How Mature Is Your Marketing Automation?

By Jason Blackthorne, Nucleus Research

Adopting automation into your marketing practice can boost your productivity, help you reach customers more efficiently, and lead to cost savings for your organization. However, not every company is at the same place in terms of tech stacks and capabilities. And with thousands of vendors out there, it can quickly become an overwhelming or confusing process to navigate which one(s) provide the right fit for your unique business needs.

Before you set out on investing, or if you’d like to get the most out of your current vendor partnership, it’s essential to understand how digitally mature your company is today. It’ll also give you a better understanding of your technology stack and if there are any gaps.

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Four stages of marketing automation maturity

Nucleus Research developed a four-stage marketing automation maturity model to help you understand how you’re currently using the technology, as well as the subsequent levels you can move towards to achieve greater return on investment and process automation.

Level 1: Functional 

At this stage, your organization hasn’t invested in a marketing automation solution. The repetitive or administrative tasks, like scheduling, reporting, and sending marketing emails, are done manually.

With slower creation and distribution times, you likely have lower customer engagement or find your audiences aren’t receptive to your messages. Your lack of automation technology also makes it difficult to have real-time and accurate metrics.

Vendors to consider: Marketing teams at the Functional stage can benefit from any entry-level automation solution. Most platforms out there offer a free version so you can get a taste of their features.

Level 2: Dynamic

You’ll move to the Dynamic stage once you’ve implemented a simple email automation solution. These platforms eliminate the need for manual distribution and the heavy reliance on spreadsheets, so you can speed up your marketing efforts and consolidate data.

Basic email automation means you can begin to create drip email campaigns, use customer data to segment target audiences, and increase personalization.

Even with these advancements, this stage is also where marketing automation capabilities were back a couple of decades ago. This means you still haven’t fully centralized your customer and operational data and only have departmental-level visibility.

Vendors to consider: The free tiers of HubSpot, Omnisend, Mailchimp, and small and SMB-centric vendors will work well at this stage.

Level 3: Integrated

A good portion of you will be at the Integrated maturity stage. You have native or third-party middleware integrations, which fully connect with sales, service, data silos, and other applications like eCommerce and loyalty management.

If you’re at this level, you likely conduct omnichannel campaigns and use workflow builders to automate tasks. Your connected CRM tools give you a complete view of your target audiences, preferences, and touchpoints, which you use to inform decisions.

Vendors to consider: At this higher level of marketing automation, you may want to explore offerings from HubSpot, Klaviyo, or SugarCRM.

Level 4: Intelligent

Here’s where you start getting more into business intelligence and advanced technology capabilities. You have massive data flows coming in that can be better managed with sophisticated tools like embedded bots and next-action recommendations.

At the Intelligent level, you’ve implemented advanced AI and machine learning across your tech stack, giving you in-depth visibility into the entire customer life cycle. And by building on the advanced analytics and unified data lakes you have access to at this stage, you can accurately forecast campaigns’ success and marketing KPIs, enabling your team to plan for future sales and revenue while minimizing customer churn.

Vendors to consider: You’ll benefit most from full-service and advanced third-parties like Adobe Experience Cloud, Adobe Sensei AI, Oracle Eloqua, and Salesforce Marketing Cloud – Einstein AI.

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How to improve your automation maturity

If you’re seeking to improve your efficiencies and move to the next level of automation, there are some best practices to follow. These are relevant at any marketing maturity stage and are the basis of any solid marketing automation strategy.

  • Develop a standard data model. 
    Before you get to the point where you’re tapping into analytics or data-driven functionality, you should standardize how you collect and format data across your organization. This standardization ensures all departments can make sense of and use the information. It also serves as a foundation for future AI and machine learning capabilities.
  • Take advantage of educational resources and the platform’s community. 

The marketing space is rapidly changing, with new technologies or features popping up all of the time. It takes a lot of self-learning to keep up.

Most vendors have developed various learning materials and resources, from webinars and visual guides to tutorials and full-blown academies, to help you build your skills and learn the solution. Some of the larger vendors, like Hubspot, have also cultivated user communities where you can share knowledge, give advice, and offer help to new members.

  • Emphasize automation and reusability. 

Most companies are using automation to take over repetitive or straightforward tasks so their team can focus on value-added efforts. Start by reusing successful email templates and campaigns to save yourself time.

If you’re still in the earlier stages of automation, you’ll also want to start getting your team comfortable with the idea as early as people. Stressing the importance of automating as many marketing tasks and duties as possible early on makes it easier to scale down the road.

  • Leverage marketing analytics. 

Regardless of what stage you’re in, if you’re not taking advantage of the vast amount of data you’re generating, you could be leaving money on the table and have ineffective campaigns. Don’t rely on your gut feelings. Use that data foundation to guide your decisions.

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Key takeaway

Evaluating the marketing automation space can be overwhelming and confusing for many people. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. By assessing your current level of maturity, you can ensure you’re getting the most from your vendors today and taking the necessary steps towards preparing for a more automated future.