How Big is the SMB Marketing Automation Opportunity?

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Sep 16, 2011

In the wide world of marketing solutions, marketing automation has significantly increased in popularity among marketing organizations over the past few years. While these solutions have largely been relegated to larger enterprise companies looking to streamline their marketing operations, more recently they have gained serious traction in SMBs (Small and Medium Businesses).

The continual move toward digital marketing to engage with online audiences is driving SMBs to seek solutions that provide the capability to more efficiently and effectively manage their marketing processes through these channels, all while maintaining consistency amongst the much needed print channels as well.

So what is marketing automation? It simply refers to utilizing technology to automate marketing processes or tasks across the marketing value chain throughout the lifecycle of a campaign or program. It allows for marketing initiatives to be managed in one location, across a variety of channels, further enabling the application of analytics and lead generation tools on the data that it tracks and maintains.   

The recent attention to marketing automation is arguably driven more from the enterprise side. On August 24th it was announced that enterprise marketing automation provider Eloqua had filed for IPO registration with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to allow for an initial public offering of its common stock shares. While some analysts predict that Eloqua may be acquired prior to reaching public status, the attention is a good sign for the marketing automation industry.

In addition to Eloqua, Aprimo and IBM Unica are the major solutions that target the enterprise. However, there are a greater number of solutions that focus on SMBs. In the last few years, the types of solutions available have been able to reach a broader audience by providing access to their solutions online through subscription or SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) models.  Some of the more well-known players include Pardot, Neolane, Silverpop, Marketo, Manticore Technology, HubSpot, and Genius. Even American Express, which targets small businesses with its OPEN program, has marketing solutions available, including the AdManager tool that helps marketers create and deploy online display advertising.

There are other solutions that provide marketing automation for specific verticals. A few examples include Fishbowl and Guest Engine, which both focus on restaurants’ needs, DemandForce, which provides solutions geared towards health and personal services, and Sharper Agent, which targets independent real estate agents.

From our last study on SMB business communications in 2009, we found the top challenges for SMBs to launch marketing campaigns are campaign costs, time and staffing constraints, understanding new marketing channels, as well as ROI measurement. This year, InfoTrends is conducting a research study entitled Capturing the SMB Marketing Automation Opportunity, in which we plan to explore how SMBs are leveraging marketing automation technologies to address these challenges. Questions to be answered include:

  • What marketing channels are SMBs using now?
  • What software solutions and feature/functions are they using?
  • Where and how do they look for tools and solutions to create and product marketing campaigns and materials?
  • Where do SMBs need help from service providers and software solutions to work more effectively?

If you’re interested in learning more or participating in the direction of this study, I’d encourage you to reach out to myself or Jennifer Skerrett.

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