covers all the bases, and that we shouldn’t rely on the technology to ensure we do the right processes, but on our own disciplines – as technology sometimes lets us do things we shouldn’t!

About the Author

Charlotte Graham-Cumming

Director, Ice Blue Sky Ltd

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