I know we're not quite halfway through this decade, yet, but I will make a bold prediction that I am entirely unqualified to make, and I will literally style it bold, for emphasis and typography: marketing automation will be the biggest marketing innovation of the decade. It has, perhaps forever, changed the way marketing is conducted, and sits at the absolute epicenter of what's possible in today's digital buying and selling environment. It has helped marketing become a revenue-generating team rather than a nice-to-have department, and has changed the very nature of what's possible in both B2C and B2B lead generation. My silly predictions aside, we (yes, I'm talking to all of us who have ever marketed to marketers) have created a situation in which the hype around what's possible with marketing automation has far surpassed adoption.

To an extent, this is expected, as there are always early adopters and followers. Many B2B marketers have bought into the vision of scalable and highly measurable, automated marketing. And why wouldn't we? Tools with enormous potential are at our fingertips. But these tools are half the story. To make the powerful engine that is marketing automation run efficiently, the next innovation must occur within the people and process behind the tools.

New research on the state of marketing automation shows that top-performing companies - those that are CRUSHING IT - establish proper strategy and resources to do so. Best-in-Class companies are getting more from their investment in marketing automation platforms (MAP) using more functional capabilities offered by these platforms. In fact... the #1 reason for not implementing a marketing automation platform is a lack of mature marketing practices / processes.

Here to help me illustrate the current gaps in adoption are my very special guests, Aberdeen research data points! Take it away, guys:

  • Best-in-Class firms are 67% more likely to use a marketing automation platform.
  • 68% of Best-in-Class companies are using lead scoring, compared to just 28% of Laggard firms.
  • Best-in-Class firms are more than 2X more likely to use lead nurturing than Laggard firms (68% vs. 27%).
  • Best-in-Class firms are more than 4X more likely utilize database segmentation and targeting with a MAP than Laggard firms (78% vs. 23%).
  • Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Best-in-Class companies have clearly defined lead management processes, compared with well below half of Industry Average or Laggard companies.
  • 73% of Best-in-Class companies integrate marketing campaign results with their CRM or sales automation (SFA) system, vs. 48% of Laggard firms.
  • Best-in-Class firms are 136% (or more than 2X) as likely to have a process to determine the number of marketing-generated leads needed to reach specific pipeline or revenue goals than Laggard firms (59% vs. 25%).

For 15 additional stats on this topic, visit my post on CMO Essentials. Read the full report by Trip Kucera for his recommendations and a deeper analysis, "State of Marketing Automation 2014: Processes that Produce."

If you need cheering up because you realize you're a Laggard, click here.