It's a Buyer's Market for Marketing Automation Systems

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An acquisition binge by over the past two years has led marketing automation vendors close to the goal of providing B2B marketers fully integrated platforms. Oracle acquired Eloqua and Responsys, Salesforce.com acquired Exact Target, and Adobe absorbed Neolane in expanding the sprawl of their marketing clouds. But in an analysis of lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) providers released this week, Forrester Research cautioned marketers to resist the temptation of making quick buying decisions on these systems.

"L2RM platform buyers need to remember that more is not better, more is simply more," says Forrester analyst Lori Wizdo, noting in a Forrester Wave ranking that buyers don't necessarily need all the bells and whistles included in market-leading products. Forrester's 75-criteria evaluation of established platforms, for instances, finds that Adobe, Marketo, and Oracle best fit the needs of large enterprises, while Act-On and Salesfusion are best suited to smaller marketing teams.

Before shopping for L2RM platforms, the report counsels, marketing organizations should determine which of four strategic profiles best describes them:

Lead netting: Generating highly qualified leads for late-stage sales engagement. Lead netters should look for platforms that can increase the weighting factors on support for inbound marketing, lead capture, and lead scoring. Process integration with the CRM system is critical, too.

Lead vetting: Delivering early-stage opportunities to sales by quickly qualifying leads to a detailed persona. Weighting factors should focus on inbound marketing, data appending, and predictive lead scoring. Customer engagement management and campaign decision pathing features are less important.

Lead stewarding: Capturing targeted leads for early-stage sales engagement. Coordinated nurturing programs are necessary to build brand credibility and trust, but customer engagement is the province of sales. Tight integration with CRM is required at the process and reporting level.

Lead mentoring: This is for companies in mature markets dealing with complex purchasing processes. Lead mentors need to use long-term nurturing to deliver late-state opportunities to sales. Hence, they need to heavy up weighting on factors that implement robust content marketing campaigns.

Marketers should also take their time shopping for marketing automation systems because their functions will continue to accelerate as the year progresses. A new class of automation buyers at B2C and B2B2C companies will keep the innovation engine humming, and Forrester predicts more acquisitions are in store as vendors continue to seed their marketing clouds. Capabilities they'll be looking to add this year include customer insight tools to personalize the Web experience, enhanced content creation models, multichannel engagement programs, and ramped up analytics—extending to predictive analytics.

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