Is the Marketing Pendulum Swinging? Where Marketing Automation Has Led B2B Marketers

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I was talking to a CEO the other day who was frustrated his organization’s email campaigns weren’t generating more leads. He went on to tell me he thought their open rates were dismal. This made me think about the metric-centric promise of digital marketing that viewed marketing automation as the magic potion for delivering qualified leads and driving accountability within marketing departments.

This CEO had been of the mindset that email was the better mousetrap, leading to not only revenue growth but also quantifiable marketing impact. Since he had a team of marketers pushing out email campaigns, why then were his sales flat and why weren’t email and other digital avenues delivering more qualified leads?

According to a survey of 244 marketers by Ascend2, 45 percent of respondents said email was one of the most effective online tactics for lead generation. But, with the average office worker receiving more than 120 emails a day, has email marketing plateaued?

The rise of marketing automation

Marketing automation uses automated software to streamline routine marketing activities—from email marketing to lead nurturing—with the goal of eventually generating sales. On average 51 percent of companies are currently using marketing automation and more than half of B2B companies (58 percent) plan to adopt the technology*.

Although marketing automation has been around a while, it’s really taken off in the last five to 10 years as the delivery method changed from on-prem software to software as a service (SaaS). With faster internet speeds, an avalanche of new internet-based companies sprang up. These companies were at their heart digital marketing businesses using data to determine preferences and scale. For a while, it seemed anyone could start a business and be successful with little to no investment.

Marketers embraced this new, math-oriented approach because for so long, they had difficulty quantifying their contribution to business objectives or even a return on investment in marketing programs. But with marketing automation’s promise of an increase in qualified leads, improvements in sales productivity and a reduction in marketing overhead, a funny thing happened: email overload.

Back to my CEO friend: I don’t think he has ever considered that his company’s emails are part of the 124.5 billion business emails sent and received each day. That’s 121 emails a day for every office worker, according to The Radicati Group, a technology research company.

Sure, things like personalization help to break through the email clutter but open rates are considered “good” at 25 to 30 percent. Marketers we talk to are thrilled with open rates in the 15 to 20 percent range. The prevalence of email filters also means so many emails are delivered right to the junk folder.

In my next piece, I’ll talk about what some companies are doing when their email campaigns start becoming less effective. In the meantime, here’s a hint: Sooner or later, everything old is new again.

*Emailmonday “The Ultimate Marketing Automation stats”

This article was originally published on The Connector and reprinted with permission.

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