Thursday, April 30, 2015

Are 70% of Marketing Automation Users Unhappy? Well, Not Exactly

A recent piece in TechCrunch quoted me as saying that “almost 70 percent of marketers are either unhappy or only marginally happy with their marketing automation software.” The author included a link to the source of that quote, but unfortunately it was broken (it has since been fixed).  This lead to enough questions about the data that it now seems worth a blog post on the topic.

To resolve the original mystery: the quote references a survey I conducted with VentureBeat and released in June 2014. You can buy it here if you’re interested.  Answers came from 159 marketing automation users.  The quote refers to a question about how well marketing automation software met satisfaction and improved results, on a 1 to 5 scale. About 18% gave a score of 1 or 2, 50% gave a 3, and 32% gave a 4 or 5. The 1 and 2 scores are clearly unhappy and I’d consider a 3 to show neutral or marginally satisfied. Hence the “almost 70 percent” quote.

Source: Raab Associates, 2014

For what it’s worth, the survey also asked a second, more pointed question about whether marketing automation benefits were worth the investment. We received fewer responses (only 87) but the distribution was similar. In fact, the dissatisfied group was a higher percentage: 25.8% and there’s no question how they felt: “we could have achieved similar results more cheaply”. The middle group, 44.1% “achieved our goals” which still sounds to me like marginal satisfaction. Only 23.7% felt they exceeded expectations.

Source: Raab Associates, 2014

I've never considered these results particularly remarkable because they are consistent with other surveys on the topic.  See my posts for October 13, 2013  and October 22, 2013 for a several other surveys.

Of course, that's all old data and you may wonder whether anything has changed.  The short answer is no. For example, a recent survey from Marketo and Ascend2  found that 14% of buyers rated marketing automation as clearly unsuccessful and only 25% rated it as very successful: again, there was a big intermediate group of 61% who said is was only “somewhat successful”.

Another survey, this one from, is generally more optimistic, showing 37% of users rating marketing automation as very effective or effective. But it also shows a relatively high 31% rating it as not very effective or not at all effective. The real difference is an unusually small middle group, 29% rating marketing automation as “somewhat effective”.  What’s probably more disconcerting about this survey is that it shows that marketing automation has relatively low satisfaction and importance compared with other technologies. This suggests that marketers who must prioritize their spending will make other investments first.
I must say that I don’t find this topic particularly engaging at the moment. The point of the original TechCrunch article was the growth of open, predictive-based platforms that unify sales and marketing, a direction I agree the industry will take. B2B marketing automation in its current form of systems that primarily use email, landing pages, and visitor tracking to nurture leads before sending them to CRM is a subset of this much larger vision. The challenges of using current marketing automation systems are well known but they will simply make it easier for newer, more effective approaches to replace them. It’s more important and more interesting to focus on that future.

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