Marketing automation is changing the way email marketers do their jobs. The technology has evolved over the past 12 months, according to marketing research and advisory firm SiriusDecisions, and today the email component of a marketing automation system is just as important as other digital marketing options. New functionality and features continue to evolve, with social and additional measurement and reporting being added to the mix. Meanwhile, consolidation in the marketplace continues, including the late 2012 acquisitions of Eloqua by Oracle Corp. and Pardot by ExactTarget. This is good news for email marketers, although to date the adoption of the technology is slow. Today, SiriusDecisions estimates a 20% penetration rate of a potential $3 billion marketing automation software market, though that is expected to grow to 50% by 2015. However, even with these compelling statistics, b-to-b marketers are often reluctant to move to a marketing automation platform, said Loren McDonald, VP-industry relations at email service provider Silverpop. "Many companies, because they have been doing [email marketing] one way all these years, stick with what they know," he said. However, an automated approach has a number of benefits for email marketers, he said. First, he said, it makes triggering easier. Once you have a behavioral marketing database set up via a marketing automation platform, it's easier to trigger emails at the time of a behavior or based on the change in a prospect's lead score. "It's the idea that you can combine the behaviors with preferences," McDonald said. "You can reach out to the prospect at exactly at the right time with the right content because now you understand where they are in the buying cycle." Automation also takes marketing past using simple demographic information. A prospect may not seem like a prospect based on their title, however, add in data about everything they are doing—webinars they attend, white papers they download and product demos they have seen—and their title becomes irrelevant, he said. "If you just marketed to them based on who they said they were, you'd be missing out," McDonald said. Finally, an automated approach lets marketers take real advantage of so-called "Big Data" when they otherwise would have had issues doing so. "The problem with Big Data is not just its volume but whether or not it's actionable," he said. "Marketing automation lets you act on data in real time."