Money, resources prevent advertisers from automating market research and other efforts

NOVEMBER 16, 2011 – Ad agencies and other professionals in the industry may be able to conduct market research and launch campaigns in a more labor intensive, traditional way, but they are unable to capitalize on emerging technologies and automate the process due to a lack of resources, according to a recent study by BtoB magazine.

As Christopher Hosford reports, the survey of business-to-business marketers revealed that many respondents know about the new variety of automation platforms and understand that they need technological tools to manage the “proliferation of digital channels,” yet only 44 percent have started automating some aspect of their marketing.

The study, The State of Marketing Automation & Operations, also indicates that out of the group that does use automated marketing, more than half automatically distribute leads with the solution. Meanwhile another 19 percent use it to nurture leads, align their sales and marketing teams and implement closed-loop automation, according to Hosford.

Additionally, half of respondents said they rely on a marketing operations solution to help them organize their processes, keep tabs on costs, root out wasteful practices or spending, and measure the success of their marketing campaigns.

“Many vendors are trying to say marketing automation is drop-dead simple and that your first email will be out on the first day,” a principal analyst at Forrester Research, Jeff Ernst, told the source. “But many who do move forward with some form of marketing automation are not ready for it. They’re lacking an integrated lead-management process, and they don’t have the right content to fuel the automated marketing process.”

Hosford reports Ernst challenged the study’s assertion that 44 percent of respondents had begun applying marketing automation to their promotional efforts. While many of those who claim to use the technology may be using some function of automation, just 5 percent are probably implementing “full-featured marketing automation solutions,” he said in an interview with BtoB.

“When people are hungry, they need to eat,” Jeff Chamberlain, the vice president of B2B solutions marketing at Aprimo (a sponsor of the study), told the magazine. “When the economy tightened, people needed to drive revenue, which in turn drove the adoption of marketing automation.”

Chamberlain also noted that the automated features were becoming an integral component of marketing overall – those who have already adopted them amid a limping economy may have achieved greater success as a result.

So what’s keeping the stragglers from launching their own marketing automation solutions? For most, it comes down to a lack of funding – 44 percent of respondents pointed to budget issues as the reason they were held back, while 43 percent cited scarcity of other resources and 20 percent said they were already challenged to meet the demands for content.

Speaking with the magazine, Tracey Fanelli, Wells Fargo Treasury Management’s senior vice president of marketing communications, warned that content marketing and moving to digital platforms brought additional complexity, and that it would require companies to start changing the way they hire and fill out their staffs.

“A lot of people talk about marketing automation but are not ready to execute on it,” she said.

With the internet playing a bigger role in consumers’ daily lives, conducting online market research and working to develop digital content are more reliable ways of reaching potential customers. In fact, a study conducted by Focus Research in 2009 – before smartphones and tablet computers became practically ubiquitous – found that even then, the majority of B2B buyers were conducting research over the internet before making purchasing decisions, and actually preferred to go online to access content.