The Past, Present and Future of Customer Lifecycle Automation

Top_funnel_automation_funnel_graphic.pngWhen it comes to marketing and the technology we use to automate it, it seems as if we’re still in those awkward, early teen years. Not all parts are in sync during this huge growth spurt. And, in fact, it’s often overwhelming. Adopting new MarTech systems, connecting them effectively and implementing new processes that fully capitalize on these new tools are just some of the challenges we face on a daily basis.

With Dreamforce happening this week in San Francisco, it’s a perfect time to reflect on both recent progress and future challenges around using sales and marketing automation. One thing we know for sure: 100,000+ pros wouldn’t be putting up with the jammed packed chaos of Dreamforce for a week if this automation thing wasn’t driving real business value.

History doesn’t only tell us about the past, it can also be a powerful compass for the future. It’s a good time to ask: Where are we on delivering a fully automated, integrated funnel to generate prospects, acquire new customers and effectively manage these relationships?

NOTE: the below end-dates do NOT mean the corresponding tech categories are deceased or irrelevant; the dates are simply used to highlight the general time period in which these categories were created and evolved to how we understand them today.

2000-2010: Sales Automation Tools Give Way to Customer Relationships

The march to funnel automation started with Salesforce Automation (SFA – you get the idea why Salesforce is kind of a big deal). This early effort was pitched as a way to provide management and sales leadership with an ability to gather sales data and better manage sales processes and people.

SFA was advantageous to companies, but real impact was seen when the focus shifted from just sales information gathering to understanding and using customer data. This was the rise of CRM (Customer Relationship Management), promising efficient management of the entire customer lifecycle.

This evolution, led by Salesforce and the move to the Cloud, became the foundational layer in the automation of the “funnel” to manage customer relationships. Practically, CRM is focused on how to turn qualified prospects into customers and manage the full lifecycle of the relationship.

2005-2015: The Rise of Marketing Automation to Nurture & Qualify Leads

While CRM was good for the company and had a few advantages for sales (sarcasm – channeling most sales people), it sucked as a marketing tool. To meet the need of marketers, a set of new “Marketing Automation” (MA) tools were developed just for marketers.

Software providers like Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot and Hubspot brought to market a specific set of capabilities to help engage contacts and nurture them into qualified prospects and sales opportunities.

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Moreover, marketing automation platforms (MAPs) were designed to integrate with CRM systems. MAPs provided marketers with a powerful tool with which to aid the processes of turning leads/contacts into qualified prospects for sales to follow up on and close. That was where the vision of revenue-responsible marketing was born.

MA also has become effective at upselling and cross-selling existing customers. While we still have work to do, the adoption of marketing automation with CRM has marketers more empowered to contribute to revenue.

2015-present: Top-Funnel Demand Marketing Automation Plugs in Discovery & Engagement

Much like CRM isn’t effective at nurturing and qualifying prospects to opportunities, marketing automation isn’t effective at discovering and engaging new contacts/prospects, which is the lifeblood of any growth-focused organization.

To really make the CRM+MA investment deliver on its potential and efficiently generate new customers and revenue, automation is also needed for the billions of dollars invested into top-funnel initiatives (events, ABM lead gen, paid search and social, content syndication, etc.). These are the initiatives designed to identify new contacts and obtain the prospect data marketing automation systems use to nurture prospects into opportunities.

Top-Funnel Automation has emerged as a solution has emerged as a solution to eliminate the manual, disconnected efforts that currently encumber demand marketers and prevent efficient scale. Specifically, we’re talking about centralizing all the diverse channels, data sources and programs used to generate prospects and then automating the ways in which we validate, enhance and inject that data as quickly as possible into nurture tracks.

With top-funnel automation in place and fully integrated with MA and CRM, the full prospect generation and customer acquisition process becomes streamlined and scalable. In effect, the same amount of marketing effort creates bigger wins.

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Key to making the full funnel work predictably is accurate, actionable data and integrations that fuse the tools and processes to create an effective marketing-sales machine. It’s with these three pieces of the funnel automated and integrated that organizations can scale and effectively deliver and delight customers.

Sales-marketing automation is a juggernautwith new tools and capabilities being developed every day. I’m looking forward to Dreamforce this week to see what’s new, what’s working and what’s next to power our customer capabilities. Drop me a line at svaughan@integrate.com or connect at www.linkedin.com/in/ScottAVaughan if you plan on attending. I would appreciate your perspective on the sales-and-marketing automation revolution.

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