Marketing Automation Systems: A new age of marketing technology

Learn how MAS is the perfect use of your cloud deployment

As the quantity of customer data flowing into your business continues to grow, automating aspects of your enterprise's processes has become a commercial imperative. One key area to focus this development upon is marketing.

Your cloud deployment has already brought several benefits to your company. Whether you have a private, public or hybrid cloud deployment, the hosted infrastructure you have in place is the ideal environment to radically alter how your business uses its marketing technology.

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According to Flexera's State of the Cloud Report, optimising existing cloud use for cost savings continues to be the top initiative in 2019 for the third year in a row, increasing from 58% in 2018 to 64% this year. Others include moving more workloads to cloud (58%), expanding the use of containers and adopting a cloud-first strategy (tied at 39%) and implementing automated policies for governance (35%).

Noah Elkin, senior analyst with Gartner, tells Cloud Pro: "When you look at the momentum within the marketing automation systems (MAS) marketplace, the direction of travel is towards more cloud deployments. Most of the mega-vendor solutions are either 100% cloud or some level of hybrid cloud deployment. Ultimately, MAS connects a business with data that enables them to deliver more personalised services to its customers. The 360-degree view of a customer that MAS can deliver is now central to the development of all businesses."

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Implementing MAS isn't just about cost reductions either. It also offers the opportunity to bring in other related technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). A report by tech advisory and investment firm GP Bullhound recently showed that $1 billion was invested into AI-related marketing companies in Q2 2019 alone.

Speaking to Cloud Pro,Oliver Schweitzer, executive director at GP Bullhound, explains: "Artificial intelligence heralds the beginning of a new marketing era, driven by the need to connect vast amounts of disparate data, uncover patterns and make predictions, which only AI can accomplish.

"AI will become increasingly integrated into digital services and marketing processes; however, human intelligence and intuition will remain critical to interpret its findings and implement strategic and creative plans accordingly."

Three significant themes within marketing AI are considered within the report: Hyper-personalisation, branding and B2B. Personalising customer journeys is the most common way for marketers to deploy AI, with a quarter (24%) already using AI to this effect, and almost two thirds (59%) planning to do so in the next two years. When coupled with a cloud-based MAS, this technology becomes an even more powerful marketing tool.

Automated marketing

MAS has seen a massive uptick in popularity, as it offers businesses a suite of tools they can use to potentially expand and improve their marketing channels.

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Explaining the reasons behind this, Melody Siefken, research analyst for digital media at Frost & Sullivan, tells Cloud Pro: "All marketing is data-driven and measurable, and in the digital environment, there is no shortage of customer data for marketers to use, ranging from qualitative data such as page views, to call-to-action clicks, and conversion percentages. There are also measurable qualitative data, such as an attitude about a product or service, product reviews, and social media interactions. Businesses are adopting MAS to try and make sense of the unlimited amounts of customer data and turn this data into actionable, intelligent leads and lead scoring for sales enablement.

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"MAS also allows them to execute an omnichannel approach to reach customers from all sides, including through channel partners and direct sales, to create a seamless and consistent customer experience/journey. Tools found in end-to-end MAS act as the central data repositories that monitor and collect all customer data for all the departments in a business to use. By adopting MAS, enterprises of all sizes have a dependable and scalable tool that allows them to make sense of the many types of customer data to bring up a bottom line and show a valuable return on investment."

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For marketing automation systems to realise its full potential, it's vital to ensure cloud and MAS services are integrating across business functions.

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"The cloud and MAS integrate by building a big-picture platform that manages all customer data and parameters of communication. Typically, MAS is made up of four components: campaign management, lead management, sales enablement, and marketing analytics and measurement," Siefken says.

"Most MAS offerings on the cloud are accessible from anywhere, and all are based on a subscription pricing model, which typically gives the users unlimited access with the right authorisation. Cloud-based MAS often have large integration libraries so customers can connect their existing software and solutions to the platform for that seamless experience. Data silos are removed this way."

It's also important to take the time to carefully think about data location when implementing a MAS solution in the cloud. For many businesses, data security and data sovereignty, as well as how easy it is to locate and migrate the data are major considerations. This will feed into questions about what cloud service providers and platforms are the most suitable for your needs.

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For a further minority of organisations, latency is also a serious hurdle that may put paid to any thoughts of deploying MAS entirely in the cloud.

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"[Frost & Sullivan] research also shows that in a few use cases with MAS and customer interactions, response times need to be in milliseconds, and so there is an increasing desire to reduce latency by computing some of the algorithms at the edge, rather than on the cloud," explains Siefken.

When it comes to how MAS will evolve in the coming years, Siefken says that it's moving from point and standalone options to full suites, thanks to the use of cloud services.

"Businesses can pick and choose the apps and functionalities they require to build their MAS, and this will be a continued trend in the era of personalisation," she says. "MAS is evolving from an out-of-the-box solution to a customised, tailored fit platform. Integration is a must-have feature, especially as businesses look to connect their CRMs, ERPs, and sales tools like Salesforce to their MAS."

Leveraging the cloud

As your business has embraced more cloud services, the benefits hosted services such as MAS has become apparent.

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"We see the adoption of MAS in the mid 50% range, with another 25% of organisations planning to deploy this technology within the next two years. Projecting this forward, we will see an 80% uptake within the B2B and B2C sectors," says Gartner's Noah Elkin.

"When you are making a marketing technology purchase – especially when it is a major purchase like MAS, you must have a clear sense of what your business goals are. Ask yourself what the technology is expected to deliver. Also, pay close attention to the other stakeholders in your business or organisation. This is critical, as they will help integrate and maintain the system you are installing. As MAS could affect a range of business processes, MAS implementations are business-wide taking in IT and marketing."

The cloud infrastructure your business has in place is an ideal environment for MAS. Moving forward, automating some critical areas of your enterprise's marketing activities will become the norm. It's vital, though, to understand that MAS touches multiple areas of your business. The most successful MAS implementations consider this. With all stakeholders working in unison, MAS could be massively transformative for your business.

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