Blog post

I am Serious, and Don’t Call it Marketing Automation

By Todd Berkowitz | April 23, 2014 | 1 Comment


We should stop referring to the process of automating various marketing processes, tasks and activities as “marketing automation.” Yes, I realize I am fighting a battle that probably can’t be won. I probably see five e-mails or LinkedIn discussions mentioning the term every daty. Many of my Gartner colleagues (but not all) use this term in their research. Clients refer to their marketing automation platforms when we have discussions about demand generation and lead qualification. Most of the vendors represented in Magic Quadrants for CRM Lead Management and Multichannel Campaign Management use the term prominently on the front-pages of their Web sites.  But that doesn’t mean it’s the right term to use.

Marketing, particularly within technology and service provider organizations, is often poorly understood. Yes, we’ve clearly moved past the “all they do is plan happy hours” view popularized by Dilbert. And automating many tasks related to demand generation (from content approval to lead scoring and nurturing)  has clearly paid huge dividends, saving time and money, imposing discipline and helping to focus marketers and salespeople alike on the most important prospects. But there is both an “art” and a “science” to being a successful marketer. As a result, you can’t automate the actual job of being a marketer.

When you move beyond the view that marketing exists solely to generate, nurture and qualify leads, you begin to realize that marketers (especially product marketers) need to do a lot of things to help their companies be successful, at least if you view revenue as a useful success metric. These include:

  • Create a compelling story that includes the problem you are addressing, how you uniquely solve the problem and the outcome-driven proof points (Messaging and Positioning)
  • Identify the key dynamics of the markets you serve, be aware of competitive offerings and strategies and identify the growth opportunities  (Market and Competitive Intelligence)
  • Understand what opportunities play to your strengths and which ones expose your weaknesses (Segmentation and Targeting)
  • Bring new and updated solutions to market in an efficient and effective way (Product Launch)
  • Know the needs of the market and your customers and represent and evangelize those to product management (Product Strategy)
  • Train the field and channel partners on how to be most successful, create tools and provide individual support as needed (Sales Enablement, Sales Support)

While data is a critical element to being successful in these tasks (think segmentation, win/loss analysis and market sizing) and technology can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of other areas (namely product launch and sales enablement), you can’t really automate them. That is the core of my beef with the marketing automation term.

Furthermore, not all software used by marketers fits under the category of marketing automation. According to Gartner’s 2013 Customer Relationship Management Market Share Analysis (subscription required), the marketing portion accounts for more than $4B in annual revenue. This includes the software categories that we include in our market segmentation (and have their own Magic Quadrants) such as  Marketing Resource Management (MRM), Multichannel Campaign Management (MCCM), CRM Lead Management, Integrated Marketing Management (IMM) and Analytics for CRM. It also includes dozens of smaller categories that aren’t formally segmented or analyzed. When people use the term marketing automation, they are really talking about Lead Management and to a lesser extent, MCCM, but it gets used as a catch-all term for all marketing technologies.

So if we need to refer to the entire category, can we call it Marketing Software? If we need to refer to a specific type of marketing software, can we refer to it by the category name? Not only will this avoid confusion, but more importantly, we can get back to talking about the value marketing provides instead of just the processes that get automated.

Getting off my soapbox………Now.

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1 Comment

  • Mike says:

    Great article and I agree. ‘Marketing automation’ is the incorrect term because you are not automating marketing, just the mechanical bits of it.

    However, does the savings in time and money you gain from automating those parts get reinvested in the human aspects of marketing?

    Oh, yeah you might wanna use some ‘automation’ to fix a couple of typos (find: daty).