As B2B CMOs tally up 2013 budget returns in these final days of December, the need to invest in technology, people, and processes to better manage customer interactions at every buying stage from suspect to advocate will become essential. For those yet to venture into marketing automation in a significant enterprisewide manner, 2014 will be the year to get started.
Why do I feel so strongly? Because the business case for lead-to-revenue management delivers credible improvements in marketing program and sales productivity and can no longer be sidelined or ignored.
In research published earlier this month (subscription required), I talked to marketers, technology vendors, and marketing service providers deep into transitioning from competent campaigners to owners of the new customer relationship. Those involved in marketing automation today recognize that these systems not only affect revenue generation efficiency but also deepen the bonds between buyers and the firms that serve them.
The new digital world empowers business buyers with access to tools and information that help them explore solutions prior to engaging in any sort of formal purchase process. We've all seen research about how buyers progress much further in decision-making before talking to sales for the first time. To buck this trend, marketers must find ways to cultivate customer interest and convert prospects into qualified leads. Marketing automation — or, as we like to think of it here at Forrester, lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) — now becomes essential to standardizing, automating, and scaling the practices needed to engage with customers across their life cycle. This is why major software vendors like Oracle, salesforce.com, and Adobe have made major acquisitions this year of companies with technologies that automate various aspects of addressing and engaging buyers.
Widespread supplier commitment is great news for marketing leadership: It's easier to make the business case for marketing automation investment when the CFO recognizes the brand name on the purchase order. But that is only a minor hurdle in the typical L2RM investment. We found the technology costs here are generally modest, but the scope of the change is not. To respond to, and exploit the power of L2RM, B2B CMOs will need to juggle a variety of investments in customer data management, organizational structure, content production, and tactics that speak directly to buyers across all touchpoints in their journey. Getting started in 2014 is essential if you want to see payoffs by 2016 and beyond.