Friday, July 31, 2015

VEST Report: Competition in B2B Marketing Automation Isn't About Features

Yesterday I released the mid-year edition of the VEST Report on B2B marketing automation vendors, thereby meeting my self-imposed deadline of July 31. Look here for more information or to make a purchase.

Updating the report gives a nice overview of recent industry developments. Here are some observations:

- market positions are pretty stable. The only new vendor to make a splash recently has been SharpSpring, which went from zero to 500 agency clients in the past year. This puts them among the top 3 leaders in the small business sector. Otherwise, the top players have remained the same: Infusionsoft, HubSpot, Act-On, Salesforce Pardot, Marketo, Oracle Eloqua, and Adobe. Maybe RedPoint has crept up to a leader position, but they don’t share enough business information for me to know. Open source vendor Mautic has some interesting potential but it’s too soon to see any actual impact.

- products are pretty stable, too. The VEST entries showed very little change in the features reported by the various vendors since the last report. This isn't bad: it's simply that the standard features are now widely understood and vendors have had time to add them. The only major changes captured in the new report are the custom table abilities added by Marketo and Ontraport.

- the real action is outside the products. Probably the most interesting trend is integration of marketing automation with retargeting and display ad vendors, which has been announced in various forms by Marketo, Oracle, and Adobe. That, of course, relates to the convergence of martech and ad tech into “madtech” that I've written about before. The other big trends are systems for marketing agencies (either focused products like SharpSpring or added features and partner programs by the major vendors) and education programs for users (something that major vendors have long done but that others like Autopilot* and Mautic are also expanding). Both agencies and education are ways to support industry growth by overcoming the lack of marketers who can effectively use marketing automation systems.

- the really real action is elsewhere. Lest you think I’m just plain cranky, be assured that I see lots of exciting things happening in predictive analytics, data aggregation and enrichment, automated intelligence, and other areas. Even B2C marketing automation is showing some interesting new life. But even though B2B marketing automation revenues are still growing nicely**, the industry itself is looking pretty stable these days.

*Not in the VEST by their choice.
** I'm estimating 40% in 2015, although it’s now harder to know because so much revenue is hidden inside companies like Oracle, Salesforce, and IBM that don’t report it separately.

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