VentureBeat Marketing Automation Index: Customer Disruption Underway?


ConnectedBy Brian Hansford, marketing automation practice lead for Heinz Marketing

VentureBeat recently released their Marketing Automation Index which includes some of the standard vendor popularity ranking criteria we often see in surveys.  The VentureBeat Marketing Automation Index is their initial step into crowdsourcing industry information from thought leaders and customers.

There are several areas of the survey that I do think can be improved in the future.  For example, some of the companies profiled aren’t truly in the marketing automation space, in my opinion.  IBM-Unica, SAS, and Kissmetrics are all strong marketing technology platforms but don’t fall squarely in marketing automation.  Some vendors are notably absent from customer rankings, including Salesfusion (which acquired Loopfuse) and Adobe with their acquisition of Neolane.  VentureBeat does acknowledge these vendors and others in the report (p. 59) indicating they potentially could get into their rankings as they get more customers and VentureBeat builds their research base.

Signals of the “Peak of Inflated Expectations”

Aside from the rankings which vendor employees were eager to aggressively tweet, the Index may signal an undercurrent of growing customer dissatisfaction.  This is the most interesting part of the report.

Only 13% of those surveyed indicated “nothing could make us replace our vendor.” Yet nearly one third of the approximately 1,000 individuals surveyed state they are looking to switch primary or secondary platforms, or all platforms.  32% indicate they are looking at adding another platform!  This could be a early and small signal that vendor loyalty with early adopters is quickly dissipating from missed promises and unrealistic expectations.  It’s very likely marketing automation has evolved from what Gartner calls the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” to the “Trough of Disillusionment” in their Hype Cycle model.

Even with the limited sample of this survey, the percentage of respondents looking to change platforms is large.  Think about the disruption involved with switching to a new platform:  Data migration. CRM integration. Building programs. Moving content libraries. Designing new assets. Establishing new analytic connections. Training people. Hiring consultants.  Bottom line: Moving to a new platform is a major undertaking that goes way beyond the platform itself. Frustration levels have to be very high to pull the plug.

Marketing Automation Doesn’t Automate Marketing

Many companies are effectively utilizing the marketing automation to support their demand generation strategies.  However, I believe many more customers are only marginally utilizing their platform and struggling to deliver on promises and expectations.  Marketing automation doesn’t automate marketing and it’s certainly not only for batch and blast emails.  Strategic planning, CxO visibility, significant budget allocations, people investments, technology integrations, business process workflow are just some of the often overlooked considerations.

The Warning Shot

Marketing automation has enjoyed a great run the last 3 years with IPO’s, mergers and acquisitions, VC investments, and passionate and vocal early adopter customers .  However customers are caught in the wake of the hype and I believe warning shots are fired.  VentureBeat’s Marketing Automation Index potentially indicates customers won’t hesitate to switch alliances.

What are your thoughts?  Do you see a wave of customer disruption?  Are we in a “trough of disillusionment”?