There's an interesting trend in digital marketing these days. Software companies are competing like crazy for the hearts and minds of marketing professionals across all sizes of companies. They want to make it so easy to perform the most essential tasks that anyone can do it, and, more to the point, any company can afford to emphasize digital marketing over more traditional methods. Is this strategy working? There is no question that SaaS marketing automation and CRM providers are growing like crazy, but are there limits to the do-it-yourself trend from the buyer's point-of-view?
If you have scoped out the players in marketing automation and CRM platforms lately, you know that the playing field is getting bigger and less "bumpy." There are still market leaders like Eloqua, Marketo and HubSpot on the marketing automation side and Salesforce on the CRM side. These and other software providers make it relatively easy (compared to even a couple of years ago) to build an effective online presence, launch lead generation campaigns, follow up with lead nurturing, and pass qualified sales leads along to the sales team with a high degree of automation and reliability. They effectively remove the technical hurdles that have slowed these processes in the past, hence the growth in sales and market penetration. There's nothing to suggest sales are slowing down or some saturation point can be seen in the near future. Having said that, I think we might be missing some important barriers to future expansion of the marketing software market.
The Essential Elements
What often gets lost in the excitement about online sales and marketing tools is that none of these apps deliver results without a lot of blood, sweat and tears, in particular:
- Strategy - Who's the target? What do they want? How do we "hook" them? Where and how can we reach them?
- Content - Blogs that garner interest, discussion and subscription. Downloads that are perceived as unique and valuable. Videos that capture an audience for 90 precious seconds. Webinars that effectively take the place of the old sales meeting.
- Design - We all get way too many emails, texts, ads and other stuff every day. What separates the read from the spam filter? It's both content and design. Design is the spice that feeds the right brain and allows the left brain to continue reading on.
- Engagement - You can't just publish and watch the Benjamins roll in. Your team needs to be active in social networks, participating and building relationships.
- Campaigns - The ones that work are carefully crafted, with a central theme that matches the needs of recipients and gives them reason to stay opted-in.
- Analysis - We're making a huge investment in content and engagement. What are we doing with all of the data we measure with our fancy tools? How do we find meaning in the metrics, learn lessons and derive new strategies for success?
The Water's Edge
What CMOs often fail to realize is that once that shiny new marketing automation and CRM system is up and running, you're at a 10 percent solution. All of the essential elements need to be carried out by talented people. Sure, you can make their job much easier by integrating otherwise disparate skills, like blogging, lead generation and analytics, but without some great bait and some fishing skills, that fancy fishing pole is worthless. So what's holding back companies large and small from taking more and better advantage of the new software solutions? It's human resources. Finding talent is the No. 1 challenge facing Sales and Marketing in 2013, but the truth is, it always been so. Finding people who can drive the Ferrari in the garage is what's holding us back from the ultimate road test.
With such a challenge facing marketing software companies, it will be interesting to see how they respond in the near future. Maybe it's time to focus on building a bigger, better market through education instead of demo's. Maybe enterprise inbound marketing agencies should become more closely aligned with software vendors. Maybe not.
Photo credit: Jun Acullador
With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via Twitter, LinkedIn or follow John McTigue on Google Plus.