Marketing automation has become a bit of a buzzword. Accordingly, it is a pretty well-known idea at this point. Unlike some buzzwords, though, marketing automation has substance at its root–a lot of substance, in fact. Beneath this buzzword is an extremely capable tool that has both existed for quite a while and is also currently reaching a new peak of popularity.
So, if marketing automation is far from new—when did it first hit the marketing scene and why is it in its heyday now? Read on to find out.
Marketing Automation: The Early Years
What is marketing automation?
At the core of marketing automation is the ability to automate touchpoints and tasks, especially those concerned with audience communication. One of its primary advantages is its ability to achieve two crucial marketing goals—attaining and measuring positive ROI and building audience relationships—that are often considered somewhat polarized. It accomplishes positive ROI through the automation component, which allows marketers to increase productivity and revenue at a lower cost without sacrificing the end value. As for building relationships, capabilities such as behavioral tracking, segmentation, targeting, and lead scoring all allow marketers to send the right messages at the right time, putting the tool at the forefront of personalized marketing.
In other words, marketing automation kills two very elusive birds with one stone. So it’s easy to see why marketing automation is so popular now—but a little difficult to understand why it took several decades to see current levels of adoption.
Where did marketing automation begin?
Formed around the same time that mass media marketing was phasing out, marketing automation came into being with the rise of persona marketing. This is fitting, of course, given the capabilities of personalization that exist within the tool.
At the inception of marketing automation in 1992, though, the qualities of the tool that are so appealing to modern marketers didn’t have the same impact on tool adoption. Instead, the technology was somewhat inaccessible to marketers thanks to both the cost associated with the tools and the skills gap due to the very limited amount of people who knew how to actually use the tool. While this skills gap still exists, it is slowly closing.
According to Marketing Automation Insider, Unica, the first marketing automation software provider, came into being before many businesses had even truly adopted the Internet into their marketing efforts. After a bit of a lull in the space, Eloqua brought attention back to marketing automation in 1999 and inspired competitors such as Pardot, Hubspot, and Marketo to jump into the ring a bit later in 2006. While all of these platforms are still popular today, they didn’t take off straight away.
First, marketing automation had to incorporate channels other than email and capabilities other than basic automation. As these tools developed, they began to automate touchpoints on social media and increased competency in areas of testing, landing page development, e-commerce, and more. It was through this trial-and-error development period that marketing automation tools became the one stop shop for almost all sales & marketing needs. Luckily, they developed these capabilities as the need to engage individuals with tailored messages became increasingly apparent to marketers. Today, marketing automation platforms are currently filling this need as the primary tool of choice for nurture marketers.
The Future of Marketing Automation and Nurture Marketing
Where is marketing automation going?
Of course, as I said above, marketing automation is already functioning as one stop shop for a majority of sales and marketing needs. As it continues to progress, though, marketing automation tools are aiming to be the hub of an organization’s marketing efforts and, therefore, effectively keep users plugged in all the time. As it stands currently, marketing automation certainly seems to be doing a more than adequate job of filling the many needs of marketers in ways that relate to more than just email. Check out the statistics below from
Check out the statistics below from Act On, which paint a picture of the different ways that marketers are using marketing automation to be more effective and efficient than their counterparts who have yet to adopt the tool.
- 45% of companies with marketing automation regularly repurpose content for efficiency, compared with 28% of companies without marketing automation
- 54% of companies with marketing automation capture intelligence for the sales team, compared to 25% without
- 49% of companies with marketing automation customize content to the Buyer Journey stages, compared to 21% without
- 59% of companies with marketing automation are able to use intelligent targeting to trigger content, compared to 17% without
Adding to this, the massive acquisitions in marketing automation platforms that occurred between 2010 and 2014 have set the stage for an increase in competition between large vendors and are resulting lower, more competitive prices. (Marketing Automation Insider) Marketing automation platforms are more financially accessible than ever and it can be expected that it this trend will continue.
Additionally, as the qualities that have made marketing automation so popular—essentially, the ability to reach disinterested audiences on an individual level—become ever more inflential, it can be expected that marketing automation will continue to grow in importance.
How does marketing automation play into nurture marketing?
In truth, marketing automation is riding the wave of nurture marketing. Responding to trends in changing technology and decreasing audience attention, nurture marketing espouses the traits of personalized, consistent, relevant, and scalable communications. As opposed to relationship or engagement marketing, though, nurture marketing is founded on the idea of nurturing an audience towards an end goal.
Practicing nurture marketing in years to come will require brands to produce content that is contextual, timely, and relevant to individuals. To keep up with the pace of change, though, marketers will also need to be able to do this in an agile, scalable, and measurable way. Enter: marketing automation. Allowing users to send the right message at the right time while also understanding how their audience is interacting with these messages is necessary to nurture marketing and, conveniently, is one of the main capabilities of marketing automation.
In sum, marketing automation is a toolset within nurture—it has been launched into popularity because of the values of nurture marketing, but it also is the primary tool for making nurture marketing a reality. In other words, both marketing automation and nurture marketing are reliant on each other, functioning as two different sides of the same coin.
Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog Abandoning the Marketing Campaign: How to Think Long Term and discover the ways that having a long term mindset plays directly in marketing automation success.