Surfing the Marketing Automation Tide in 2018

In the foreseeable future, Marketing Automation would continue to remain a staple technology for every marketing team, irrespective of the size and nature of the business. Opinions could vary on how mature modern marketing automation tools are, or how they could deliver better benefits for SMB marketing teams. Yet, most CMOs would agree that primary struggle in the adoption of marketing automation (or, automation of marketing ops) is its integration across marketing and sales systems. The rising expectations around CX mean that to stay on top, marketing automation needs to fit seamlessly into a business’ tech stack.

  • Currently, 51% of organizations are using marketing automation (Emailmonday)
  • 58% of B2Bs plan to adopt marketing automation (Emailmonday)
  • 67% of top marketers use marketing automation (Salesforce)
  • Marketing automation leads to a 12.2% decrease in marketing overhead and a 14.5% growth in sales productivity (Nucleus Research)

Before we get into what the year holds for marketing teams using (and, also those deprived of automation), let’s take a peek at how the marketing automation fared last year.

Marketing Automation: 2017 Revisited

Here is what was predicted:

  • Broader engagement with personalization at the core
  • AI for customer data insights
  • Integration of marketing automation and content marketing
  • Unified customer view
  • Streamlining of strategy and technology for centralized campaign management
  • Inroads to user behavior via predictive analytics
  • Automation of customer interactions through chatbots
  • Marketing automation for SMBs

Most commonly used features of marketing automation platforms (MAPs)

  • Email marketing – 89%
  • Lead nurturing – 84%
  • Software integrations (such as mobile, social media, CRM etc.) – 80%
  • Campaign management across channels – 82%


What actually transpired?

In 2017, marketing teams focused on the consolidation of marketing automation tools to better suit the contemporary business needs based on consumer behavior. The year also saw businesses moving away from the conventions of inside-out, campaign-centric communication. This almost made simple customer journeys a thing of the past.

  • 50% of organizations leveraging a MAP consider data hygiene to be their primary challenge (Demand Gen Report)

Data was the hot talk of the town which meant goodbye to mass targeting. It was more about snipers with data and predictive analytics to achieve 1:1 personalization. The gripping session between Marc Benioff (Salesforce) and Ginni Rometty (IBM) at Dreamforce 2017 made a strong case for data to be at the helm of businesses.

However, truth be told, 2017 also saw many companies struggle to negotiate silos and establish omnichannel journey-focused, customer-oriented interactions. Which means, even when software providers make you believe the ‘all in’ idea for marketing automation, it may not be a practical scenario.

The 2018 Marketing Automation Checklist

  • 77% of CMOs at leading companies rate revenue as the primary reason for implementing marketing automation (SessionCam)

As a marketer, you could use this checklist to build a powerful marketing automation stack to optimize your ROI.

  • Data quality and consistency to be the priority
  • Consider GDPR as an opportunity (not a threat) to cleanse data and establish sustainable communications
  • Align internal communications and responsibilities by streamlining processes
  • Value addition for target segments with customer-centric strategies
  • Ensure email stays the foundational channel
  • Standardization and execution of best practices for optimum marketing ROI
  • Leverage the cloud-native capabilities of marketing automation platforms

MAPs in 2018

  1. No stopping the Marketing Automation Blitzkrieg – There’s no denying the value that marketing automation has delivered in terms of business results. That value is good enough to make the adoption of marketing automation more widespread in 2018.
  2. Readily Adoptable… What makes them Tick! – 2018 could see a landmark adoption rate for marketing automation. AI and machine learning algorithms in tandem with social and mobile app frenzy will bridge online and offline experiences. It will pave the way for creating mass reach, without losing out on hyper-personalized engagements.
  3. D for Digital and D for Data, Data, Data — and Analytics – Emerging technologies like AI/ML, AR/VR, and the likes are fuelling innovations and ensuring that the world gets more and more digital by the day. Businesses that fail to embrace and ride this digital tide will soon be left too far behind those that do. Be it aspects of our lives or business in general, digital is here to stay. This ‘digital’ scheme of things ushers a whole new dimension of data. It’s not about your data repository though. That’s just starters. It’s what you do with – data analytics.
  4. Smarter, personalized marketing automation dashboards – Taking a cue from the point made above, automation will continue to improve its adoption rate. Starting from data filters, personalized interactions, and a marketer’s life in general, it will all keep becoming smarter. Business intelligence and customer intelligence (BI &CI) is set to evolve further with marketing dashboards and reporting tools. In 2018, expect a lot of them to become mobile-first.
  5. Cross-device marketing – Customers now have multiple accounts and use multiple devices, primarily mobiles. 2018 could be the year where marketing automation will adapt to mobile. Watch out for ‘Mobile Marketing Automation.’

Envisioning Possibilities Holds the Key for the Future

MAPs can provide a sea of possibilities, not just in 2018, but imagine the scope of AI-driven marketing automation in a decade from now. The adoption of AI for MAPs can’t yet be termed as obtrusive. Here’re some perceptions of marketers which are factors for that:

  • 48% of marketers think AI is too costly
  • 35% of marketers feel it’s an uphill task to find an AI vendor to suit their needs
  • 35% of marketers don’t know enough about AI
  • 29% of marketers think that integration between their present tech stack and AI is cumbersome


Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s time CMOs and their teams took a leaf out of the famous words of William Blake – “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” The age of forward-thinking, tech-synced CMOs is here.

Marketing automation calls for marketers to be aware of the significance of data and the power that AI-ML holds. You still have to keep the human element by keeping customers at the heart of marketing automation as they’re not robots and will never be. The success of marketing automation ROI lies on how effectively marketers can manage change and adapt to emerging technologies.