Ridiculous ramblings about the marketing automation market

Everyone always asks me how this “Funnelholic thing” got started.  Basically, my boss Scott Albro, CEO of Tippit, said to me one day: “You gotta go start a blog and get all this stuff in your head out onto the internet.”  I started by wanting the name “Funnelnomics” but Reachforce had it.  Dejected, I went to Scott and told him that I didn’t get the name I wanted and was stuck.  He said: “Craig you need a name that reflects your personality, something more fun and edgy. How about “funnelholic”?”  Boom…two days later my first post went up and I was off to the races.

My following grew because the blog was born around the time marketing automation was on the rise.  I loved marketing automation so I wanted to know all the players and work with them.  I did webinars with them, spoke at events, guest blogged etc.  Lets face it — marketing automation marketers know the value of content and I was in the right place at the right time.  I helped them, they helped me. We all helped each other.  I will always owe the marketing automation folks a debt of gratitude.

The best part of marketing automation was that it was a bare-knuckled fight and it was fun to watch.  I would get direct messages, emails, phone calls every week with some drama going on or some gossip.  I have to admit, it was fun.  One of my all-time posts was “Who’s going to run this town” comparing the marketing automation tiff to the east coast-west coast rap battle — that got me some serious props from the younger folks.  I had inside sales reps running up with “hey you’re the funnelholic!”.   Times have changed…I still talk to the vendors, but not as much.  Shawn Naggiar from Act-on called me to catch up at 9pm the night before Thanksgiving. I wasn’t pissed, I was actually excited because I missed the chance to talk about the game.

Times are changing for everyone in marketing automation and in honor of that change, I thought I would jot down some of my thoughts.

— You know times have changed when…..

–  I gotta tell you the marketing automation industry did an amazing job convincing the marketing world that they had to have their product.  I am a consultant right now, and I can’t find a marketing department that doesn’t have it or want to get it.

– Marketing automation vendors also got to the sales leaders too.  I am working with a VP of Sales who uses terms like: “lead scoring”, “digital body language”, “lead nurturing”, the “buyer has changed”.  As a matter of fact, he pushed hard for marketing automation and has spent a lot of time with me on the demand generation plan.  Today, VP’s of Sales are asking companies what their demand generation strategy and marketing automation platform are while interviewing..thats a change.

– The Revenue Performance Management (RPM) thing didn’t work.  Oh well. I was supportive, so I am not saying “I told you so”.  But lets be clear, the headlines were not: “Oracle buys RPM leader Eloqua”.

–  I wonder what the ESP (Email Service Provider) guys are thinking right now.  There are all these consumer email applications that were built long before marketing automation, but the marketing automation guys became the belle at the ball.  I know someone will say “Craig, marketing automation is much more than email.” but please don’t — the predominant feature is email so stop it.  BTW,  Silverpop adding marketing automation may prove to be a great move in the long run (errrrrr, I mean short run)

–  I am not going to write “I predict more consolidation in the marketing automation market”.   I think it would be awesome if the guys that are left build big stand-alone marketing software companies that care about marketers and marketing, but I know the acquisition offers will be tough to pass up. 2013 could be crazy.

– The stand-alones in the space are just sales machines right now: Act-on, Hubspot, and Marketo seem to be tearing it up quarter-after-quarter. (Editor’s note: I will receive an email from another person in the space saying: “You should really consider so-and-so”).

–  “The buyer has changed, so buy my product” has really worked as well.  Everyone uses that now. Consultants love that stuff….the buyer has changed, give me some hours!  Sure, the buyer has changed but the whole thing is so cliche and over-played.  You can’t tell me lead scoring and lead nurturing weren’t a good idea 20 years ago because they were.  That’s right, I truly believe I would have bought marketing automation 20 years ago if given the opportunity.  If you really look closely, the seller has changed more than the buyer or at least has the opportunity to change more than the buyer.

