2017 — The End of Marketing Automation?

The Hype Curve — however much we think its a suitable tool for planning and investment, or just an academic theory is up for debate. Whatever, if anything, it’s a good retrospective tool to see if predictions we get come even remotely close. Anyway, if you were to place marketing automation on the hype curve today where does it belong?

2010 — Hubspot, Marketo et al start making noises outside of the east and west coast, trigger the sudden transformation and formation of Inbound and Content Marketers and Marketing Agencies. CMO’s, Marketing Managers and even Small Business Owners wanted a piece of this funnel based automative process. It caused a huge cultural and strategic shift in how we approached marketing. It was huge — Lead Generation without having to actually ‘do anything’! (apart from create compelling content, have bulletproof data and a social following in five or six figures, but those were problems we’d deal with later…..

Fast forward to 2012 onwards and we have seen the huge exponential growth for all Automation platforms.

Both being bought up by incumbents such as Oracle (Eloqua), creating their own (Salesforce) or having huge investment and in turn huge growth (Hubspot) have all seen not only the buzz but the value. However looking beneath the growth, the hype and the colossal amount of content being created by these guys, a question still needs to be answered — on the ground — does it actually work?

From the chart below — although we have seen the adoption of automation has risen phenomenally we can still see the confidence marketers have in it to deliver ahead of the usual suspects is pretty low.

Having run Content and Inbound campaigns, agency led for 5 years I have seen successful automation based campaigns, but ultimately these were down to a number of factors — client on-boarding, client services, content planning, creative, writing, syndication, quality of data… the list goes on. However, like any process, no matter how good the tech, if the input (work!) isn’t good enough the results wont come, the tech will be worthless, the leads pointless and ultimately the investment questionable.

New products emerging at the bottom of the hype curve — notably Hotjar, but even just more productive Google Analytics and more importantly more sophisticated ESP’s are providing an equally valuable, if not more so than Automation providers — because they are easier to use, they are easier to integrate, easier to understand, and most importantly easier to get results. they may not be as sophisticated, but many users don’t have the resources to make the most of all the benefits of automation. They just want simple, accurate, quick and tools which deliver data and results which enable seamless and easy improvements.

I’m not sure Automation may have over complicated itself, instead of focussing on the core function and building a better process (rather than bigger process). I’m seeing more and more companies turn away from automation and on to more sophisticated, but simpler, analytics and feedback options.

I think next year is a huge year for automation. Smaller, more aggressive start ups are starting to kick the heels of the incumbents, and I think, like in SEO services 3–4 years ago, automation is is a t a bit of a cross roads, potentially we will see people see that the cost far outweighs the value, there needs to be some serious thinking in the product teams, new ideas, new products and simpler solutions are essential. Innovation is essential but innovation doesn’t necessarily mean adding more and more function, but making current assets better. It’l be fascinating to see what next year brings.