If you’re familiar with Moore’s “Chasm model” or Gartner’s “Hype Cycles,” you know that it always takes a while for technologies to penetrate the market mainstream. One type of software seems to be taking longer than most at reaching this point – Marketing Automation.

I think there is a need for this type of solution, but you need to evaluate the unique needs of your organization before plunging into the complex and costly packages that automation vendors offer today.

When you don’t need Marketing Automation

You don’t need it to just send emails. Jeff Erramouspe, CEO of Manticore, recently said “there are companies that bought marketing automation software, and then did nothing but email with it. And if that’s all you’re going to do, then you’re spending five times what you need to spend for basically the same results [as] hiring an email service provider.”

Stages of Growth on the way to Automation

When we boil down most Marketing Automation suites, they are usually comprised of tools that perform four key functions:

  1. Sending Contextual Emails
  2. A/B Testing & Optimizing Landing Pages
  3. Passive Identifying Website Visitor
  4. Scoring Identified Leads

It should be noted that all of these functions have been available as stand-alone solutions. The question isn’t whether you’ve hopped on the Marketing Automation bandwagon, it’s really about which of these four things you’ve put to use in your organization?

Is it imperative?

In a yearend roundtable by the Marketing Automation Institute, a panel was discussing how well automation tools have been adopted by certain industries. Bryan Brown of Silverpop said,

“[Some] industry verticals are fast adopters of marketing automation. They get it, they know that they need to revamp their sales, they get that there is a ‘buyer 2.0’, they realize all of this. They want to invest. They are ready to [implement] marketing automation, and they are committed to it.”

His reasoning for why small to mid-sized companies adopt marketing automation so quickly is that their business models call for hypergrowth and that this forces the marketing and sales functions to work together closely, with the help of these new tools. So while I discourage firms from running out in haste to buy Marketing Automation suites, they’re not off the hook. I encourage them to follow the marketing principles these vendors have codified in their products, by starting off with tools that perform individual functions like contextual autoresponder emails and optimized landing pages.

My advice is to try low-cost tools (some are actually free) for each function you need, and when you are using them in concert enough to warrant a full-solution, think about switching to a marketing automation suite.

image credit: Rube Goldberg machine, New Yorker (public domain)