Without question, Laura Ramos of Forrester Research (blog) is an expert in the marketing automation space with a specific focus on the best practices in lead management. While I did not actually meet Laura in person until late 2009, I have certainly known that she is a thought leader in the industry. I have enjoyed getting to know her over the past few months and I think Laura has become more familiar with what Loopfuse has to offer B2B marketers, especially in the product releases that Loopfuse has made in late 2009.
As Laura and I recently discussed, one of the challenges to Lead Management Automation adoption is education in the marketplace. So I asked Laura if she would be willing to answer a handful of questions for me about the market and talk about what she sees happening in 2010. So I sat down with Laura a few weeks ago for a quick chat and today we are releasing the first part of our interview:
Part 1: “Defining the Market”
1. Dwyer: The term Marketing Automation is thrown around internally at companies and in the marketing media, how do you define Marketing Automation?
Ramos: As part of Forrester’s research team that serves the marketing professional, I agree that the term Marketing Automation is bandied about ambiguously. To help marketers use technology to improve marketing effectiveness and efficiency, Forrester writes about the Marketing Technology Backbone. It’s a term we have used since 2004, defined as, “A technology infrastructure that supports an integrated, quantitative approach to marketing strategy, development, delivery, and measurement — across the marketing mix.” This definition helps to keep marketers focused on the entire discipline of marketing and not just on technology for executing tactics and campaigns. It also includes two important words, integrated and quantitative, because I see B2B marketers worry too much about running programs and not enough time connecting the dots between marketing activity and bottomline business results.
Looking at the marketing technology landscape, Forrester sees marketing automation focus on six core applications: 1) campaign management; 2) customer analytics; 3) interaction management; 4) marketing resource management (MRM); 5) marketing asset management (MAM); and 6) lead management. Lead management plays a key role in the marketing automation space and in our view of what marketers need to put an effective marketing technology backbone in place.
2. Dwyer: From a B2B perspective, when a direct salesforce is involved, what is the difference between Marketing Automation and Lead Management Automation?
Ramos: In my research, I study and write about lead management automation specifically. My counterpart, Suresh Vittal, writes about marketing automation generally. In B2B marketing, where a direct salesforce or channel partners sit in the driver’s seat for winning new deals and retaining existing customers, technology that manages demand is an essential part of the marketing technology backbone. Wikipedia has a solid definition of lead management that I used to develop a working definition in my research. In short, lead management is the tooling and processes that help firms generate new business opportunities, manage volumes of business inquiries, improve potential buyers’ propensity to purchase, and increase alignment between marketing activity and sales results. Increasingly this process is becoming tech-centric, and lead management automation is the technology that helps marketers to manage this process. I would also point out, however, that technology alone is not sufficient and that automating ineffective, immature processes – especially those that lack a tight alignment between marketing and sales measured in the creation of more qualified opportunities and closed sales — will likely cause more problems than it solves.
3. Dwyer: Is Lead Management Automation (LMA) a term that is catching on in mainstream business?
Ramos: I would like to see it catch on more than it has. The 2009 recession, which appears to be experiencing a slow recovery in 2010, forced many firms to concentrate on demand generation as business investment was deferred, delayed, or shrank. The down economy benefited lead management solution providers as marketers invested in LMA technology to get sales pipelines pumping again. Despite this trend, lead management automation is still an emerging industry category. Today, LMA has yet to emerge as a separate, distinct category from Marketing Automation. Based on our estimates, I see market penetration growing from 5% to 10% over the next 18 to 24 months – but there are many marketers out there who have yet to explore the value that lead management automation can bring to their organizations. This can be both a blessing and a burden to firms like Loopfuse who look to grow their share in this emerging space.
Stay tuned for Part 2: “Market Momentum” coming soon