– After all that, the term “marketing automation” may be on its last legs anyway.  Marketo’s front page touts “marketing software”, Hubspot has always resisted “marketing automation”,  and I saw a press release for the Oracle acquisition calling Eloqua a “modern marketing platform”.  Interesting…should my blog title have been: “The death of marketing automation”?

Ridiculous ramblings on the marketing automation market.  Faithfully submitted.

I’ve seen a million faces, and I’ve rocked them all.

  • You’re a cowboy, on a demand-gen horse you ride……. Thanks for the shout out and the fantastic afternoon read. The Times they are a-changin’….

    • Ha..have a great weekend. Still can’t beat getting tweeted by GNR.

      • Not exactly sure the GNR Twitter followers are marketing automation buyers, but that was still the coolest retweet of 2012.

  • “Death of marketing automation.” – Take a drink.

  • Craig Rosenberg is the Mark Cuban of B2B Marketing. No, wait. The Donnie Deutsch. No, still not right. Craig is the Tim Ferriss of B2B Marketing. Still not right, but getting closer…

  • justingray993

    The battle rages on. The battle I’m talking about doesn’t get the same level of publicity as vendors, features or M&A. It’s the battle for the realization that marketing automation is just software. Software doesn’t give you “lead nurturing”, “lead scoring”, the understanding of “digital body language” or any of the other buzz words out there. Software is a facilitator, an agent of change, a workflow engine. The battle being fought in the realm of the real is one that isn’t fun to buy, won’t provide much glory – and there aren’t many articles written about it that get big headlines in Forbes. I’m referring of course to the battle to invest as much in skillset, more even, than the software on which skill operates. How many of those marketing departments are using MA to its potential? How many could describe their buyer in terms of real felt need? How many have content departments that are creating conversational materials aligned to their buyer personas? The answer is very, very few.

    The fact of the matter is, is that the marketers using MA to its full potential are mainly the marketers that work for the vendors themselves! Now, there is a small community of extremely educated marketers who know modern marketing and execute with a high degree of art and science – but they are few and far between. The fact is, as much as a vendor would like you to believe otherwise – software won’t make you an expert. It won’t create a skillset. It takes a high degree of training and time to develop a marketing skillset, where previously Matketing was a melting pot for lost toys. Matketing was the sales enablement department. Great software does great job at exposing the lack of skillset and preparedness of most marketers.

    The fact is, it’s fun to be a part of a revolution like Marketing Automaton software. You’re either with this team, or that, and it’s a battle till the death for supremacy! But what happens after the sale is made? What happens when the results faucet is trickling rather than flooding ROI? Where are the campions of technology then? Chances are they have cashed in their stock and moved on, or even perhaps scream loudly for a different team now that theirs has been acquired and the finish line is crossed.

    The true champions of MA are those that make it work and drive success not in terms of market penetration or units sold – the true champion is the marketer who has become a copywriter. It’s the sales exec who has learned to assemble their own nurture campaigns tailored to the pain points of their buyer. It’s the specialist who creates landing pages that convert and are well integrated with a program to dynamically segment visitors based on interest. These are the folks working in the background and building their skillset and training others around them to drive revenue using these new tools.

    Vendors come and go – the real champions that will stand the test of time will be the human at the helm. After all the ridiculous fodder has been swept away, results are driven by people – people with the vision to know that solutions that are easily bought, are just as easily eliminated. Staying power in MA will be dictated by those who can make the software live up to the sales pitch.

    May rock and roll never die.

    • Look at this guy! Great comment…err…rant.

    • Suzanne Carawan

      Fav part of your quote & spot on: .” It won’t create a skillset. It takes a high degree of training and time to develop a marketing skillset, where previously Matketing was a melting pot for lost toys. Matketing was the sales enablement department. Great software does great job at exposing the lack of skillset and preparedness of most marketers.”

