Marketing automation companies are rolling out new features and new versions of their products and en masse. Each vendor has its distinct benefits and its target users, but all vendors are going in the same direction: offering what's important to customers today.

No matter which system you're using, you're probably hearing about some cool new tricks coming out. In some cases, you may already see those new tricks in your software updates.

So, what changes are on the horizon? Here are four cool ways marketing automation tools are evolving.

1. True Social Integration

Early versions of marketing automation software attempted to harness social. Now, they're really doing it; most platforms are bringing in social integration tools.

That means marketers will have the ability to...

  • Share content directly on social media sites via marketing automation software. Doing so is a natural extension of the content strategy. New features will also help reduce the amount of time it takes to share content via social media sites.
  • Gather information from social media. Marketing automation platforms will have the intelligence to mine relevant data on social sites and mash it up with your own data to help nurture leads in a well-defined way.
  • Message leads directly on social sites. For example, if you have prospects on LinkedIn and you manually nurture them in that environment, your marketing automation can now help you do that.

2. Complete Content Platforms

You have a lot of marketing assets that you're pushing out via your software. How you house that content—and manage it—is likely getting a little out of hand. You may have your videos on one platform, your whitepapers on another, your decks on yet another, and so on.

Marketing automation companies want you to comfortably house all of your content with them. Watch for your marketing automation software to start imbedding things such as content management systems (CMS), media players, video storage, sharing tools—and even content-creation tools beyond email and landing pages (think rich media here!).

3. Dynamic Content

Taking a cue from online advertising and retargeting, your marketing automation software will bring contextual relevancy to your content based on who's viewing it. For instance, a chief financial officer (CFO) and a chief marketing officer (CMO) may be sent to the same landing page. But the content seen by the CFO is about money savings, and the content seen by the CMO is about conversions. Your marketing automation software did that automatically (imagine that?) based on tags or unique data flags you created within the system.

Why is that significant? You'll be saving a lot of time—eventually—and the entire system will become far more scalable and more efficient. Warning: You may have more work to do at the onset when you're setting up those tags. But... I promise you'll be happy later.

In addition, the whole process of setting up campaigns will become much easier—much more "drag and drop." Though this type of feature is still in early iterations and vendors are struggling, we'll see some great innovation in the next few years that will prompt a truly conversational approach.

4. Community

CRM tools have community features to an enviable degree, and marketing automation companies are finally catching up. Many major companies are building fantastic ecosystems of users, thought leaders, service providers, and application programming interface (API) developers. They are building, right into their platforms, a variety of mechanisms for their communities to interact, learn from and buy from one another, and innovate.

Even right now, you can visit the websites of many marketing automation developers and find forums, marketplaces, wikis, API documentation, and blog posts by guest thought leaders. I think that is probably the most exciting thing happening in the marketing automation space; this is the point when industries start to take on a life of their own.

* * *

Ultimately, marketing automation will be less about features and more about the transition to conversational marketing. And what we, the peanut gallery, see coming down the pipeline definitely has the "wow" factor.

Truthfully, marketers are still ultimately searching for an all-in-one platform that can house their marketing mix and where they execute with a dynamic toolset. The features outlined in this article certainly take a step in that direction. Remember, though, that despite all the bells and whistles, the community aspect to these new areas of focus will be the glue that will hold the successful technology offerings together.

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image of Justin Gray

Justin Gray is the CEO of LeadMD. He founded the company with a vision to transform marketing via the use of marketing automation and CRM solutions. Reach him via

LinkedIn: Justin Gray

Twitter: @jgraymatter