It would be hard to argue with the statement that the goal of marketing is to deliver the perfect message to the right person that helps sell your product. It's an art, not a science, right? Not so fast. Technology has disrupted the delivery of the marketing message in profound ways—and the revenue-generating benefit of that science has made the marketer more powerful than ever. First marketing automation, and now sales automation, have crystalized the image of the CMO as the proudly nerdy and analytical executive driving measurable, tangible results.
The Dark, Single-Channel Days
I'm a big fan of the show Mad Men, which chronicles a fictitious Madison Avenue advertising agency in the 1960s and early 1970s. Fifty years ago, advertising, with its limited data about consumer behavior and a limited set of distribution channels for mostly print media, as depicted in the show, really was an art form. There was a limit to how much you actually knew about your buyer, and you could only advertise to one buyer at a time with your blast media buy. Effective ad campaigns, and the reason that people paid large fees, relied on creative ad copy in a glossy magazine, billboard, or perhaps a TV commercial (but TV was still in its infancy).
The Internet: Let There Be Light
Fast forward a few decades. The advent of the Internet causes a fundamental shift: Consumers have access to more information about products and services than ever, spending more of the sales cycle (57 percent of it, according to the Corporate Board Executive Company) in the digital hands of the marketing department.
And, critically, marketers have much more information about these buyers than ever before, thanks to IP addresses and browser cookies. The guesswork about who the customer is and what she wants becomes more of an experiment in the scientific method: Have a hypothesis about the target buyer, test it (A/B testing works well), measure the result, and draw a conclusion driven by metrics tied to revenue, such as likelihood of becoming a customer, lifetime value, and expected churn rate.
The Rise of Marketing Automation
The Internet empowers marketers with information and a larger piece of the sales funnel. Now, for the first time in the history of marketing, a company can deliver a tailored message to different prospects simultaneously, from any time zone, with little more than a customer email address, Google Analytics, and an email service provider.
Marketing automation has been born. In the past 10 years, several software companies have emerged as winners in the previously nonexistent world of marketing automation. Marketo's market cap is $1.2 billion. Eloqua was acquired by Oracle for more than $800 million in 2012. Salesforce acquired ExactTarget for $2.5 billion in 2013. Hubspot has filed an S-1 and is expected to go public this summer at a $1 billion valuation.
When it comes to competitive differentiation, marketing automation had upped the ante. Your business is at a distinct disadvantage if you do not have a marketing automation solution, because your competitor is delivering a lower cost, more tailored message to its prospects than you are. Marketing automation is so successful because it leads to more, better nurtured leads.
Where Message Delivery Remains Sloppy
In most B2B companies with a team of sales reps, whether inside or outside, the consistency of a tailored message can get fumbled (badly) when salespeople take over the interaction with the prospect. This is not the fault of the salesperson. In today's