What are the differences between B2B marketing automation platforms?
Here's what you should look for when making comparisons between marketing automation solutions.
Marketing automation platforms form the backbone of many B2B marketing operations, increasingly serving as sophisticated marketing orchestration platforms. A range of platforms is available to marketers depending on their firm’s size, budget and level of digital marketing sophistication.
The more basic functions of marketing automation have become somewhat commoditized, so platform vendors mostly look to differentiate their platforms based on the ability to scale, as well as usability, ease of implementation and customer experience.
MA platforms prioritize user experience
Platform vendors are also looking to differentiate themselves by offering more support for increasingly sophisticated customers who have adopted the software and who are looking to justify the investment by proving ROI.
Vendors continue to expand training programs, as well as add-on professional services available to customers, to improve platform use. Online communities – for both customers and developers – have also become increasingly important to strengthen platform support, advocacy and market penetration.
Many marketing automation platform vendors have roots in email marketing, which continues to be a core function and is often the only function that customers use. However, the platforms offer an evolving range of features, including advanced lead management, account-based marketing (ABM) tools, predictive analytics and open architectures to support the growing martech ecosystem.
Marketing automation platform users have become more tech-savvy, as marketing skill sets have evolved significantly in recent years. As marketing becomes ever more tech- and data-centric, this has led to the rise in the prevalence of the Marketing Operations specialist, combining business operations and IT skills to clean, harness and democratize data.
Account-based marketing (ABM) is increasingly replacing persona-based marketing, leading the way for greater demand of ABM capabilities among marketing technology platforms, and driving a convergence of marketing and sales. Sales and customer service professionals frequently use marketing automation platforms to better understand how customers are reacting to products and services.
The important role of third-party integrations
Most marketing automation platforms now have native integrations with CRM platforms, which is essential for ABM, as these three departments (sales, marketing, customer service) work together more to look at the entire customer experience. At the same time, with marketing automation platforms in general prioritizing user experience and scalability, there has been less of a focus on building out new technology than previously predicted.
For example, personalization is one of the biggest trends driving marketing today. But while some marketing automation platforms do provide personalization capabilities, this is not an essential feature, and can be achieved using point solutions. B2B marketers should therefore not necessarily be put off if a marketing automation platform does not provide personalization as part of the platform.
Similarly, despite a lot of hype over the last few years, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have not (yet) emerged as a significant trend in the B2B marketing automation space, although some platforms do include it.
Many marketing automation vendors offer “app marketplaces” that provide
information and support for integrating with third-party software partners. This can be an important area of differentiation for vendors, because cultivating relationships with developers who create add-ons and integration tools adds to the overall utility of the software without requiring the vendor to develop such integrations themselves. If you’re considering licensing a marketing automation platform, be sure to assess potential vendors’ efforts in this arena.