The word “computer” once meant “a person who makes calculations, especially with a calculating machine.” That definition is now out of date; today, dictionaries define a computer as “an electronic device for storing and processing data, typically in binary form, according to instructions in a variable program.”
Similarly, the term “marketing automation” once referred to technology that programmatically distributed email through an automated workflow and captured leads through online registration forms. Now, SiriusDecisions defines marketing automation as “a technology solution that helps enable the seeding, creation, nurturing and acceleration of demand among prospects and customers.”
But what does that mean? What are the minimum requirements an application must meet in order to be labeled a marketing automation platform? SiriusDecisions has identified 16 such requirements that span three areas: campaign management, lead management and platform management.
To streamline the development, execution and management of inbound and outbound marketing tactics, a marketing automation platform must provide the following:
- Segmentation. A marketing automation platform must enable the creation of segmented contact lists based on field values (e.g. title, level, department) and inferred data on location and activity (e.g. interactions with forms, Web pages, emails) for use in automated programs and reporting.
- Automated programs. A marketing automation platform must enable the creation of automated workflows for nurturing specific contacts. These programs must be able to specify decision rules (e.g. yes/no paths) and place contacts into additional programs or remove them from the program.
- Asset storage. A marketing automation platform must store content that prospects can access via a form submission, email URL, landing page or social media posting.
- Email. A marketing automation platform must allow users to create emails (via a WYSIWYG or drag-and-drop editor) and insert dynamic text or images controlled by data stored in each contact record. The MAP also must be able to alter the email sender’s name and email address.
- Landing pages. A marketing automation platform must allow users to create landing pages (via a WYSIWYG or a drag-and-drop editor) with dynamic text or images controlled by data stored in each contact record. These landing pages are branded using a subdomain (e.g. http://go.companyname.com/landingpage).
- Forms. A marketing automation platform must enable the creation of online registration forms to capture and store contact data and provide basic form field validation.
Simply generating responses through marketing activities is different from delivering qualified leads to sales and measuring campaign performance. Therefore, a marketing automation platform must include the following lead management functionalities:
- Scoring. A marketing automation platform must allow users to score prospects’ attributes, including individual and corporate demographics and implicit attributes (e.g. Web pages visited, emails responded to, content consumed), to accurately prioritize leads for sales engagement.
- Lead routing. A marketing automation platform must enable logic to route a lead to the correct sales rep in a sales force automation (SFA) platform and alert the rep through an email or field value change.
- Reporting. A marketing automation platform must display tactic-level performance (e.g. email clickthrough rates, bounce rates for forms), contacts’ activities (e.g. Web page visits, interactions with specific emails) and database profiling based on contacts’ field values.
- Sales view. A marketing automation platform must provide visibility to sales by displaying contacts’ actions and alerting reps when key prospects perform specific actions (e.g. downloading content).
- Data update. A marketing automation platform must be able to update any field contained in a contact record to standardize data and add new data when it is received.
B2B demand organizations must manage intricate organizational structures, evolving roles and responsibilities, and the interconnections between multiple marketing and sales technologies. To address these challenges, a marketing automation platform must include the following platform management functionalities:
- Database. A marketing automation platform must have a database where it stores contacts and records contacts’ activities and interactions (e.g. emails sent). This database doesn’t need to be stored exclusively in the platform, but it must at least be accessible by the platform.
- SFA integration. A marketing automation platform must offer out-of-the-box SFA integration options, including bi-directional integration with the lead and contact sections of the SFA.
- Web site integration. A marketing automation platform must be able to track visitors’ Web site interactions (e.g. pages visited and content consumed).
- Security. A marketing automation platform must be able to assign user roles that govern read/write/access permissions for contact data, content assets, programs and administration elements.
- Email deliverability. A marketing automation platform must authenticate the email messages it sends to improve their chances of being delivered to a customers’ and prospects’ inbox and adhere to email sender authentication standards.