Marketing automation used to be simple. Send an email with an offer. Track which prospects clicked on the link and filled out the form on the landing page. Pass the right leads along to the sales team.

Now that many marketers are asked to drive the customer experience, they are taking a more sophisticated approach to their campaigns.

Well, not all of them.

Some 85% of B2B marketers using marketing automation platforms feel that they're not harnessing their full potential, according to SiriusDecisions.

Understanding and adopting the latest trends in marketing automation can help sophisticated marketers and the underachievers meet their business goals.

1. Dynamic Campaign Management

Modern marketing is organized around campaigns, and marketing automation manages those campaigns, such as welcome campaigns, nurture campaigns, event reminders, and onboarding campaigns. Sometimes, they are simple and follow a linear course of action.

But marketers are both artists and scientists, and sometimes they build out complex logic to handle multiple variations of results. When that happens, they can design campaigns that have the ability to adapt and respond to real customer activities, not some limited and prescribed customer journey.

Marketers design these campaigns with a simple drop and drag interface that is intuitive. That makes marketing faster and easier. Marketing technology supports marketers in their jobs, and it doesn't make them feel like they need to go back to school to learn complex programming languages.

Some platforms have difficulties changing live campaigns, forcing marketers to create whole new campaigns to make those changes.

The latest marketing automation tools can now change and update campaigns on the fly. Simply pause a campaign and then update a segment; add or change a decision step; insert a new email, landing page, or other content; and even trigger a new action. Restart with a click once the changes are done, and all the changes are live.

2. Integrated Content Marketing

Marketing automation platforms make it easy to set actions as triggers and to ensure prospects and customers get the right information at the right time. Though most marketers know the importance of personalized messaging, many are unable to execute on this goal because they do not have the resources to create the volume of quality content necessary.

Moreover, a total of 54% of B2B marketers struggle to produce engaging content, and 50% struggle to produce content consistently, according to the B2B Content Marketing Report by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. A lack of quality content will result in lost opportunities.

One of the most important keys to marketing automation success is an effective content marketing strategy. Nobody responds to the wrong content. Content has to be created according to personas and distributed in ways that track those personas. Without true integration with content marketing tools, marketers will find sending the right message difficult.

Aligning content with personas is step one. And in a marketing technology stack where marketing automation and content marketing are tightly integrated, it's the only step. The right content automatically aligns with persona-based segments used in campaigns.

3. Account-based Marketing

ABM is the new way that marketers are thinking about how they communicate with their most important accounts. ABM lets marketers better target, engage, and convert opportunities by effectively linking activities and data across a single account. ITSMA reported that 84% of B2B marketers say that ABM delivers a higher ROI than any other approach.

ABM is a big change in marketing automation. The organizing structure changes from the individual profile to the account level. Contacts are mapped to parent accounts, which allows marketers to run specific campaigns targeting those parent accounts. In fact, marketers can target the entire buyer committee from their most important accounts and deliver a consistent experience across the organization.

One of the most important aspect of marketing automation, the prospect lead score, also changes with ABM. There is now an account score, which shows the level of engagement at the account level, rather than just among individuals.

"ABM is the strategy that is finally bringing marketing and sales teams together to better compete in the market and win customers," said Chris Golec, CEO of Demandbase.

4. Open Platform

Marketing technology tools need to work together, and marketing automation is no different. Many of the more robust tools connect with systems already in place. And myriad platforms promote an ecosystem of partners. Those marketing platforms provide access to additional tools in their own marketing app store, modeled after Apple and its app store.

But all ecosystems are not created equal. In fact, 56% of marketers rate non-integrated tech platforms as a leading obstacle to integrating marketing activities. Some vendors just provide a list of partners, but the best ones provide pre-built integrations. That means marketers can get up and running, adding functionality, without extensive IT support.

* * *

Marketing automation can change the ways that marketers communicate with their prospects and customers. Whether that's a small change or a big change depends on marketers keeping up with the latest technology trends.

The right marketing strategy coupled with the right marketing tools will drive more leads and more sales, along with improving the ROI.

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image of Kevin Akeroyd

Kevin Akeroyd is general manager and senior vice-president of Oracle Marketing Cloud.

LinkedIn: Kevin Akeroyd

Twitter: @akeroyd