Demonstrating the revenue return on marketing investment is the No. 1 issue for B2B marketing executives. In Forrester’s Q4 2011 B2B Marketing Organizations And Investments Survey, when we asked marketing execs to identify the most important metrics for their marketing organization, 56% identified a revenue-related metric — compared with 44% for customer satisfaction and 40% for brand awareness. So, it’s no wonder that marketing automation solution vendors vociferously tout the ability of their solutions to track the revenue performance of marketing campaigns and programs.
But, looking at marketing automation solutions solely through the value lens of revenue performance management masks a more fundamental benefit. Marketing automation can transform a company’s marketing operations. These solutions deliver scalability, root out excess cost, improve marketing execution, and provide the basis for continuous incremental process improvement.
Still many marketing execs hold back on investing in marketing automation. They fear the concurrent assimilation of new tactics, processes, and automation will unduly stress their marketing organization. But the transformation is necessary, and the stress unavoidable. Marketing execs need to proactively address the “people part” of their lead-to-revenue transformation.
ExactTarget today announced plans to acquire two companies: Pardot and iGoDigital. The acquisitions signal that ExactTarget, only recently public, intends to use its cash reserves to grow aggressively against the competition in revenue, market segments, and features. So what does it mean?
Are the two acquisitions related?
No, the dual acquisitions are a quirk of timing, allowing ExactTarget to drive the marketing technology conversation in advance of Connections, its user conference in Indianapolis next week. I’ll separate my comments to better address each.
Still, I’ll risk a theme for these two acquisitions: Marketing automation without predictive analytics is blind, but analytics without automation is empty.
Why did ExactTarget make the acquisitions now?
The acquisition is unlikely to make a big impact in the short term. Recommendations are a small part of the marketing software mix for retailers. ExactTarget can cross-sell online recommendations into its significant B2C base, but in the end, ExactTarget is acquiring the firm for a longer-term move.
Today’s buyers control their journey through the buying cycle much more than today’s vendors control the selling cycle. Although it varies greatly with product complexity and market maturity, today’s buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out to the vendor. For many product categories, buyers now put off talking with salespeople until they are ready for price quotes.
This buyer dynamic changes the role of B2B marketing in a fundamental way. Marketing now owns a much bigger piece of the lead-to-revenue cycle. And B2B marketers must take responsibility for engaging with the customer through most of the buying cycle.
Forrester research shows that today’s B2B buyer will find three pieces of content about a vendor for every one piece that marketing can publish or sales can deliver. They are finding this content in an ever-expanding number and variety of channels. And they are accessing these channels from an increasingly diverse array of devices. Without debate, the business from business buyer is already much more multichannel than the business-to-business sellers are. Buyers of business products and services are online, in social channels, on YouTube, going to events, and evaluating options on their iPads and smartphones. The buyer’s journey looks a lot more like this than the linear models (e.g., the funnel) that we usually use as a graphical representation.