06/06/2013 07:26 BST | Updated 05/08/2013 06:12 BST

Marketing Automation - Staying in the Lead

Marketing Automation has come a long way from email marketing software and powering your website with a content management system. In fact if you are still at that stage, you may have a lot of catching up to do-Marketing Automation solutions in 2013 are increasing in scope, sophistication, and scale.

The Brave New World

Vendors like Eloqua, Marketo, and Aprimo are introducing powerful new versions of their marketing automation suites that now take care of everything from must have social media marketing to niches like event and sport marketing.

Analytics is at the heart of all modern marketing automation software with a focus on revenue cycles, as the core promise of marketing automation remains unchanged - a positive and direct impact on sales.

The solutions cater to small and medium businesses (SMBs), as well as large Fortune 500 firms. IT heavyweights like Oracle have taken notice, acquiring Eloqua in Feb 2013 for around $800million.

Pricing is no barrier to entry. Marketo's Spark edition allows you to manage a small volume of leads for less than $1200 per month while the bigger SMBs can manage up to 1 million leads for under $12,000 per month by subscribing to the Select edition.

Building the Case

Among Marketo's clients is Canadian Algonquin College with campuses in Ottawa, and Ottawa valley. With over 19,000 full time students and another 36,000 doing continuing education, the college has seen lead generation increase by 28 percent and sales by 18 percent through market automation.

Marketo has partnered with companies like Dallas-based marketing services agency Magic Logix, for implementation services. Magic Logix provides a 360 degree solution to marketing automation customers, from designing websites to creating custom demand generation forms and pages and then integrating Marketo with them.

CEO Hassan Bawab, with a client roster that includes DFW Plastics and American Eurocopter, says "Finally, marketing automation boils down to delivering relevant content to relevant people at the relevant time."

Be Prepared

Vendors like Aprimo, which was acquired in 2010 by Teradata, realize that organization preparedness is fundamental to successful marketing automation implementation. They run a free webinar series for B2B marketers and offer certification in Lead Management to attendees that successfully complete the program.

Organizations looking to buy marketing automation software must first establish a "Lead to Revenue Management" process that typically comprises 4-step chain. Lead Generation - Nurturing and Qualification - Sales Process - Revenue

Super Specialization

Eloqua has spotted an opportunity for Marketing Automation in specific verticals and configured specialist solutions for those industries. Take for example, the All Star solution, which focuses on sports marketing, with its high focus on social media marketing and fan engagement.

The Boston Bruins, Miami Heat, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are just some of the starry sports franchises that the company counts as its customers. Therefore, specialization is a whole new ball game in the marketing automation industry.

Analyze This

Sample some stats.

A Forrester Marketing Tactics survey revealed that over 50 percent of marketers will use content marketing for their B2B lead generation.

New content-based social networks are emerging. Pinterest grew 1000 percent compared to Google's pedestrian 80 percent, yet 42 percent of marketers are not on this new exciting platform.

Niches have special needs as described earlier. The State of B2B Event Marketing survey jointly done by BtoB Research and Marketo revealed that personalizing customer communication, integrating with a CRM system, and driving attendance to an event were the Top 3 requirements from marketing software.

The message seems clear, the more complex marketing gets, the more sophisticated your marketing automation needs to be for revenues to go north, in a hurry.