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At the 2014 Dreamforce event last fall, Leadspace and Bluewolf presented the results of their most recent State of Salesforce study. We asked more than 1,000 marketing executives to quantify the value derived from their marketing automation (MA) investments.

The results showed that only 7 percent are seeing good, measurable ROI from their MA investments — a shockingly abysmal rate, even among the fairly cynical marketing crowd, putting the success of MA on par with the Congressional approval rating.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we are all going to rip out our marketing automation platforms.

But something has to change in order for the MA industry, currently valued at less than $10 billion, to start seeing the valuations of a company like Salesforce, originally founded on sales force automation and now valued at around $40 billion.


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So what differentiates sales force automation from marketing automation? I would argue that the pivotal difference lies in the data and intelligence layer. With sales force automation, the salesperson provides the data, insights, and analytics to make the right call. Salespeople assemble relevant data, sift through insights, and decide what to do, how to proceed — or not. A system to manage this process — and provide insights back to management on the pipeline — creates incredible efficiency.

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Marketing automation operates on a much larger scale. Given thousands of prospects, the intelligence and analytics layer must also be automated in order to sift through the data, draw insights, and take the right steps at the velocity required for today’s marketing environment. Only with this data and analytics layer operating on an automated basis can the promise of true marketing automation (reaching the right person at the right time with the right message) take off.

B2B marketing data and insights tools, often called “predictive analytics platforms,” are only now starting to come into their own. “The classic use … was for marketing to determine which leads were ready to be handed off to sales,” says David Raab, Principal of Raab Associates. Today, with these tools, marketers can do what every great salesperson does, and at marketing scale:

  • Use social, web and internal data to actually understand all of the data they need about a person and company, and to gain a 360-degree picture of the prospect.
  • Draw insights and understanding from all the data, beyond just keyword matching, to achieve true “semantic” and contextual understanding.
  • Take the most appropriate action based on these insights, along with a good understanding of the business’s ideal customer.

In my mind, we are only just beginning to see how marketing technology will transform B2B marketing as it has already done on the B2C side. Within the next year, we can expect a revolution in B2B marketing effectiveness, visible first in conversion rates across the pipeline, next by customer satisfaction and measurable ROI, and ultimately proven by the financial valuation of the entire industry segment.

DougHeadshotOver his career, Doug has pioneered and built some of the world’s leading social, mobile and technology brands. Prior to Leadspace, he was CMO at where he launched Salesforce Communities and Chatterbox and supported the incredible growth of the enterprise Cloud computing leader. Before, he served as CMO at Skype, growing the company to 750 million users and third of all international communications through the acquisition by Microsoft, and co-led McKinsey’s North American CRM practice through the boom and bust.

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