One of the biggest challenges CEOs face, aside from hiring the right talent, is balancing the number of employees against the need for driving growth. Business leaders are always looking closely at their marketing departments and questioning the return on the human resource investment. With the continued evolution of technologies, marketing automation is generating vast amounts of performance data and reaching business prospects in ways never before possible and, frankly, in ways that humans cannot.
It makes sense, then, that companies are increasingly investing in technologies to improve the speed and effectiveness of marketing efforts as well as to provide a direct data link demonstrating marketing’s impact on company performance. Now that artificial intelligence is becoming more sophisticated, technology will start to significantly shift personnel needs in marketing departments of the future.
It begs the question, should company leaders consider replacing marketing staff with automated marketing technologies?
If you’re a CEO or Private Equity Leader, perhaps you’re hoping this is something you can begin considering today. Marketing automation technology works 24/7 and never takes time off. Technology follows instructions and executes in a timely manner. Automation works quickly and can evolve with your external environments. Technology can provide evidence that specific marketing investments are contributing to organizational growth.
If you’re a CMO, perhaps you’re a little nervous about the rapid advancement of marketing automation and the possibility that people might be replaced with technology. You might, however, be very excited about the continued evolution of marketing automation and how it can help align and directly contribute to your company’s growth.
Regardless if you are a CEO, Private Equity Leader, or CMO, it’s fair to recognize that the evolution of marketing automation continues at a rapid pace and to consider the implications it will have on the staffing of your marketing department.
Let’s face the reality: automation has replaced plenty of jobs in business history. For example, manufacturing plants employ significantly fewer people than they did 30 years ago as a result of computerized robotics.
Will marketing departments experience a similar fate?
Before we can answer that question, let’s address the current and anticipated future state of marketing automation from a business leader perspective.
Marketing automation has been around for some time with one of the first major software tools released in 1992, Unica (now known as IBM Omni-Channel Marketing). The explosion of other applications entered the market between 2006 and 2008 to form a more than $3.3 billion marketing automation industry with continued 30% YoY growth (Sharpspring, 2017). According to Salesforce, 67% of marketing leaders are using an automation platform. Today, artificial intelligence is deepening it’s integration with marketing automation to analyze data and to provide one-to-one, personalized marketing.
Why are businesses turning toward marketing automation? According to Salesforce, performance numbers speak for themselves:
There are three general areas of marketing automation functionality that business leaders need to be aware of in order to consider the future impact on marketing staff:
Marketing automation technology can launch campaigns that target prospects based on specific digital interactions. For example, if you’ve ever shopped online and placed products in an e-commerce shopping cart, then abandoned that cart without purchasing, you’ve probably received an email with an incentive encouraging you to return and make the purchase. Knowing how automated marketing technology works, I regularly abandon e-shopping carts with the hopes that I’ll receive a discount offer if I return and buy. Automation releases targeted and timely campaigns based on very specific digital interactions (triggers), such as email clicks, abandoned shopping carts, account creation, etc. Triggered campaigns have open and clickthrough rates that are double, or even triple, as compared to routine campaigns. Marketers use automation software to create the interaction rules and the campaigns, then rework the approach until the optimal response level is achieved.
This is where artificial intelligence and marketing automation technology come together to provide analytical predictions on the timing and automated release of campaigns to increase performance and ROI. Artificial Intelligence Marketing (AIM) optimizes campaign reach across channels specifically with time-based data analytics. Human marketers don’t have the cognitive ability to process large amounts of data analytics at the speed of artificial intelligence. In the future, marketers will no longer decide on the timing of campaigns because AIM will process data and balance marketing investments toward optimal time releases of campaigns.
Artificial intelligence is rapidly learning to analyze language to predict and develop successful marketing messaging. Natural Language Processing (NLP) goes beyond today’s keyword matching and considers the context of one’s language. For example, NLP can customize website content for each visitor, analyze email campaign messaging that users were most responsive to, tailor social media interactions, and much more. NLP can automate the creation of personalized marketing content much faster than people can. And, customers are four times more likely to purchase a product that comes from personalized content.
It’s important to consider the readiness of your business before investing in marketing automation technology and the staffing implications of your marketing function. As with any technology application, using it is very different than strategically executing with it. The phrase, “garbage in, garbage out” is widely known to imply that the inputs will affect the outputs. In order to consider your business readiness for marketing automation, there are four areas that business leaders need to address:
Clearly articulate where business growth will come from and how your organization will be aligned to focus on those growth areas. Identify your innovation strategies, offerings of focus, target markets, key differentiators, pricing strategies, positioning, branding, financial targets, and budgeting, among other things. A skilled CMO champions your growth plan and recognizes that a marketing strategy cannot be well articulated or executed until this is completed.
After documenting your business growth strategy, create and align a data-intelligent marketing strategy. Too often, “random acts” of marketing tactics are conducted because they’re not aligned to a marketing strategy that was developed against a business growth plan. Developing a marketing strategy starts by gathering key performance data from your market and competitors that drive performance. Tactical execution using marketing automation will only produce results when it’s informed by business and marketing strategies.
The relationship between sales and marketing is crucial for success. Each function needs to understand their alignment and contribution to both business growth and marketing strategies. Ongoing communication and partnership between sales and marketing needs to be tight and forward moving. Marketing needs to communicate strategic initiatives to sales. Sales needs to provide valuable feedback on market conditions. Lead nurturing and follow-up approaches must be crafted. Messaging has to be aligned. Both sales and marketing should be forward-looking and use data that will support both functions moving in that same direction.
Organizational culture is a major competitive advantage and it is shaped and driven at the top of a company. Encouraging and rewarding innovation will fuel ongoing organizational creativity. Understanding that failures are learning opportunities to grow talent will dilute the nervousness and fear of implementing marketing automation technology. No doubt, marketing automation and the data it produces will hold marketing and sales more accountable; however, when approached as a tool for business and personal growth, it will be embraced by both sales and marketing.
Now that we’ve established a basic understanding of the current and future state of marketing automation technology and what business leaders need to do before implementation, what does this mean for your marketing staff?
There is no doubt that marketing automation and the rise of AI will dramatically enhance marketing capabilities and contribute to company performance. Marketing staff, however, will likely never go away. That said, the roles and skills of executive marketers, mid-level staff, and marketing contributors will need to change in order to capitalize on marketing automation technologies. CMOs will need to be the champion of developing company growth plans with aligned marketing strategies grounded in the functionality of marketing automation and data analysis. Mid-level marketers and marketing contributors will need deep skills in the ability to execute marketing campaigns using marketing automation technology and keep up with the rapid advancement of those tools.
To clarify, marketing automation technology might not replace marketers, but your marketers will certainly need different skills. CEOs and Private Equity Leaders will need to consider new roles within marketing departments and change the structure of that team in order to adapt to the significant function that technology will play in marketing. With the continued increase in business adoption of marketing automation, every organization will need to consider marketing changes in order to remain competitive. That time is now.