      I find that people are also now getting the message that everything must be measured and trying to put in metrics, but MA still missing a way to aggregate the variety of metrics that are needed to really get a sense of today’s customers. I completely agree that you may have the greatest software, but it’s just a tool and not going to aid you in knowing what to measure or how to interpret the measurements. Worse, it doesn’t tell you what to do next which requires the skilled marketer that is the blend of art and science.

      The MA company that starts to build in features that serve up decision-making-based control panels is the one that is going to kill it in the next round of sales pitches. MA companies should seek to provide the illusion that you don’t need skilled marketers and any guy that is good with a spreadsheet can feel effective in running the control panel and following along. However, it really is an illusion (albeit a profitable one) because really good demand creation isn’t a repeatable formula without variation.

      It’s what makes a live rock concert an unforgettable experience.

    • Kathryn

      Wow – so true. As an MA “strategist” it became clear to me pretty quickly that the real challenge was not in mastering the tool, but in justifying it with promised results. I have been seeing that even those who are on board and using it don’t get the results promised without an entirely different focus on the actual content, and as you say, focus on the buyer (which is not new, by the way, it is just now taken to a more granular level). Even at user conferences which feature power users, the results aren’t entirely clear. The onus is indeed on those champions to save the day with their less glamorous behind the scenes slog through messaging, targeting and just plain basic test and improve tactics we’ve always had to employ.

  • You had me until Bon Jovi

  • “convincing the marketing world that they had to have their product” – curious, is your opinion that people don’t need to have marketing automation and the vendors are just talking them into it? If so, I’m not sure that I’m in agreement. I think that email marketing companies missed opportunities to build these features and the functionality into their own systems years ago (I was actually a Product Manager who developed plans for automation functionality and it was ignored… at a leading email service provider).

    I’d also add a client to this list, Right On Interactive, who is digging a little deeper than the pure sale and funnel. They’re actually scoring based on the value of the customer as well – providing opportunities for both upsell and sale to customers that are a fit.

    As a small agency, I don’t need convinced. I can’t handle segmentation, prequalifying, and communicating with the hundreds of leads we get – I must utilize a system to help me score and communicate effectively.

    • Thanks Douglas. You deserve a longer response than my usual…but I am swamped (on a Sunday night no less)…give me a couple days.

    • I think there’s a big difference between needing a product and being ready to need a product. That’s where I would accredit vendors in accelerating the “need” cycle. Sometimes that works – sometimes it doesn’t. For me it depends on the marketer and the organization that employs them.

  • Pingback: Ridiculous ramblings about the marketing automation market « The Marketing Automation Alert()

  • Craig,

    Great stuff and thanks for the insight. Keep on rocking in the free world!

  • Every marketing conference I attended is now dedicating significant time to the topic of marketing automation. This wasn’t the case 2 years ago. It has caught up with social media marketing and content marketing as one of the most discussed topics.

    Beyond the trend of consolidation, I am interested to see how marketing automation expands in terms of capabilities. Has it reached its full potential? How will new technologies like voice-based marketing automation that let you track inbound phone leads back to your marketing campaigns and ads impact MA in 2013? It should be exciting.


  • Craig – great post as usual. Would love to hear your thoughts on how the landscape has changed in the last 24-36 months – not so much from an M&A standpoint but the vantage point of the buyer (as you allude to in your post). So many new platforms chasing the marketing exec’s budget: social marketing platforms, tools like ClearSlide, marketing tools like DemandBase, etc. (not to mention traditional spend like content management). Marketing tech budgets are growing, but are they growing fast enough to support the traditional MA guys as well as all of these new players?

    • Jeff — I am acknowledging a really great comment. I am just too swamped to respond. (: But I will, I promise

  • Craig – This really resonated with me – I thought you were showing courage to basically be saying about marketing automation that “emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!” Somebody had to be the first to say it

  • Pingback: Re-start your Engines: My Man @Jchernov to @Hubspot()