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The second wave of marketing automation

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Steven Woods is chief technology officer at marketing automation and demand-generation company Eloqua, considered the market leader in this arena. StraightLine Direct recently asked Woods about trends in marketing automation.

StraightLine Direct: Marketing automation seems to be a maturing field. What are you seeing?

Woods: We're seeing the second wave of marketing automation, a maturing of skill sets. Marketing automation is becoming mainstream—coming out of the recession, the idea that you can blast out a message without understanding the customer has died off.

Also, the questions that can be asked of the revenue team are now different. We're seeing questions asked across both sales and marketing, about what's at the top of the funnel, of early-stage awareness, and translating that into how many prospects are becoming qualified leads. And you're now able to monitor and measure it, and look at conversion rates. Marketing automation is morphing into revenue performance management.

StraightLine Direct: How can marketing do that?

Woods: What it's about fundamentally is figuring out what a buyer did and what he'll do next. That's the reason we've started to talk about revenue performance management.

Previously, marketing automation was a lot about e-mail techniques and landing pages, tracking website traffic and so forth. Now, revenue performance management is going in two directions. First, up-funnel, it's looking at what's happening in search, social and other areas of awareness. And down funnel, it's tying more deeply into the sales process, with classic customer relationship management data about qualified leads.

Today, the question isn't “Do I automate my marketing?” Rather, it's, “Do I manage my revenue?”

StraightLine Direct: Are sales and marketing become better aligned via this process?

Woods: I think they are where revenue performance management is tracking qualified leads through the entire process. It boils down to different layers. The first is data, determining the prospect's digital body language and how interested they are. Other layers are processes and analytics, giving you the ability to look at an end-to-end view, and at indications of revenue viability.

StraightLine Direct: Currently, there are a lot of vendors in the marketing automation space, although Eloqua is considered to be dominant in market share. How do you see the vendor space shaking out?

Woods: It's reasonable to expect exciting things to happen in the marketplace. Executives want a clearer, more comprehensive picture of the revenue process, but they're seeing many vendors with siloed capabilities. It's natural to expect more consolidation, for providers to deliver a more comprehensive view of the revenue funnel and to tie things together from all these different silos.

When that demand becomes clearer from the executive side, we'll see more consolidation dynamics in the marketplace; who the major players will be after that is anybody's guess, but we're sure to see some fun times ahead in this space.

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