This morning while sipping my coffee I read a very interesting article on ClickZ, Marketing Automation Redefined. In it, Nate Young (Director of Demand Generation at Kenshoo, a company that builds cloud-based digital marketing solutions and predictive media optimization technology) describes what he sees as the way we should define marketing automation.
Young writes, “Marketing automation refers to the process in which artificial intelligence and predictive analytics are used to automatically deliver and manage custom advertisements or communications to the person most likely to take a marketer’s desired action.”
While the idea that automation is more than just a simple tool is accurate, I disagree with Young’s “sci-fi” characterization that it is artificial intelligence. Today’s tools empower, even the most “green”, automation users to be better while providing near limitless options for customization for the more technical among us. Marketing Automation tools can be leveraged to automate a multitude of processes. But, to imply that they so powerful that they can be the “brain” behind the idea, is more fiction than fact. Less R2D2 from Star Wars and more Oz behind the curtain if you pardon the cliché.
The process is a prologue of sorts. Putting the right governance and business rules in place to support your platform in the background is imperative. A well thought out process will help you determine the best path for implementation. It will also help you define goals and KPIs for reporting which will be crucial when you decide to integrate your marketing automation platform with any other tools and systems such as your CRM.
Without governance and process, you might as well invest in a simple batch and blast email tool versus a true Marketing Automation Platform. Then, there’s the people aspect. A person with business acumen, technology skills and aptitude, can bend MA platforms to their will and produce dazzling results. A lack of properly trained staff (not just technically trained but those who operate under the same principles and move towards the same ends) will kill your efforts and render you unable to meet your goals. To say that the technology and process are all that should be considered is really to ignore the power behind those things.
In my opinion, redefining marketing automation is not necessary. Automation is, and will always be, a tool that leverages the processes you implement and drives toward the results you require as a modern marketing leader. Whether it is a single piece of software or a cloud-based stack of tools is irrelevant. It’s what you do with it that defines success. Young hints at something along these lines when he writes,
“How will we show significant gains from the investment in our new marketing stack? Going back to the C-level and saying, “All my data is in one place, I am saving so much time!” isn’t going to cut it. This is the point where marketing automation will move past its current definition and represent much more.”
A new definition of Marketing Automation isn’t necessary. But, updating our view of the role Marketing plays in an organization is absolutely required. The revolution that needs to take place is a move from traditional marketing to Revenue Marketing. Ultimately I think this is what Young is describing. It isn’t a matter of how we define the technology but the actions surrounding the technology that make the biggest difference. It’s about moving toward a model where marketing is no longer seen as a cost center but a revenue generator. It’s about the marketing team signing up for a revenue goal, measuring revenue generated, predicting future impact on revenue in a scalable and repeatable fashion. Technology is merely the vehicle used to get there.